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The screencap above is the Scrivener corkboard view for my next poetry manuscript! I finished the very first full draft about an hour ago. The working title is Curved Tongue, Forked Road, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to stay that way for the rest of the revision process, though I’m open to the possibility that it might change.
The process so far
These are poems I’ve been writing since I made the final selections for inclusion in my chapbook. Once that was done and I started sending out We’re Smaller Than We Think We Are, every poem I wrote was considered for possible inclusion in the next book. The writing process thus began in late August/early September 2011. Since I have the practice of writing a poem a day, I began to generate possible poems pretty quickly. That’s not to say that every poem I have written per day has been worth considering. I think only about 10-15% of the poems I write I consider worth revising, submitting, or including in a book, and not all of those even end up going places. Still, if you’re drafting one poem a day, you get to the potential good poems faster than you would otherwise. The small percentage of poems that made the cut got put into a separate “for collection” folder.
After that, it was a process of writing and waiting. Not just to accumulate enough poems, but for a structure or theme to emerge. Several concepts bounced around in my head. First, I thought I’d be writing mostly about math and physics. Then, I thought I was going to write about physics and travel, and title it Everything in Transit (a title shamelessly stolen from a Jack’s Mannequin album.) Then, this past October, just after a year of writing and waiting, I developed the idea for a three-part structure, encompassing a few different things I’d been working on. This would allow me to have a unifying concept without feeling tied down to one single thing.
As it stands, the book now has three parts. “Heartways” consists of poems I’ve written on the various incarnations that love takes (aka ways of looking at love). “Wordways” consists of the twenty-six abecedarian sonnets I’ve been working on since September, which are thematically organized around various locations within Texas (not just ways of looking at Texas, but ways of looking at words in the confines of this particular poetry form). And finally, I have “Roadways,” a section focused on travel poems. These are somewhat Texas-based, but less explicitly so than the abecedarian sonnets, and are more concerned with ways of looking at the road than looking at a particular place. The collection title Curved Tongue, Forked Road came to me almost out of the blue, and I like the way it invokes dialogue, exploration, and discovery.
Compared to getting my chapbook together, the rough draft of this collection was, in fact, easier. I didn’t develop my daily poetry practice until a month or two before I finally started getting the chapbook together. I didn’t know as much about revision as I do now. I didn’t have a critique group to help me out. And I certainly didn’t have any idea how to organize a book. Now, I am more disciplined, I have a critique group, and I have some sense of how the poems in a book should work together. While I still have a lot of work to do, having that knowledge made the first draft so much easier.
What happens next?
I have a long road of revision ahead. While a lot of the poems in “Roadways” are actually pretty near complete, the first two sections are much rougher. I’m going to work these poems by myself for a while, and then sometime in the spring of 2013, I want to work with a mentor to help me get the book in final shape for submission. I learned a lot working with a mentor for my chapbook, but I certainly don’t know everything. Plus, a full collection is a different beast from a chapbook.
Ideally, I’d like to have this ready to submit by June of 2013, but I also know I can’t rush the revision process. So I’m setting that as my ideal goal, but I’m also not going to get too attached to it. It will be done when it’s done. As long as I’m giving it the attention it deserves, as long as I’m performing due diligence, that’s what matters.
I know that when all is said and done, the final draft will not look like the current one. Some of the abecedarian sonnets will be rewritten from scratch. Some pieces that are in the first and third sections might get deleted. Poems I haven’t written yet, haven’t even thought of yet, might get slotted in. It will be an interesting journey, and I can’t wait to see what this book looks like when it’s finally done.
Thanksgiving dinner is over, and I’m curled up on the couch with two very tired dogs. We went and had dinner with some friends, and got to take Maxwell and Simon with us. They spent several hours tearing around the huge backyard with their doggie friends.
Since one of our hosts is of Filipino ancestry, we had a few delicious dishes that weren’t traditional American, but were a wonderful part of the spread. I contributed homemade dinner rolls and mulled wine (apparently I mull wine like a boss), and had a lovely afternoon with my Texas family.
(If you’re wondering why my couch looks torn up in the photo…..we’re still working on Simon. He looks like an angel in that photo, but beneath that sleepy exterior, he enjoys deconstructionism. Just not in the literary sense of the word.)
