I’ll be reading for Quiet Lightning (responding to the above exhibition) at the Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco next week! I’m humbled to be in the company of such talent & passion.
FREE SHOW! RSVP.
I’m t/here. I did it. 75 pages! 2 days to spare.
I gave myself until 6/30. From now until then, I’ll read & revise what I can. I’ve ordered the works, written titles & notes on jaggedly cut index cards & rearranged the order on my kitchen table next to my niece’s fish Jose, on my bedroom floor, on the living room floor. I’ve printed out the manuscript & will now read through it over & over & make changes as I see fit. Then, come 6/30, I’ll let it go.
I’m submitting this manuscript to a few book contests, the first 2 of which have a deadline of 6/30. I know some of my friends & colleagues are staunchly opposed to book contests, but I’ll go ahead & submit anyway. I need the money. Funny thing: I can hardly afford the submission fees! I’ll submit widely after this round. There’s an incisive critique of poetry book contests published in the Huffington Post (2011) by Anis Shivani. Still, I’ll go ahead & submit anyway.
I’ve realized that I love putting manuscripts together. It doesn’t mean I’m any good at it. It doesn’t mean I’ve figured out my method. It’s good practice. It’s a performance art. Yes. When poems/fragments/anecdotes play off of each other, something new happens, something new calls, something new is demanded of me. As I submit to these book contests, I might try to create a chapbook or two based on the meditations I offer in this book. Then, I’ll submit those to chapbook presses & I’ll cross my fingers.
The final title of this book manuscript:
This is for the mostless.
(I’ll explain later.)
I’m not convinced that giving myself a mere month to complete a manuscript was the smartest idea, nor the kindest idea. In any case, I keeping coming back to the poems, which is to say, I’m staying focused on the task. I have about one week left to make this manuscript happen. What I’ve been really doing is studying the manuscripts of others and wondering what my own is supposed to look like, feel like. I’m trying to come back to a practice of poetry after having written and failed at the conventions of fiction for so long. I’m trying to come back to a practice of poetry after having never left behind the desire of performance.
More poetry books from the library:
My findings: Still, what is a prose poem? For real. What is it? How does it feel against your brain? What do you do with it when it happens?
As a teacher of writing, I encourage my students to save everything they write. You never know, I tell them, you might find that some of those fragments are useful for a different piece of writing. (Yes: I do believe this. And Yes: I do save all of my writing.)
I’ve been mining my archive of writing (2004-2006) for the occasional fragment/image/observation. While it’s too early to tell whether or not any of this will make it into the manuscript, I have realized a few things about my trajectory as a writer and about this process:
A. I used to work real hard to make my poems sound like poems. I attribute this to my desire to be read by somebody, anybody. My daily languages, at the time, were not enough to be a poetics. How terribly sad!
B. I wrote with so many abstractions. For whom? I wonder if I wrote abstractions as a way of sustaining illegibility or as a way of refusing the reader entry into the world(s) of my poems. Or, I wonder what this says about my volatile relationship with English. Either way, I had no idea for whom and for what deeper reason I was writing. In many ways, for the writer of color, the abstract is safer.
C. What the hell, I have said more often than not these past few days, was I thinking in this thing that I had the audacity of calling a poem?
This month, I’m assembling a poetry manuscript! I’m taking inventory of my archive of fragments, poems, lyric essays, anecdotes, scenes and the occasional critical sentence that never found a place in my academic work. Then, I’m re-composing.
Tentative title of the manuscript: Suppose: Intimacies, Epistemologies. I imagine that’ll change as I dive deeper into my archive.
As expected, I continue to have anxieties over form. Thus, I read and read until I get more and more confused about what constitutes a poetic structure, a narrative arc.
Some poetry books I’ve been reading:
And two books by my MFA thesis advisors:
These are all mad different in voice, style, technique, architecture, concept, desire, genealogy. I’m re-learning so much about poetic strategy, the reasons I write–for the love language and people, and the poetics of the book manuscript.
Quick reflection on what I’ve read from my archive: I used to write with a significant amount of desperation and energy. Now, I think too damn much. I’m trying to find the perfect interplay between the lucidly poetic and the carefully critical. This is another exercise in voice: hating it, remembering it, finding it, renewing it, trusting it.
I’ve given myself the limitation of June.