Monday, December 13, 2010

What I'm Reading: Me, Myself and I

29º ~ cold, cold, cold ~ never ending sun, still a bit windy

Now that the semester's been put to bed like a cranky child, I'm swinging back into reading mode and loving it.  Normally, I reserve these posts for mini-reviews of other poets' books; however, Stephanie Kartalopoulos' fabulous guest post on the 32 Poems blog gave me the boost I needed to head back to my own book-in-progress and give it a good going over.  In her post, "What's Your Intention?" Stephanie asks great questions of the book-in-progress, for example:

Do you know what your book’s intentions are? Do you know what work your book does in this world? What is its identity? What bridge does it build with its readers?

I'd known for many weeks that I needed to get back to my own book and re-read to answer some of these questions, although the questions were much more vague before Steph's post!   So, the house was quiet and the sun splashing on the desk in great sheaths this morning and all the planets aligned for manuscript reading.  Long-time readers will know that I went through a massive revision of the ordering of the poems in the book, in part thanks to a careful reading by Stephanie herself.  That all took place back in early September.  What this means is that the book is no longer a comfortable old shoe.  Re-reading the new version today was clumsy and slightly uncomfortable, although I could see the shine of this better, newer shoe.

Dear Reader, I fear that I am no good at book making (btw, I'm lousy at games of chance as well!).  It is quite hard for me to see and feel the thing as a whole.  Each poem is so well known to me; each poem is so itself.  I can see small groups of poems all linked together, but apparently those links are heavy-handed and eliminate the reader's feeling of discovery.  So, BOOM went the first version.  I do like this newer version and the surprise it allows.  I can see this now, but I couldn't see it before.

So, how does one learn to do this mysterious work, this stitching together?  How does one begin to answer the questions above?

Any advice is welcome.

PS: after reading the book, I went to get the mail and found my first rejection for the fall book season.  One of my top three presses said no thanks, but with a nice note and a semi-finalist mention, to keep it all from being completely horrible. 

Onward to the next round.


Josh said...

I'm working on my own response to Steph's post. Lots of excellent questions there and I'm looking forward to reading more of your thoughts on these matters.

Do you know that book "Ordering the Storm"? I didn't use any of its suggestions, but it did help me find new ways in to organizing my current manuscript. Might be worth looking at if you can track down a copy. I had to get it ILL through the University.

And, hey!, congrats on the semi-finalist note. Stay positive!

Still no news on my rejection season, but I'll keep you posted....

Sandy Longhorn said...

Josh, thanks for the support and for the book reference. I'll check it out.

Good luck to you.

Kathleen said...

Thanks for her questions and yours! As always, I enjoy and learn from your process comments. Likewise, I have trouble with 1) games of chance and 2) ordering poems in a book, and benefited greatly from an editor who suggested a completely different arrangement for my first (theatre-related) chapbook. Somehow the intuitive and the counter-intuitive worked together well in that case.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Kathleen, thanks! I seem to get stuck in the intuitive and forget to build surprise and suspense. At least I've identified my weakness. :)

Anonymous said...

Sandy, I second the Ordering the Storm recommendation. I read about it on Karen's blog way back when, and I've definitely returned to it several times for inspiration.

Semi-finalist, good on you! Not the news you wanted, I know -- I can't wait for the day you get it!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for the second, Marie!