How to Edit a Poetry Collection

The time has come, editing time! While I obviously benefit from mulling over the ramblings of my mind, I thought it would also be beneficial to show you how I edit my work. I hope that from this, you can see how polishing one’s work really looks like and how you can find your own style for this procedure.

Round One

As you probably know by now, my poetry collection is broken into three sections. The theme of my poetry is heartbreak and I realized that there were three sub-themes to these poems. So my first step was separating the poems into my three categories.

I wanted my collection to sound progressive as the audience reads the poems so I had to order them not only into my sections, but also in a distinct order within them. I noted the overall theme of the poem, sorted them into one of the three categories, and then read the categories in order to see the progression for myself.

I did have a few tries for this process because there are many pieces that can be interpreted differently, depending on the tone of the surrounding poems, so I interested them into places that possibly disrupt the tone (which heartbreak is confusing so, therefore, the order should also have some setbacks).

Round Two

This is when I read through my poems with three highlighters and marked places that were either plain, confusing, or needed more content. I have to say that I got carried away for this part because I 1. really like the look of highlighter over poetry 2. had so many possibilities for my work.

If I had to re-do this strategy, I would limit myself to how many times I mark the page because I went crazy with the colors and didn’t take all the advice I marked. When I went back to edit the digital copy, I realized that a lot of the words I marked as “change” were essential for the poem, and were suppose to be more simplistic. Also, I would make notes as I went because I have no idea why I wanted to change some of this…

Round Three

My editing from this portion was the most progressive I believe. Yes, the ordering of the content was essential because the poems wouldn’t hold as much power if they were out of order, but this is making the poem itself!

Learning from my mistake with the highlighters, I took an extra moment to consider the marks I made on my papers. I made sure that almost every mark was constructive instead of writing the first thing that comes to mind. Yes, I do want to keep the poems natural because they are meant to be raw, but they needed a little polishing.


In the end, I think all forms of this editing process worked for me individually. I would have liked to do the highlighting after the actual pen marking but I am glad I realized that afterwards. I will be making a new print of my updated poems so I can make a ginal edit but I think I got most of the grunt work out of the way.

If you are to edit your poetry collection, I would recommend this process (with highlighting after) but everyone has their own strategy. Even cutting apart your poems and rearranging them can make a fun project. Whatever you do, just make sure you are creating something you can be proud of because if you are interested in it, someone else will be, too.

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