Monday, February 27, 2017

Project Completed ~ 20 x 20: A Self-Exphrasis

52º ~ thunderstorms overnight, gray day with severe weather in tomorrow's offing, shrub trees leafing, buds forming on the hardwoods, yard birds klatching

Today, I've reached an official milestone. While a few of the poem/collage combos that make up 20 x 20: A Self-Exphrasis have already appeared in publication, today, I've finished revisions and re-formatting so that all of the remaining works are ready for submissions.

This is a deviation from my norm. In the past, I simply wrote and revised at my own pace on the way to a finished manuscript. As I did so, I sent out whatever drafts had already matured to readiness, and I didn't worry about having everything in place.

I think the reason I needed to get all of the project "done" is because I've been unsure about how to format my submissions. For those first poems that appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, I sent PDF files with the poem as page one and the art as page two. In hindsight, this creates a separation between the two pieces that shouldn't be there. As I've stated before, I see these as most "complete" when the poem is read directly alongside the collage. While there will never be a way for the reader/viewer to absorb both forms at once, I'm trying to get as close as possible.

Over the weekend, I had a brainstorm about formatting my files on landscape and putting text and image on the same page. Once I tried it this morning, everything snapped into place. A handful of the poems are longish and required a slight shift down in font (from 12 to 11.5) and the largest margins possible. These do not have the same aesthetic comfort of the shorter poems, but for now, it is the best I can do with the tech skills in my toolbox. (My summer goal: learn Photoshop/InDesign.)

To celebrate my accomplishment, here is a view of the new format, using one of the poems that appeared first in Tupelo Quarterly.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Writing Time = Revising Time = Cutting the Fat

60º ~ headed up to the mid-70s, this is winter now in the mid-south, climate change is real, everything is budding out of time

My goal for writing time in January and February was to complete my revisions of the poems in the 20 x 20: A Self-Exphrasis project and prepare all of the files for submission. I am so close to crossing this off my list I could spit.

All of the poems have been revised, and all feel strong to me now, ready for sending out. There is no revision to be made on the collages, but I have to perform some PDF-making to get things in a format suitable for sending out, and there is where I'm stymied today. I have two, only two, collages that must be rescanned. In the process of making the PDFs, I discovered that two of the scans are truncated. This is a problem with collages because most scanners are supposed to be "smart" and detect the image to be scanned. Imagine a snapshot or a full-page document. My collages, which feature lots of negative space, tend to freak out the scanners and get them all confused about where the edges are supposed to be. For these last two collages, I wasn't diligent enough in my proofing, and must rescan. In order to get the best image quality, and because the collages are larger than my home scanner, I use the flatbed scanner at work, which means waiting until tomorrow to finish this project. Sigh.

In terms of revising poems, today I was practicing what I preach, in at least one case. I confess that the poems left for revision today were the difficult ones, the ones where I knew something was off, but I couldn't put my finger on it. In particular, a poem titled "Skull" has been giving me fits since I wrote it. The collage kept outweighing the poem because the poem was still weak. For this project in particular, there can be no weak poems (not that I would want a weak poem out in the world, anyway).

Last week, in my undergraduate forms of poetry class, we talked about various revision techniques, and one of them was "cut the fat." Somehow, I chanced on that exercise as I was wrestling with "Skull." In this exercise, the poet cuts all of the words in the poem except nouns and verbs. (Hint: It's best to do a "Save As" and mess with the poem in another file.) Then, the poet "rebuilds" the infrastructure of the poem, putting back only the absolutely necessary adjectives, articles, prepositions, conjunctions, etc. It turns out, this is exactly what the second stanza of this poem needed. Stanza 1 held up to the cutting, but through this exercise I was able to trim and then rebuild stanza 2, and voilà.

This all means that on Friday, during writing time, I can start drafting again, and leave some time for sending these new hybrids out into the world. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Read / View Three Pieces from 20 x 20: A Self-Exphrasis

47º ~ after a gloom-filled, rain-filled day yesterday, the sun is out and the temps are rising

AWP was a whirlwind as always, and I was thrilled to see so many of "my people," yet sad to have missed seeing so many more. I launched AWP this year by doing an off-site reading for Tupelo Quarterly, at a bakeshop no less where all the goodies were free! Wahooooooza.

Tupelo Quarterly is the first journal to publish my new hybrid works, the self-exphrastic poems I've written about here often in the past year.  Without further ado, I urge you to click over and view "Braided Calculations," "Precautionary Measures," and "Work Sheet for Family Debts."

Ideally, one would have the poem next to the collage, but I'm still struggling with the presentation. (TQ presents the hybrid as I submitted it to them.) My suggestion to read / view these pieces would be to scroll to the collage for a glimpse, then scroll up to the corresponding poem for a good read through, then go back to the collage for a closer look. You may have to enlarge the screen for the poem and minimize the screen for the collage. I am learning as I go, per the usual.

As a preview, here's an image from "Precautionary Measures" and the opening lines.

The girl born in drought
                                       learned early
the flammable wisp of hem
                        and dangled bow.

Please read the rest and then browse all throughout the fabulousness that is Tupelo Quarterly 11. With all thanks to Kristina Marie Darling for her outstanding work, and thanks to all the rest of the staff as well.