The Writing Compactor

When I critique poems or stories, inevitably I encourage people to cut out a lot of stuff and/or rewrite the rest using concrete images instead of abstractions. Once, partly as a joke, I was issued a challenge: “Hey, I bet you can’t rewrite my poem as a haiku!” I took the job seriously; I pored over the poem and attempted to distill from it the pure essence that would make it not merely a haiku, but one that meant the same thing as its progenitor. I think I did a pretty good job.

And so I thought, hey, why not do this to other unsuspecting victims’ writers’ work? And so I present to you: The Writing Compactor.

Send me a link to a poem or short story, and I’ll post a compacted version of it with a link back to the original. I’ll try to keep it as similar in meaning to the original as possible, but poetic (ahem) license may be taken. And I’m not implying that what I do will be better than the original, of course, just shorter. It will look a little something like this:


The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Let us go
through half-deserted streets
yellow fog licked corners
Talking of Michaelangelo

bald, my collar to the chin
Do I dare
Disturb voices dying beneath music
eyes that fix you pinned and wriggling
arms braceleted and white
perfume from a dress

I was afraid
among porcelain talk of you
and me, bitten off
overwhelming question
sunsets impossible to say

I grow old
mermaids singing
not to me
riding waves blown black
Till human voices wake us
and we drown


One Response to “The Writing Compactor”

  1. Eric says:

    The original is so boring and masturbatory–this is a perfect example of what you want to do with the project.

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