Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Series of Late Nights

It has been quite the interesting past few days. Oh, not from anyone else's viewpoint, I'm sure. For them, my life looks as dull as usual. Work, home, walking the dog, making dinner, turning on the tv and the laptop. All pretty ordinary. What is *not* ordinary is that I'm averaging 3 poems a day for the past, oh, eight days.

I'm not saying I'll keep them all. I think some of them are good, and some of them are ordinary and will have to be torn up and remade. The deluge is nice though - it's like trying to drink from a firehose, there's so much I want to write.

The result has been interesting. I compiled a full-length collection that had the theme of a daughter coming of age and dealing with her father, and I titled it Carving Your Name. Thrilled to have a complete book, I schlepped it off to about three competitions. Then, in a bit more than a weekend, I wrote a chapbook in Lilith's voice and titled it "I Will Not Lie Below," and sent that one out. I broke Carving Your Name into two chapbooks, one concentrating on seasonal themes called "Summers in Bay Shore," and one concentrating on the theme of coming to terms with grief titled "Carving Your Name." (I know, unoriginal of me to keep the same title as the full-length, but it tickled me and seemed right.)

That made me feel productive enough that I could forget my early-in-the-year dry spell. But that wasn't all. I decided that since there was such a heavy daughter/woman theme in Carving Your Name that I thought I might combine the more heavily femme-themed pieces with the Lilith chapbook, and I titled that full-length collection Disobedient Daughters. I farmed that one out to another four poetry book contests.

And then I decided there was too wide a gap between just the daughter pieces and the pieces that were overtly in Lilith's voice in Disobedient Daughters, and that Lilith really deserved her own book without my diluting it with poems that were really meant to go in a different direction. So I've been walking around in Lilith's crimson stiletto peep-toe pumps in my head at night (which is the footwear I imagine her enjoying), and her meager chapbook has grown to twenty-eight poems and counting, tentatively titled God in my Throat.. As I said before, not all of them are strong enough to stay, and they'll need revision and some slight reordering, but it's a project I'm enjoying.

Now I'm struggling to make sure the voice doesn't get stale. Trying for different angles, different approaches for the narrative, different images, trying not to let a vivid character fade to pale through too much retelling.

Finally, playing off an email I sent to a friend, I thought I'd put some of my more, um, interestingly-toned poems into a chapbook called "Muse Made Me Her Bitch." Struggling to fill it out, but in a good way, like stretching muscles I haven't used in too long. Sometimes I get dissatisfied when my tone becomes...not complacent, really, but not harsh and surprising enough to satisfy me. "Muse" gives me the outlet I need to experiment with some things.

And then there's "The House That Falls Down" (also occasionally titled "Warsongs"). It's a collection of poems on war broken into three sections - the war, the women, and the homecoming. I was going to write it off, but I have an affection for it - I wrote the bulk of it while my brother was a Marine deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he said he liked the collection, and that the guys he shared it with enjoyed it. It came in as a semi-finalist in competition (though that could be due to a dearth of entries, I'm sure). It hands together oddly, every single piece needs severe revision, and war is a tough thing to write about and get right. I should trash it. But I'm keeping it. Selfish and sentimental, but whatever. it'll be my fixer-upper project.

In good news, I looked at the packet mailing schedule for my MFA program for the Spring 2008 semester (which starts at the end of May), and noted that it called for volunteers for folks for the full-manuscript workshop for the Spring 2009 residency. A few emails later, and I'm in! I'll likely be the only poetess in the group, since it's apparently the folks with novels who take advantage of that workshop, but hey. I write in the hopes that regular folks will enjoy my poems, and receiving critique from non-poets (or, as writers, merely poets of a different stripe) may actually be more helpful, since I'm getting accustomed to getting most of my critique from poets. Anyway, it can't hurt, and I can at least sound off of some people to see if they find it as interesting as I do. I'm afraid the folks that have read the bits I've shared may be biased because we're pals, though they've shared some good critiques. Heh, okay, I admit it. I wonder a little bit if walking in as the only poetry manuscript is like coming in as an underdog where it's more than likely that folks with actual coherent fiction and CNF stories will think that I'm inherently inferior because I work in smaller clips, and don't have their sort of stamina.

Okay, so I have a teensy inferiority complex. But I'm good humored about it. *grin*

Anyway, it's been a series of very late nights (particularly since I'm accustomed to going to bed at 10pm. Half past midnight makes morning an absolutely shitty time to be me, but I think it's worth it. Hell, I *know* it's worth it - I'd burn out terribly fast if I did my scholarly stuff both at work *and* at home, and I'm trying desperately to keep home as my creative sphere for personal work. Now what I wish I had was a group - one where we exchange manuscripts, make candid comments, and slug it out good naturedly surrounded by Kinko's-bound nearly-finished masterpieces and beer. Until then, though, I'll continue writing. And if you want to volunteer to make some margin-notes, I will snail-mail you a copy of whichever manuscript you're interested in *grin*. For now, though, I am going to bed.

Right after I finish a piece called "Witness."

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