Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Who Decides This Stuff?

Working on a 3-part poem today, maybe. Am I done with my manuscript? Yesterday, I did a T of C page number check and reviewed Section 4. Section 4--is there a rhythm problem? Should I reorder a little bit between more flattened, end-stopped and more flowing (not to say verbose) stanza poems? What does the subject matter say? I also deleted 3 words out of one poem.  It's true I can still send it out if I have a few doubts of the miniscule, obsessive variety.Will I really be daubing at this thing through these longest days of the year?

(Have I mentioned that I love electronic submissions of whole manuscripts?)

The poem I'm thinking of working on today has the strange problem of having the most fantastic title in the world. (I'm serious.) As soon as that happens, the stanzas get a little self-conscious. Do they stand up as tall as that title? Does that title represent?

Also, it seems I'm writing with line breaks again. Who decides this stuff? Isn't it supposed to be me? I think the line break has to do with the rhythm of the sentences. Maybe I'm becoming more cohesive and less stuttery? Maybe before I get sucked back into the study of perfect end words, I should spend some time in an open field/tab/use of white space in a big way experiment. Although not with this poem which needs to be small on the page, its parts contained.

I began reading submissions for Barn Owl Review on June 1st. They're piling up fast and I'm not yet into the rhythm. I like seeing what's out there especially in terms of new perspectives/approaches. Also finishing a book review of Mark Haddon's The Red House.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Initial Pleasures

The first summer deadlines for manuscript competitions and open readings are closing in. I can feel the huff of each day in June as it passes me by like a giant very slow fan of calendar pages. Time to work a little harder.

I'm pretty sure I've got the order down—shoehorning in those two newer poems (gladsome surprises). But now to consider the Table of Contents where poems are represented only by titles. What do you get from reading the T of C? What should you get? The title of this post refers to what I'd hope for—an initial pleasure for the reader. Titles that strike sparks, grab you by the hair, imbue you with angst, stop you dead in your tracks, locate you in my personal neck of the woods.

I know the title "To Autumn" worked pretty well for Keats, but that was in 1819. There weren't so many poems then. Same goes for Sonnet #131, unless I am into numerology. Maybe if it was in binary code or something. I also really don't like the repetition involved if there is no title and the first line is used for the title. It's like that funny misstep you make when you go upstairs and there isn't one more. 

Can a title be like a threshold where you gather a sense of the room of the poem? Should it launch you like a diving board? Maybe it's the grave piling you cling to on the edge of the mad rush of the poem and its magnetic swampiness.Or the invisible pull that turns you in the right direction.There should be a suggestion of tone, language. If the book is divided into parts, there should be a sense of the tributaries as well as a sense of the river.

OK, I just took a look. Lots of two-part titles which I like—a kind of exuberance of communication. Titles with parentheticals and also titles like eighteenth century novel chapter titles—"Title Right Now or What Happened after the Title fell into the Manuscript."

 I'm a little surprised by one thing. In the past I have inveighed against one word titles. But I see I have four such titles: "Butterick," "Marzipan," "Nacre," "Accolade." In my head I can concoct many arguments for the necessity of their brevity. For the first three, many thoughts on the uniqueness of the one word. But "Accolade"? Maybe I should revisit that.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Standing Back for a Better View

I'm writing a book review right now (only notes so far), but after I send it away Sunday, I'm going to focus on last tweaks of the manuscript. I found an old list of things to think about from when this book was only half done. I also was trying to get a handle on what this book was at the time:
  • about danger as well as death, as in the dead have it easy now?
  • a teensy bit of self-mockery? maybe only applied to extremity of feeling?
  • when exuberant to the extreme
  • when more pierce-y
  • if 25, need 23 more (22 if aphoristic works--surely a two-pager)
  • meaningful but not instructive
  • gesturing toward the unknown
  • the "letting go" of control of voice's exuberance is new to book
  • the non-lineation is new to book
  • the a-sentence is not new but feels newer because no line breaks?
  • the going against an end is not new but maybe more pronounced here--closer to non sequitur but not
  • more humor?
  • some more lyric, some more stuttery within stanza. Is there the same quality of language in each? quality of image? Does it depend on whether poem of condition or poem of incident?
  • to make subject matter less threatening become off-hand or jokey
  • the devolution of the past
  • some swagger-y, some serious
  • lots of birds
  • a poem about beauty redefined as suggested in "Watching Me" 
  • think about if poems have flaw, not commercially but intrinsically