Revision is, no doubt, the most important part of the writing process. It involves a lot of thought about what you mean to say and whether or not you can say it better as well as consideration for rhythm. Self-analysis is the key to deciding how to present the content of your poem, but careful poets should also pay special attention to the way their work sounds and flows when it is read out loud.
Very few of us turn around and begin submitting a piece that we’ve written within a few days of finishing it—we recognize that the poem or story might not be ready for publication because it needs revisions that won’t come to us right away. When revising poems, it is a good idea to have a waiting period before you revise as well as a waiting period before you submit.
Since many of us writers have an academic background in literature, it can be hard to resist the temptation to interpret your own poems the way you would analyze a poem by Frost or Dickinson. While this can be a very valuable way to figure out what you want to say and how to say it best, beginning the process of self-analysis too early can make the elements of your poem sound forced. I like to refer to this as getting too close to the architecture of the poem. You’ve likely experienced this if you sat with one poem making revisions for too long and began to feel like you were making the poem too abstract. Setting a poem aside after you finish a first draft can be very helpful. If you give yourself enough time to forget exactly how you were trying to convey your message, you can look at your own technique with fresh perspective. This allows you to revise in a way that is friendly to readers rather than to writers (other poem architects).
About the sound of poetry, Maya Angelou wrote in her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that reading poetry aloud helped her recover from a traumatic event in her childhood that made her scared to speak. She had a kind neighbor who introduced her to poetry, but that neighbor told her that one cannot truly love poetry unless they read it out loud.
Reading poems out loud isn't just poem appreciation—it’s also a useful revision technique. Poems have rhythm and musicality. Even if a poet is not a spoken word artist, the way a poem sounds is a large part of the poet’s voice and the overall impact of the poem. Very often, I make small revisions in real time when I read a poem out loud. As I’m speaking, I will sometimes make changes as small as spelling out a contraction or changing "this" to "the." However, if a real-time change feels more natural in speech, it's worth considering a revision to the written version of the poem. Sometimes one extra syllable in a line of poetry can change the rhythm in a way that edits the voice that is supposed to be present and the dynamic of the whole poem. Other times, one extra syllable can be enough to make a line seem crowded when read silently and feel crowded when read aloud.
When the content of your poem might not be quite right, let it sit for a week or two. Next time you think a poem is perfect, read it out loud to make sure. These two tips can improve subtle elements of your writing, whether it is fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, by catering to your reader’s mind and ear.