Facebook is starting to infect me, I think. I want to click a 'Like' button on everything that strikes me in a good way. Someone says something smart at work and I want to tag it with "Anne likes this!" I see crocuses poking up out of the ground and I want to bang on something with my thumb to say: "Anne likes this!"
And you wonder how people get lazy about self-expression. Phbt.
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Yesterday I got out the big-ass stack o'poems that I've drafted so far towards my new project. I've been putting them more or less in some kind of order as I go along and carrying them around with me in a red folder. I read through the most recent half-dozen or so, made a few tiny little changes here and there, and stuck them into the big-ass stack in places that seemed right. Then I read through the whole thing -- not carefully or in depth, but skimming over all the poems, reading through for flow & continuity. And go figure: as I read through it, it started to feel more like (gasp) a manuscript, not just a big-ass stack o'poems.
This has been an entirely different experience from my first full-length manuscript (which is floating around in various editorial offices even as we speak). That one was more the classic "first book" experience, where you have a big-ass stack o'poems that you've drafted over a few years and you sort through them trying to figure out what they have to do with one another and how they relate. Putting that manuscript together, while I was on retreat at Clifty Falls last June, was a really cool experience because I was pleasantly surprised to find out how much the poems did relate to one another, and kind of talked to one another once I put them in the same rooms together. Turns out my work has had some overarching themes all along, and I found some ways of juxtaposing poems that (in my considerably less than objective opinion) illuminated and clarified those themes.
(Given that the manuscript has been rejected a bunch of times now, although it has garnered some nice notes and so on, I think I'm about to revisit it. A little distance is good for the soul, or at least for the manuscript. But I digress.)
Anyway, this new project -- new manuscript, I should say! -- has been more deliberate from the get-go. I'd drafted maybe half a dozen poems before I realized I was working on a larger project. I thought it might be a chapbook at first, but for the past six months or so I have suspected that it wants to be a book. For quite a while I just let the voices speak to me; I'd find myself writing about something -- a tree, a highway, a certain slant of light -- and realize that I was writing from the perspective of one of my characters. At this point, I'm trying to think more strategically about the thing as a whole: filling in gaps, brightening or darkening the tone as needed.
So reading through it yesterday and feeling like it is starting to hang together -- that was enormous for me.
I'm a little in love with this project, much as it pains me to admit. Hell, I bought a black leather motorcycle jacket because of this project. (On ebay, for $10.50. I may be crazy, but I'm cheap.)
I just hope somebody hurries up and takes manuscript #1 before this one is ready to go out (which will probably be another year or so; I have at least ten or twelve more poems to write, and a LOT of revision to do). Otherwise, it will feel like one of those fairy tales where the younger daughter gets married before the elder daughter, and somebody ends up dying because of it. Or at least cursed.
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I mention this because three people have now sent me the information and it's only a matter of time before the rest of you do, too. ;) Yes, I do know about the Bruce Springsteen anthology that Pudding House is working on! And yes, I've already sent them some work; and yes, they've taken a poem of mine. I am highly amused by the whole thing, actually. They say they are going to do their best to get some copies of it into the actual hands of the actual Bruce Springsteen, which I'm not holding my breath on (he's pretty hard to get to), but it's fun to think about. My poem is one in which I imagine a fourteen-year-old Bruce, sitting in his room playing his guitar and dreaming of getting out of there. Like pretty much anyone who's been fourteen, I know how that feels.