In the spirit of thinking about what I’m thankful for, I’ve been going through my poetry files to contribute something to Drew Myron’s Feast of Words. What I’ve found is that while I wrote many poems with a gracious, grateful spirit, I don’t write much explicitly about gratitude.
The poem I’ve selected to share today is a short one I wrote after a friend brought me some mangoes and taught me how to remove the pits in a way that would not damage them, so that they could be planted. Little acts of kindness like that often carry more weight than they appear to on the surface. I spent much of 2012 dealing with the loss of a good friend, and the simple act of paring a mango and then preparing the seed for planting was a sort of light-bulb moment, realizing the way good things endured. From the destruction of a piece of fruit came nourishment for myself, as well as the potential for a new mango tree.
This poem is, admittedly, still in draft form. I’ve given it a few passes, but it’s not a piece that has occupied a lot of my creative attention, so it’s still a little rough. But it comes from a grateful spirit — grateful for a friend, for fruit, for the reminder of what endures.
You bring me mangoes
and you bring me mango pits
you never make promises,
but in your smooth hands,
there is potential for sustenance,
for roots –
there is a reminder
that life goes on after
skin is cut
flesh is eaten,
that a future exists;
that something beautiful
endures after loss
I’m thrilled to announce that I’m launching a workshop series for 2013. Starting in December (to kick the new year off right), I’ll be guiding students through goal-setting, weathering setbacks, and accomplishing their creative plans.
Achieve Your Dreams 2013
In this course, you will learn to:
- Articulate not just your goals, but what they signify for your overall creative life
- Set realistic plans for the year, month, and week
- Manage setbacks without guilt
- Recognize that goals change over time, and adjust accordingl
- One two-hour monthly seminar via Google+ Hangout (see below)
- Weekly check-ins with me via email or video chat (your preference)
- Exercises to do at home to help you get inspire and stay focused
Check out my Workshops and Coaching page for more details, including pricing and sign-up information.
November was not a high-volume reading month, in part because I couldn’t actually read for one entire week. The other reason is because I’m under George R.R. Martin’s spell, and thus most of my reading time has gone to his epic series rather than anything else. So here are the two books I finished this month, and the one I started.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Pictures of the Gone World – The cover here is a bit misleading; I’m actually lucky enough to own a second edition of this text, which I found in a used bookstore in Philadelphia last year. I’m always on the lookout for early editions of books, and this was a great find. All in all, I very much enjoy this brief collection, but what most interests me is the historical perspective. Work that was shocking and controversial in its day doesn’t have that same power in 2012. It’s strong poetry, to be sure. It holds up. But it doesn’t have that shocking immediacy.
George R. R. Martin, A Clash of Kings — I’m glad the reading ban didn’t begin when I was partway through this book. I loved it just as much as the first one, and loved following the continued plot. While some character arcs were more compelling than others, I didn’t come away from this 1,000-page novel feeling that anything was superfluous. When it was done, I immediately put a hold on the next book at the library.
George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords – This came ix at the library the day the reading ban ended, and I dove right in. So far, this book seems slower-paced than the first two, but I’m still enjoying it. It’s frustrating to be so busy and only able to read a few chapters a day, because I really want to see where this is going, but hopefully I’ll get some long reading hours in this weekend.
So I survived the week of no reading. It was tougher than an entire month of unprocessed food. I need reading way more than I need artificial preservatives and white flour. It was a pretty frustrating week, because my primary method of relaxation was just gone. I realize the point of the week was to focus on trying new things and different forms of relaxation, but I basically felt on edge the entire time. It was such a relief to read again.
Week Five was a lot of fun. Most of the exercises involved visualization as a component, as well as collecting images of what we want and what inspires us. As a result, I ended up joining Pinterest, and creating a board for images I collect related to The Artist’s Way.
Halfway through Week Six, I’m noticing that I love the odd-numbered weeks, and having less fun with the even-numbered weeks. The even-numbered challenges are frustrating, or they seem harder to balance with work, writing, kung fu, and my social life. But I take it one week at a time. I’m still enjoying the overall process.