Saturday, March 04, 2006

Good Work

I was a cat in a former life. I know this because I was born with the perfect imprint of a cat’s paw as a birthmark on the bottom of my right foot and I have a thing for birds. Can’t imagine life without them. I love listening to them and for them. A bird makes an appearance in almost every poem I have ever written, and in the last eight years I have lived in Portland, rain appears in numerous poems as well.

I have two poems written years apart that have the same rhythm and image of a clear vessel or vase shattering.

I have a cousin who is a poet. He is older than me by 25 years or so, (my dad was the youngest and was older when I was born). My cousin published his own chapbook when he was a young man. I have sworn all along that I would never stoop to self-publishing, that it was a vanity of vanities, that my poems were worthy of a prestigious imprint and a well-known editor.

That was before I figured out that the poetry publishing business in the United States is totally rigged and there is no room for an “outsider”.

Now I have the reading at Borders Downtown coming up on the 13th of March I decided I could hold out no longer and swallowed my displaced pride and prepared a chapbook manuscript. Andrew did this last November for his reading and our Copy Editor extraordinaire David Matthews did it a few years back.

I had a huge amount of resistance to actually getting started on the project, and then this funny reaction when going through my body of work I found all kinds of things I wanted to read but nothing I wanted to commit to the page.

This process was actually simplified by the fact that last year, Andrew, who is an amazingly talented editor, went through literally every poem I had written and still possessed a copy of either hard or online, and put together a full length manuscript for me. A terrifying process that was, I tell you.

Except for adding in two additional poems I worked with that document to come up with both what I am putting in the chapbook and what I will be reading. Some things that read well are just flat on the page and the smaller poems don’t work for a reading at all.

It was rough breaking through the dreaminess of remembering where I was and what I was doing when I wrote the poems and all that source material and inspiration that came flooding back to that first insecure place of being alone with the work itself.

Building an arc in the book is a challenge. Structuring the flow so together the poems become more than they are singly is a gift. I chose the poems and then Andrew ordered them and I am happy with the result. Poems that I didn’t think could go together, do.

They are all about the big things, sex and love and death. There are bones, and chess games and cups of tea to move it all along.

The legacy, if any, I wanted to leave in the chapbook… because it most likely is the only book I’ll ever see published... is spiritual and highlights my Unitarian outlook.

The take away I hope from the poems I am choosing to read, and must practice again and again over the next few days, is the expression of my imaginative gift.

Things that momentarily appear normal are not. Just because I use the first person does not mean that the poems, are actually about “me”.

In the end, now ready to do paste up tomorrow and get the beast off to the printer I find the process has been worthwhile. I feel a kind of joy and sense of accomplishment that while fleeting, are a balm to a world-weary and battered heart.


Anonymous Black Flight said...

Well, I certainly do believe you were a cat in a previous life because the one on the front of your diary (OD) looks exactly like you.

9:10 PM  

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