less craft than irritability

...it seems to me that when revising a poem, the most important thing one brings to the worktable is less craft than irritability. A poet can be irritated by any of several sorts of things. I just mentioned one of them: what might be called a level bump (something unexceptionable by normal lights that nonetheless affronts the ear or tongue or intelligence). The irritant can also be an inauthenticity (something which affronts nothing, but which one can’t quite hear oneself saying), an opportunity (something which is perfectly fine, but which nevertheless whispers, “I could be so much more…”). But whatever the irritant, a poet exercises something other and deeper than craft when responding to it.

(I’m not saying there’s no such thing as craft in the process of revision. If that were the case, there would be no such thing as editors. I’m just saying there’s an aspect of revision to whose mysteriousness the term “craft” seems inadequate.)

- Daniel Brown, from his essay "Craft Schmaft", over at the Partisan site. You can read the whole thing here.

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