40 Teacher’s Guide to Teaching “Revision as Craft Seminar”

Authors: Ariana Benson, Brian Hannon, Adrienne Danyelle Oliver

Target Group: Educators

This seminar, focusing on “Revision as Craft,” has two primary objectives. First, students are invited to analyze poetry by taking into account what a poet has shared about their writing process, understanding the role of revision in producing a final version of a poem. Secondly, students are invited to consider their own approach to revision as an integral part of their writing process. This resource is intended to support educators in their effort to meet these objectives, with a guided approach to teaching “Revision as Craft” to students who are both working to critically analyze the writing of others as well as to produce their own.

General Resources

Opening Slide: What is craft?

Read Ama Codjoe’s “Garden of the Gods” (Furious Flower 2019, pp. 182-183).

Ama Codjoe Bio

“Art is not escape, but a way of finding order in chaos, a way of confronting life,” said Robert Hayden, the first Black writer to hold the office of U.S. Poet Laureate.

Working from the idea Hayden offers, we might understand craft in the context of poetry as a skilled and intentional practice of finding order (by making choices about diction, rhythm, form, sonics) in the chaos of writing, beginning with the first draft.

Questions to discuss as students build an idea of the concept of craft:

  • In what ways does this poem consider…
    • The idea or impetus behind a piece of writing?
    • The story a work may be trying to convey?
    • The intention behind a piece of writing—i.e., what does it want to be?

The answers to these questions are the foundation of craft—the specific choices a writer makes in order to best tell the story they want to tell.

John Murillo Bio

Excerpt from Murillo’s “Back Draft” (Guernica, 2019).

Guernica: Can I ask about a small revision in your poem? You’ve changed “late April” to “May.” How come?

Murillo: It’s the sound. “Late April” has assonance, but “driving away in May” gives you the rhyme. And then, of course, there’s the historical accuracy factor. The riots started on April 29th, 1992, and you can’t get much later in April than that. But in terms of my experience, none of this is factually accurate. I didn’t leave California until 1994, when I moved to DC. As my friend DJ Renegade says, “A poem is a half lie used to tell the whole truth.” But yeah, to answer your question, it’s mostly about sound.

Guernica: Do you read out loud when you revise?

Murillo: Absolutely. You pick up on things that way. It may be that a line needs an extra stressed syllable but you’re not sure exactly how to do that. You wait on it and the two-syllable word you need might come to you while you’re watching TV or washing dishes or taking a shower. Then, after some time, you come back to the poem. But that waiting is important. I think that’s something people miss out on when they’re rushing these books out. They don’t give their ear enough time. It’s about being patient with the poem, listening to what it requires.

Poet John Murillo Reads “Mercy, Mercy, Me” for the 2021 MacDowell National Benefit

Additional resources

Cornelius Eady – “How I Wrote ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone’” (Furious Flower 2019, pp. 323-328)

Have students read both drafts of the poem.

Quotes from “How I Wrote ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone,’” Cornelius Eady

  • “…no two poems are ever written the same way. The last poem I’ve written has never seemed to help me in the writing of the next. This is part of the adventure I find in writing; I’m never 100 percent sure of what I’m up to until I’m done…” (p. 324).
  • “What’s necessary to me is that I begin to find what I mean to say. You will also notice that as I write, a shape is beginning to emerge. This is coming from a combination of the information in the narrative, and the way I’m beginning to hear it as beats or breaths in my head. For me, poetry is singing, and I’m always trying to be aware of what is lyrical” (p. 325).
  • “Like the building, the poem will only come into being through steady work. Unlike the process of constructing a building, however, I might erect a skyscraper and then decide to pull it down and build a cottage instead” (p. 326).
  • “Though I’m not 100 percent sure of this, I think I returned to this poem half a year or so later…Once I found the song that I thought came closest to what I had desired to say in my poem, I found it easy to find my way in. The song, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” is about painful revelation and the effect it has on a family” (p. 327).


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

The Furious Flower Syllabus Project: Opening the World of Black Poetry Copyright © 2024 by Anastacia-Reneé; allia abdullah-matta; Ariana Benson; Mary Beth Cancienne; Teri Ellen Cross Davis; Shameka Cunningham; Hayes Davis; Tyree Daye; Angel C. Dye; Brian Hannon; T.J. Hendrix; DaMaris B. Hill; Meta DuEwa Jones; Shauna M. Morgan; Adrienne Danyelle Oliver; Leona Sevick; James Smethurst; Dana A. Williams; L. Lamar Wilson; Carmin Wong; Dave Wooley; and Joanne V. Gabbin (preface) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book