Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Making a new book of poems

Making a new book of poems offers the same challenges as making a new poem -- only now they're multiplied.  As with any single poem that's new (as with all new art), nobody can tell you about the final version -- it doesn't exist yet.  You can't turn to an expert, because nobody's an expert on what you haven't yet made.  

A book manuscript takes these individual poem challenges and extends them to a table of contents.  Yes, eventually you can make some arrangement reflecting some sort of internal criteria as to what's worth including and what's not.  And however tentative those judgments, you can then send this prototype to various readers whom you trust (presuming you're lucky enough to have such readers).  Presuming they are willing and generous, you then become the happy recipient of a new set of challenges, namely trying to figure out how to hear and make use of those comments.  

Sooner or later you must do what any artist making new art must do: you have to figure out what you're up to, satisfy as best you can your own internal criteria, and then take responsibility for the result. 

So maybe this is how it works: you immerse yourself in what you have, you carry it all around in your head, adding and subtracting, rearranging, rethinking.  You scatter it all on a big floor, and while time goes awry you experiment with various orderings.  Then you carry that around in your head.  Then you do this again.  Distractions intervene, you lose ground, regroup.  Slowly the alignments announce themselves and get confirmed.

Repeating all of this to oneself helps a little. Repeating all of this to oneself can offer the illusion of comfort.

And this is no small part of the fun of it.

No comments: