Poetry Manuscript 2.0: Finding the Point, Again

29 Jun

At the corner of 4th and Inspiration (ahem, I mean Cooper) . . . guerilla art NY-style

As you may recall, dear and patient reader, I set out in 2010 to put together a manuscript of poems for publication. I had uprooted roots for the Nth time July the year before and found myself jobless, (mostly) friend-less and searching for purpose. My daily sifting through Netflix and the previous night’s DVR’d television shows just wasn’t cutting it in the Grand Scheme that I’d dreamed up as “My Move to the Big City.” Of course CityBoy was around, endless optimistic and supportive, but I needed vision, a goal, something outside of myself, to push through or towards.

In April 2010, I participated in NaPoWriMo (the month-long challenge to write a poem a day) and found myself really engaged, looking forward to getting down to writing each morning, fortified by a stiff cup of coffee and some peanut butter toast. I wrote something like 22 poems that month, a ridiculous spectacle of poems, many of them bad or simply atrocious, but I found something too that month–the renewed pleasure in writing, the words just coming, bad or good, across the page under my fingers, that image or idea sprouting like a long buried seedling into proverbial life. 

And I kept writing, filling our tiny studio with so much paper, that at times, it looked like a crazy person lived there. Which they kind of did. So I got through a revision, and then a second, writing and writing, like this could really be my life. Of course, reality, as it so often does, reared its persistent head, and I had to find a job and schlep to work like the rest of us poor non-lottery-winners.

And the manuscript fell to the wayside. I wrote a poem here and there. I sifted through my many, many sheaves of paper. I rewrote a word or two, cut some lines. But the momentum was gone. So much else, life and dinner and friends and a wedding and another cross-country move, all interrupting a writer’s most prized possession…time, specifically alone time.

Which is all a very long preamble to Item #2 on my List of 101 Things…Publish my poetry manuscript. (It’s not #1 because I am weirdly superstitious and tight-lipped about my deepest desires, as though naming them robs them of their possibility. I guess I’m in trouble.) I’m digging out the pages, clearing out the hard drives and the cloud files, reengaging in the (hopefully this time not) endless sifting of the papers. This time, it’s for reals. March 18, 2015…that’s my due date, my Do Not Pass Go.

In penance for not looking at this thing for about 6 months (and in my rekindled fear of the Interwebs which is where a lot of my 2010-2011 poems lived), I’m retyping the whole thing back into Word on my computer, line by line, stanza by stanza. So far I’ve finished Section 1 and already I’m cutting 4 poems. By the time I’m done, this may look more like a haiku than anything else. Kidding.

But the first section of poems are also most of my oldest, written in the first year of my MFA, and unfortunately some of them feel like that, young and amateurish. So they’re coming out. At least for now. I’m also trying to find room for my newest favorites, which are almost always darker, unsettling, a lot coming from my attempts to worm my way into the mentalities of the less than perfect members of our society. The morbid. The unlucky. The not nice.

Maybe a lot more of the younger, nicer poems will have to find their own home. That’s what’s so difficult, I think about writing and publishing. Unless you’re writing a blog or a bestselling author, the gap between writing and publishing is going to be lengthy, so much time separating you from the thing you were obsessed with then and the thing you’re obsessed with now. I wonder how others do it.

But for now, it’s enough to be at the keyboard again, going through the poems, line by line, stanza by stanza, always with the voice of my old poetry teacher Charles Harper Webb in my head, “Okay, and so?” Here’s to finding the meat, the drama, the “So?”


One Response to “Poetry Manuscript 2.0: Finding the Point, Again”


  1. Two New Guest Writers To Be Published 7 July 2012 « Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette - July 2, 2012

    […] Poetry Manuscript 2.0: Finding the Point, Again (jhointhecity.wordpress.com) […]

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