Ugh. Here it comes…

5 Mar

I have been a bad blogger (although that word still makes me cringe a little; I prefer to think of this as a compendium of thoughts, not always coherent or terribly insightful, but useful to me, and I hope at least a little interesting to you). I have definitely been a bad writer.

However, I have been a good worker, moving up in the job world from a part-time position to a full-time one…WITH benefits (cue the triumphant horns). I have also been a good reader. With my new Nook, I have been reading like a fiend, trying (and failing) to keep up with both my physical hold queue and my virtual one at my local library.

Books! Books!! BOOKS!!!

And I have also been a very, very, very good buyer of books, both e-books and book-books. Here’s just a sampling of the books I’ve bought in the past eight weeks:

Jessica Francis Kane’s The Report (which I had already read – courtesy of my local library – but had to have a copy of. If you haven’t read it yet, please go. Do.)

John Updike’s Rabbit, Run (which I admit, rather shame-facedly, to never having read. I got a very small (and I do mean small because the e-book version I downloaded free from the library only allowed me to read it in something like 8pt font) taste of it, and it was a wonder.)

Dorianne Laux’s The Book of Men (New Dorianne Laux! Need I say more??)

Sadly, these books have fallen to the back burner because a) I love books but I don’t really have the time to read everything I want, b) my e-book queue from the library is a harsh mistress (once they’re “available,” I have to download them within 3 days and finish them in 3 weeks), and c) I watch way to much television. Also, CityBoy finds my incessant reading to be “anti-social,” which I’m tempted to call his problem, but since we live together in a tiny space more suited to cohabitating gerbils, I guess I can concede that it’s not much fun to watch the other person read all evening long.

All of which is really and truly irrelevant when it comes to the plain and simple fact that I’m not writing. I think I’m writing. I start all these delightful blog posts in my head while I’m on the bus or making dinner or flipping through Entertainment Weekly. But they don’t actually get written down. I scribble notes from readings I go to (ooh, that’s a good quote!) which then pile up on my desk or side table, waiting for the perfect moment when I: a) have the time, b) don’t feel too tired from working all day, and c) there’s not another episode of The Good Wife on my DVR queue.

Enough is enough.

So, while this doesn’t really count as new writing to me (being a recap, with many parenthetical asides and lists and all those other lovely, sentence-enlarging things I love), I am writing.

Anywho, I’ve asked a few writer friends to be my first critics, sending them copies of my very “work-in-progress” manuscript, and I got back some great feedback today. Oceana, who is an amazingly fierce and quirky writer, really opened my eyes when it comes to some of the older, and more personal, poems in the collection. It’s hard when you’ve been working and working and working on something. It becomes almost impossible to see it with fresh eyes. To see why it isn’t working. (You know it’s not working. At least I usually do. But I just can’t put your finger on it.)

Case in point: here is one of my poems:

Look at my little sister–

all hacked-away hair and burnt
fingertips, a six-year-old who does
what I tell her to, even after
sparks shoot from the wall socket,
crackle along the scissor’s
electrified blades, and run up
and down her outstretched
arm like fire ants.  The week before
I snipped chunks from her head,
scorched scissors tip just grazing
the corner of her open eye.
I try to teach her to be less
gullible, don’t take everything
that’s offered.  I have my eye
on the neighbor’s trimmed holly—
its red berries, the perfect candy.

Oceana’s suggestion, which had never occurred to me, was to cut the last five lines of the poem. They don’t add anything new, basically repeating (in a telling way) the visual details of the lines before. Here it is again without those lines:

Look at my little sister–

all hacked-away hair and burnt
fingertips, a six-year-old who does
what I tell her to, even after
sparks shoot from the wall socket,
crackle along the scissor’s
electrified blades, and run up
and down her outstretched
arm like fire ants. The week before
I snipped chunks from her head,
scorched scissors tip just grazing
the corner of her open eye.

Tighter, and neater, and more impactful, I think. I’m still playing with that last line, the repeated o’s and ee’s maybe a little much, but I am really digging the suggestion.

Now if I could only bundle up all these friends into some sort of On-Demand channel that I could consult whenever I felt unsure about a poem. Of course, that’s why we try to develop our own inner critic, but sometimes, you need another eye. Or ear.

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