(by Christina Taylor of Middle Island Press)
When I began publishing, I took more editing liberties than I do today. I changed words for the sake of sound, I shortened lines, even completely rewrote them. Most poets were in agreement with my changes and some were not, so the first quality that I recommend that poets look for in editors and/or publishers is EXPERIENCE.
Through experience, through reading many manuscripts while simultaneously getting to know clients more personally, we (editors) tend to soften our critiques, especially in this day and age in which the Internet allows a voice to everyone and we realize how passionately people desire to share something of themselves with readers. We (poets) fall in love with our own creations because we love ourselves; we value our personal experience and our expression.
That considered, I am an editor who believes that ALL poetry is worth sharing.
Whether people will listen isn’t guaranteed, but those who share their poetry share it from the heart or from the gut. Formal or structured poetry is a bit different as I personally see it, more often than not, as passion filtered more heavily through the mind; passion (or mere “content”) diluted to give prominence to structure for the sake of the structure’s merit. That’s okay, too, and much easier to critique or edit, because it resides in a world of poetic rules: iambs, feet, meter, structure. As for the rest–those who come from the heart or the gut–I just let them speak their own way, and I’m happy for their courage to let their thoughts stand on their own without leaning on structure.
It’s not easy critiquing love letters. It’s not easy critiquing impassioned rants against the world except to illuminate facts. Yet in the professional literary realm, I must “clean up,” sweep commas, hang apostrophes (as “they” say), and I leave it at that whenever possible, because my voice isn’t anyone else’s voice, and poets have a need to share their own voice.