The best way to edit poetry is to write poetry. As a delicate form of literature, poetry should be edited meticulously and only real poets can provide good editorial services on a poem manuscript. If you are a freelance editor and you want to venture into poetry editing, you should learn the genre. Even though there is the so called “poetic license” giving poets the freedom to express their feelings without the constraints of grammar and syntax, a poem should be edited for some limits that will ensure good poetry instead of a group of lines formed in quatrains.
Most clients who would hire your services are students who are uncertain with their poetry assignments and they would like to ace that homework by submitting a well-versed poem. Thus, if you will satisfy this vision, you will have a good reputation as a freelance literary editor.
Editing poems should be done in your own preference, but do it with emotions and wisdom. Poems should appeal to the heart and the mind of a person. Most poetry editors block out any noise when they are revising a poem. You can shut the door or play something relaxing, like instrumental music. You can also dim the lights. Do whatever you need to focus fully on the poem. You need to think. You need to feel. You need to put yourself on the shoes of the poet, and bring out all your skills to convey the message of the poem creatively and poetically.
Review the instructions of your clients. Before you edit poems, you should determine the form. If the client likes to create a rhymed and metered poem, then follow the preferred meter. If the poem is in free verse, you can have more freedom, but be sure to give each word in a free-verse poem a role.
The best way to edit poems is to read them out loud. Do not read them in-loud. Read them with the top of your voice, expressing the emotions of the poem. If you stumble on a specific line or a word is not good to hear, then revise it.
Delete unnecessary words such as but, therefore, and other words that can be cut out without affecting the essence of the poem. Never follow the style of the 17th or 18th century poets, if they are not instructed by your client.
Most writing guide books would advise any writer to use active instead of passive. Revise the line, “The flower was watered” into “The girl watered the flower.” Try to delete those to be words such as were, will and have. If the poem would convey the message without these to be verbs, then delete it. Every line, every word, and every punctuation should have a part in the over-all impact of the poems.
You should also sharpen verbs, and find sounds. Never choose obsolete words if they are not part of the message of the poem. Use simple synonyms that are nice to hear, and would create music.