Today I spent, no joke, about ten hours tampering with manuscripts -- both the Firstborn and the New Kid. I rejiggered the Firstborn somewhat: pulled out a good handful of poems and shook up the sections, which now number 4 instead of 5. The New Kid is still taking up more space than it oughta, but it's down below 100 pages now at least, which is a pretty nifty feat considering the very first draft clocked in at just over 140. (I know! Crazy. This thing is gonna have more viable outtakes than Springsteen's The River album.)
I'm still working on tightening up the New Kid. But, I'd be very happy to get suggestions for presses that might consider a strongly thematic poetry manuscript of almost 100 pages.
The two mss. are so different it's unreal. I definitely feel that they are both "my voice," whatever that means, and they certainly have some overarching themes/obsessions in common (I'm almost afraid to run either of them through a tag-cloud machine because I'm scared to see how big the word "light" would be), but there are very, very few -- if any -- poems that could conceivably be swapped from one into the other. #1 is your typical first book, where I'd written poems one by one over several years & have played puzzle pieces with them, fitting them together to see how they interact with one another. It does have an emotional/thematic arc, or a couple of them, and I do think it hangs together as a ms. But #2 clearly has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and almost all of the poems in it were written knowing that they were going to be part of an extended story. In fact some of the poems in #2 may not even make a lot of sense outside the context of the collection.
It was interesting today, going back to the Firstborn after having spent so much of my time & energy on the New Kid recently; despite their differences I'd definitely gained a few insights that helped me tighten up the Firstborn. So, that's good.
What is the New Kid about? Well, I've got snippets from various places incorporated throughout the thing, and this one sums up a good bit of it:
"On stage your exhilaration is in direct proportion to the void you're dancing over."Anyone else out there have the experience of working on two different collections simultaneously? I never thought I'd find myself in this position, for sure. It's interesting.
--Bruce Springsteen, Super Bowl Journal (February 2009)
I do have two readers lined up for the New Kid, and one for the revised Firstborn. I don't know whether or not I want to go out looking for more, but if anyone's dying to cast an evaluative eye on one of 'em, feel free to backchannel me.
I've had a few other things eating my brain over the past few weeks, besides poetry. I've vacillated about whether or not I wanted to mention anything about this in such a public place, and I may come back later & edit this post -- but, my mom has just started radiation treatments for a wee dab of breast cancer. All the doctors are extremely optimistic, and there's every reason to believe that after a little radiation she'll be able to put this thing completely behind her. But it has, understandably I think, thrown me for a bit of a loop. So there's that to contend with. Among other things.
Well, this has certainly been a self-involved post. I was going to leave you with a really cool video to make up for that a bit, but it's been taken down from YouTube "due to a copyright claim by British Broadcasting Corporation." Dang. It was Springsteen singing "The River" at the Glastonbury festival in the UK a couple days ago; a decent performance of one of his best songs, but what was really cool about it was that steam was visibly rising off of his body. He sweats a lot when he's onstage, and apparently it was chilly & damp at Glastonbury (chilly & damp in that part of the world? nooooo!) which caused the striking visual effect. I mean, I've seen racehorses steaming after a workout, but never rockstars. It's an image I would love to steal for my rock-related manuscript, but nobody would believe it! You'll just have to take my word for it, I guess. It was just a cool, cool video, with the steam and the humongous crowd and the giant flags & banners everywhere. Maybe they'll release it on DVD or something. One can only hope. I'd buy it.