Sunday, September 11, 2005

I often hear/read people talking/writing (this morning, here & here) about giving their manuscripts an 'arc', and like everyone else I see that such books are in vogue, and have my thoughts as to why, but more important for a book of poetry, even those projects tightened to resonance with continuity and resolution, is rhythm. Rhythm, not arc, it seems to me, is the way to find your poems into a book. Or, at least, something else to look at if sustained projection isn't your extrapoetic organizational thing.

Just a little word of encouragement for the grand-vision-impaired, from these eyes.

I get stuck on chronology. I'm (finally!) starting my thesis (for real, I hope), and the only way I can imagine arranging it is in the order I write it. Which means writing it as a "unit." I guess this is as easy as it gets. Didn't Alan Dugan do that? Didn't he even name his books 1, 2, 3, ...?
In some ways, I think chronology is the ideal ordering method. Because it can be so expressive of the natural development images/ideas/words take through your poetic consciousness--or the development they take through you. But I never can stick to it, it feels too out-of-control. I feel too constrained by the pressure to not edit out what I'd consider mediocre lines/poems, because they might be needed to support/illuminate some future development I'm working toward--agh!

So what seems to me its greatest strength is what I can't handle. I liked your Egret Party, which I think I remember was chronological (or at least pretended to be). I hope you blog a little on ordering and your thesis.

Don't know Alan Dugan by the books, so can't say. Right now I'm having trouble settling on a title, so that method sounds attractive, tidily so.
I work very closely in project-format both as I write and as I collect a manuscript. I perceive the book as a form and poems its smaller elements. It's the kind of book I also prefer to read, typically, although it need not be narratively linked (and prefer it not be). My currently complete manuscript has a subject that is present throughout the entire book, and my new one is become more of a lyric meditation on an event. So, you could say I'm a bit obsessive about what I write.
Charles, I'm envious of your obsessive composition process. You describe it like I imagine a director would describe the relationship of scenes to the movie as a whole. I've just never been able to maintain a consciousness which is both directed and creative. The moment-to-moment expansion which for me is the writing of a poem would be excrutiating over any span of time longer than the minutes. I'd either die of exhaustion or go off the deep end before I finished, I think. Actually, probably I'd just short-circuit and become unfocused, like I do whenever I do try to sustain a project.
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