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'Revision is absolutely necessary'

2 July 2018

‘Revision is absolutely necessary. If something is easily too good to alter, thank the gods, but don't expect it to happen again. Expect, rather, that you will need to improve upon the given, to continue the imperfect formation that your initial work has produced. Which is, after all, what making the poem is all about - to take the passion and, without cooling it, to put it into a form. For such work all the usual assets will help: energy, honesty, patience. But nothing is so helpful as an interest in language that amounts almost to a mania. Indeed, it is essential. For emotion does not elicit feeling. Style elicits feeling.'

Mary Oliver, from Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse. This Pulitzer Prize-winning poet has also produced four books of poetry and Devotions, a definitive collection of her work.