Sunday, January 29, 2006

Finally Have a Breather from Work & Some Time to Blog

I received Joshua Poteat’s Ornithologies in the mail from Amazon this week and started reading it. I’ve read some of the poems before in Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, and Blackbird. I’m trying to resist the urge to skip around and read it instead from cover to cover as Josh intends. I’m also trying to only read the poems when they have my full attention, and I’m not tired.

This is probably one of the thickest first collections of poetry that I’ve ever seen, so you are definitely getting your money’s worth. So far I am really enjoying it, and it is interesting to compare Josh’s work to my own and note the differences mentally. I’m seeing at the beginning of the book a lot of references to the South, history, and of course birds. I like the tone and the pacing of the poems a lot. I’m seeing the use of indentation that I remarked about a few posts ago. Josh also uses italicized words/phrases, and there are literal questions in his poems. Association in an almost stream-of-consciousness way is a technique that I’m seeing employed in the poems. The title, the cover, and the index of birds at the end of the collection gives the whole collection the appearance of being a kind of field guide for bird watching.

I’ve received notification in the mail that my artist colony application and my first poetry contest entry of the year have been received. I should know the results of both in early March. I plan to prepare some literary magazine submissions later today and mail them out tomorrow.

With the exception of Josh’s book of poems, I’ve noticed lately that I tend to skim poems that I read rather than fully engaging with them. This is especially true if I’m looking through literary magazines in the bookstore. As I’ve said before in this post, unless the poem grabs me by the throat and makes me sit up and read it carefully, I tend to give it only a cursory reading. I admit to feeling a little guilty about this. It seems unkind or unfair somehow. Still, I only have limited time and concentration energy. I just can’t shake the feeling though that I am missing out on other kinds of poetry that I could learn from. I’m only reinforcing the kind of poetry I have liked to read in the past rather than expanding my tastes.

At this point, I probably have about 1/3 of my first book manuscript ready. By that I mean poems that are fully revised and worthy of consideration for a book. I still have a lot of work to do. This morning I think I finished the revisions to three poems. One of them is my sestina. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll include these poems in the batch of submissions I plan to send out tomorrow. It’s fun to see the book grow and think about preliminary structuring and how the poems relate to one another.

For about a week now I’ve been trying to come up with a first line for a new poem I have in mind. Previously, this poem was only coming to me in snippets of imagery and phrases that seem to want to find a home in the middle or end of the poem. This morning I have a tentative first three lines. I’ll have to read them over again tomorrow or Tuesday to see if I want to keep them and see where they lead. So much depends upon those opening lines in a poem. There is a little extra pressure on this poem because I am titling it with the working title of my manuscript. If the poem fails, I’ll be disappointed. But hey, I’ll chuck it if need be if it’s not working as either the title poem or at least as decent poem. Of course, I am not dead set on the working title of the manuscript either.

Besides having some angst over how my manuscript has a lot of dark content, I am also wondering about this strange marriage between poems that had their genesis during my MFA program, and the new work that I am writing now. Can the two mesh together successfully, or will the twain never meet? Intuitively, I think they can work together. Besides, I am revising those older poems with my current poetic abilities, so that should raise them up in terms of sophistication even if they are the poems of a younger man with concerns somewhat foreign to the man I am now.


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