I have been working with my brother to revise a sonnet that he wrote. We worked on it a few times, but he wanted to submit it as part of his college application. The catch was, it could only be eight lines. So I harkened back to Molly Peacock's lecture on the magical proportions of the sonnet and started hacking. In other words, we tried to keep the 8:6 ratio (roughly) while leaving the heart of the poem intact.
Here is the most "finished" version (the lines are really long):
DNA created me. I am one plus one, the reaction of an act not correlated with a thought of me.
What am I if not a continuation of people who lived before my creation? Accident or surprise,
no one hoped or planned for me. If I were a part of God’s plan, then I should have purpose.
But I could find so many purposes, meaning falls away.
I lean toward nothing.
I am not thankful for the happiness belief brings. Absolute Truth breeds division.
What am I but another organism on the chain whose links make up existence?
I am everything and nothing. I refuse treatment for my cancer.
Both of us were pleased and amazed with the results. The original was far more wordy. Almost an essay. Now the lines pop, especially the short one at the turn.
It was a good exercise. If only I could be as ruthless with my own work. I aim to try.