Monday, December 17, 2007

Second Verse

As 2007 draws [swiftly, swiftly] to a close, I'm looking ahead to what 2008 has in store for my writing life. I will be giving up my administrative duties at work and returning to the classroom full time, and while the grading burden will increase, I believe my general stress level will decrease and allow more room for writing. [I hope.]

My main goal for 2008 will be to get the second book out there, and I am currently going through the process of shaping the manuscript. The title of this post comes from the cliche...same song, second verse...because I find myself swimming in the same morass of uncertainty that I swam in while gathering together Blood Almanac. Shaping a book is an organic process, and I'm continually surprised at how grouping poems together draws out nuances I hadn't even been aware of in the first place. The key, then, being to group poems in the strongest combination, taking advantage of every nook and cranny nuance. I am a bit envious of poets like Maurice Manning (see the last post) whose books grow out of a single vision and voice.

After Blood Almanac came out, after I'd traveled and read, I started thinking about what might come next. I tried to think in terms of theme or single vision, but I just don't seem to work that way. The poems come as they come, with whatever direction and content is swirling around in the vortex at the time. I play with form and rhyme and all the other building blocks after the genesis of that first image or line.

What I fear now is that I might have the beginnings of two books, one more traditional than the other. I have a strong core of poems right now that I've collected under the working title, Glacial Elegies, and all have to do with the Midwest and the dead. I was fortunate to not have to face death directly until well into adulthood, as all 4 of my grandparents remained living into their 80's. I lost both of my grandfathers in the past several years, and this has shaped my writing in unexpected ways. However, there are those other poems, the ones that don't necessarily slip perfectly into place when I've got everything spread out on the table. These poems are more language based (although not LANGUAGE poetry), more fragmented, and less directly involved in the driving themes of the Glacial Elegy poems. So, what do I do? Do I create a separate section with just enough commonality to make the book hold together? Do I separate the two and acknowledge that it might be another year before either one is fully finished?

The answers are out there to be had, and I will try to embrace the adventure inherent in sorting them out. Of one thing, I am certain, the road to publication is neither quick nor easy (for most), so I remind myself once again about persistence and endurance--two necessities in surviving the struggle for publication.

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