Exhibit 11.10

On Editing a Novel #7

TURNING YOUR NOVEL INTO A BOOK OF POETRY. It’s likely that you’ve come to the conclusion that your novel just isn’t working out. If that’s the case, it’s time to take the necessary steps to exploit the lucrative and rewarding world of poetry. Many of your smarter friends’ favorite books of poetry are actually novels converted into verse. For example, everything Robert Creeley wrote was originally intended to be about globe-trotting mercenaries. When he just couldn’t make his technothrillers set in a erotic hellscapes work, he’d delete words until he passed out drunk. This is called poetry.

Let’s take a look at how his unpublished novel South American Murder Trail became the poem “America” through the deletion of a few choice words:

South American Murder Trail ->

“It’s not South America! It’s a code for subverting reality!” ->
America, you ode for reality!

“Give back the people you took!” ->
Give back the people you took.

“We can’t let the son kill her! Shine light in his eyes! Well, do it again.” ->
Let the sun shine again

“I’ve killed children on all the four corners of the world.” ->
on the four corners of the world

“You thought of it first, but do not be so sure we won’t discover the Camarillo Axiom.” ->
you thought of first but do not

“We’re on our own. Or are we? Let’s keep quiet like the mutes even if it’s an inconvenience.” ->
own, or keep like a convenience.

“People are your own responsibility. You gave your word, Mendoza! You did!” ->
People are your own word, you

“There’s not a weapon invented that can kill locusts. And it’s a problem. What kind of problem? Long-term.” ->
invented that locus and term.

“The crystal is here you said? And, say, is that voodoo?” ->
Here, you said and say, is

“Where we are, no one’s going to give love back. Probably.” ->
where we are. Give back

“What was that? Guerillas or gorillas? We are screwed. So are these people. Your travel agent made a big mistake.” ->
what we are, these people you made,

“I believe in us. And there’s nowhere for me but where you are…um…to be. I could have said that better.” ->
us, and nowhere but you to be.

What was clunky and even highly contrived dialogue is thus turned into a beautiful meditation on what America has lost in both people and spirit by fighting wars. Creeley isn’t the only failed novelist turned poet. John Ashbery’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror was originally Battlestar Galactica fan fiction, for one.Through careful deletion, you too can be Poet Laureate.If it doesn’t work out, skip ahead to #22 TURNING YOUR BOOK OF POETRY BACK INTO A NOVEL BY ADDING ADVERBS & SUPER VILLAINS.

3 Comments / Posted in America, Editing, Writing


  1. I want to read that Creely novel. I want to read it so bad!

  2. Pingback: Adam Peterson / Exhibit 1.6.12

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