The last few months have found me plugging away on this manuscript. I’m coming to grips with the fact that the goals I set for myself were terribly ambitious. There was no way for me to complete 65-70 draft pages by this past July, and it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to write another 30 in what’s left of 2015. I realize that page count is, in many ways, a false metric, but it’s helped me get a handle on a project of this scale and set some short term goals.
I’ve told my comrades in the Mentor Series (hi, friends!) that I hope to complete a draft of this manuscript during our time together. Of course, I want to let these poems take the time they need, so I won’t be heartbroken if I don’t have 65ish pages by next June when the Mentor Series is winding down.
One thing that’s been on my mind in the last few months is that working on this project has forced me to relearn how to write a poem. I mentioned this to an poet and editor I like quite a bit and she said that every poem begins again, along with the fear that words might not come this time. In that way, she wrote, poetry is like an extreme sport. For me, writing poems has always been like sprinting; working on this manuscript is like learning how to run long distance.
What I mean by all this is that I'm relearning how to consider each poem from many angles in ways that I haven't before. That's not to say that I haven't carefully considered all of my poems in the past, but I'm asking the same questions I always have in new ways: Am I using certain words too often, leaning on them too heavily? Is this poem too similar to another poem or somehow doing the same work? Is this the right form for this poem, or should I try couplets (or tercets, or something else)? Should I consider traditional forms in composing new poems or revising older ones?
These questions, and dozens more, are on my mind each and every time I look over a poem. I'm interrogating each poem, asking each word why it matters, I'm fighting the urge to use a crutch, follow the path I've followed before. And I can feel these poems getting stronger, can feel them speaking to and against one another in exciting ways. I'm learning how to write these poems.
I don't know when these poems will begin making their way into the world, but I am submitting them. I won't dwell on that or the rejections they've seen so far, but I look forward to sharing when they are out in the world.