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This article is taken from PN Review 131, Volume 26 Number 3, January - February 2000.

Purifying the Cistern (with Arioso Dolente) Anne Stevenson

[This essay was first given in November 1998 as a talk at the Poetry Centre, Department of English and American Studies, University of Manchester as part of the Re Writing the Poem series of readings and papers given by distinguished visiting poets, 1998-2001. The collected set of essays will be published by Carcanet in 2002.

Each visitor was asked to respond to whatever topics they felt relevant from a suggested rubric, part of which is reproduced here:

- do you habitually make several/many drafts of your poem?

- is your typical method of re-writing to change a line, a word - a 'piece by piece' mode? Or do you often make more wholesale changes?

- how far is your re-drafting impelled by considerations of tone? Or of metrical structure?

- do you have any method of 'ultimate arbitration' - for example, reading the poem aloud after its composition, and making any changes consequent on that?

- how far are your re-writings influenced by the eventual look of the text on the page?

- to what extent are re-drafts driven by the tone and structure of the collection of which the relevant poem is to be a part?

- do you show or read your work to others while it is in the process of construction? If so, how do others' comments influence your re-drafting procedures?

- have your methods of (re)writing ...

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