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Why do we need editors?

Two things about a writer’s relationship with an editor: They are working toward the same goal (making the piece the best it can be), and they are both communicating a vision for the end product.

There are famous writers, but are there famous editors? Can you name one? Periodicals don’t count – Ben Bradlee made a name for himself during Watergate, as did Woodward and Bernstein as they became editors later in their careers.

But what about Maxwell Perkins? Not exactly a household name, but he’s credited with discovering F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, among others.

Last weekend I was typing poetry for people at a festival in Pasadena. I do these live, off the top of my head, about whatever subject people tell me to write. (High schoolers typically want existential treatises on the nature of loss and the cold; parents want poems about escaping to far-off lands). I realized during a lull that I could probably use an edit on some of these, but that would defeat the ephemeral nature of the poem itself.

With this in mind, I present some thoughts on editors, occasionally interrupted by customers throughout a sunny Sunday in a Pasadena park.

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