As you may know, every week for the next little while I will be expanding on many of the 27 points covered in my October 2011 post about making the poetry manuscript. If you’ve not read that original post, it’s called “On Making The Poetry Manuscript” and is available here. The fourth installment, “The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed,” will be out next week – we’ll skip this week in honor of the High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (Happy New Year!)
But, here’s a teaser: Next week we’ll update these points (#4-6) from my (apparently) popular post on Manuscript Making:
4) Continue to think about each poem according to: mood / tone; dominant images, characters / speaker, setting/season; chronology, and whatever other categories emerge as important to your own work. However you organize your collection, keep in mind that you are creating a book, and you cannot really know how the poems interact with each other unless you’ve done this work. Make multiple copies of each poem, try different orders with duplicate books, and live with them for a while.
5) Make sure the poems that begin your collection establish the voice and credibility of the manuscript. They should introduce the questions, issues, characters, images, and sources of conflict/tension, etc., that concern you and that will be explored in the book. Think about the trajectory of the manuscript: you want to set the reader off on a journey, a path toward some (even if undisclosed) destination, but unless you’re writing an epic, forget about “arc.” The notion of “arc” is, in my opinion, too subterranean to be willed into being in any artistic undertaking, except as a result of the felicitous intervention of the muse of artistic balance. First make the book as a whole work as a whole; let others praise your “arc.”
6) Read your manuscript out loud, to yourself, start-to-finish. Slowly. Listen attentively. Repeat as needed.
Next Wednesday it’s a manuscript-making throw down, in which we invoke Shelly’s Ozymandias, and explore those three points even more closely through the lens of Shiva, God of Destruction, the third god in the Hindu triumvirate, as we learn from the gods how to re-create our manuscripts by destroying.
We’ll think about the creative impulse to destroy in the name of art: from sandcastles to guitars, symphonies to pianos, from your child’s antics at the beach to Pete Townshend wild onstage, to Carl Nielsen, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon and Kendrick Lamar. Some startling revelations in store. Piano burnings, guitar smashings, epic unravelings, and more.
Please do join me next week for “On Making the Poetry Manuscript, New and Improved, Part IV.”
Meanwhile, if you’re of a mind to explore these realms with me in person–along with National Book Award Winner Mark Doty and the irrepressible Veronica Golos—join us Friday, October 31st through Monday, November 4th in staggeringly beautiful Truchas, New Mexico for the Tupelo Press Perfect Ten Poetry Conference. You will arrive Friday afternoon, and by the time you leave Monday morning, you will have transformed your writing. Three spots remain.