Monday, October 11, 2004

Manuscript. Agh.

My study's walls are tiled with poems. I've taped them up in order, and move them around when it seems right to. I read them through, I don't want too much correlation in the flow, but I want it to be reasonably linked. I want there to be a sense of progress (though ironized), but then I notice almost all the end is ekphrastic. And deathly too. What's that about? I'm confused. Why did all my poems with fire in them end up in the first third? Is that interesting, or unbalanced? Is "Portrait of the Artist" an appropriate model for a book of poems? "Dubliners"? "A Winter's Tale"? I have no sections. Is this a good thing? I've put in sections; does this heighten the similarity of tone and content between poems, would such heightening be too much to the point of a bored reader, or does it jar what would be harmony otherwise? Is four the wrong number of sections? Is it too common?

What if my catchiest poems (do I have any?) don't belong in the beginning? What if my epigraphs are stupid? Why is my title so boring? Is it? What if I've chosen the wrong 50-odd poems altogether?

I feel like i'm getting dressed for a senior prom. I feel like I'm in Groundhog Day. I'm very confused.

Calmer: my biggest concern is that I was obviously moving within/towards a 'project' which my protracted illness interrupted. That was around half-way there, and now I'm not sure if what I'm doing is finishing it well, or finishing it Frankenstein-ish, and I should let go that material. Probably the root of a lot of my discomfort.

Good to know I'm not the only one undergoing torture. Not sure if I can stick stuff up on the walls, but your method reminds me of an observation I recently overheard, where poems can hang together as in a gallery exhibition, and it's only in this context that one can see the missing painting(s)/poem(s). Best wishes to you and your quest.
I'm almost guilty at how much I enjoy this image of you scrambling madly around, the manuscript towering over and around you.

I was reading somewhere (the stupid old Poet's Market,I think) that order need not be of great concern when entering contests. Especially in the big contests, the manuscript will be going through a couple of readers before even making the cut to the final judge(s), so the real thing is to get the good stuff up front (as it seems you've already done). You can obsess about arrangement after you win.

Or so someone said.

-Josh H.
Ivy: Thanks! And best of luck to you with yours.

Josh: Somehow I didn't read that, though I've looked through the stupid old poet's market too. I actually a) vacillate as to which are my good poems, and b) don't think I have all of them up there. (Can you smell the ambivalence? Me too. Though at the moment, I like my front order. Imagine my worry if I ^didn't^) But I think that I could ^argue^ that the front ones are good. How can I tell? How deep is the 'front'? Should one just arrange poems by decreasing quality? Is the end of greater importance than the middle, also? I've heard that, though I don't remember where.

Anyway, thanks for the comments. Hope I don't drive you away with the flurry of worry.
check out the interview on pg 410 of the 2004 Poet's Market and take it for whatever you think it's worth.

I also remember Ashbery speaking about the debacle that was getting his first book through the Yale Younger Poet's series, in which Auden had decided there would be no winner and actually got Ashbery and O'Hara's manuscripts after the fact, out of desperation. Ashbery said that the manuscript was nothing but a collection of poems he had written up to that point, with no further thought given to order.

But Ashbery is weird.

good luck,

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