“The Journey,” oils on 40 x 50 cm stretched canvas (sold).
Last week, I holed up alone for the first time in years, working on my second poetry book manuscript. (My first poetry book is illustrated here.) I wrote a lot. I went outside twice for food. It was great. It was NECESSARY. It was mostly not a good week of editing. The editing I got done was good. But it was mostly a good week of writing—clearing the decks of notes to self, travel notes, poetry snippets I had meant to fill out. And now have.
That means now the manuscript is again over 200 pages, when a week ago I had cut it down by nearly 50 pages and meant to cut more. It’s not ready for a second set of eyes—first it needs that good edit that I thought I’d do last week. So I will either let it rest, or proceed to illustrate and blog bits of it in an effort to get it further outside my head. I am trying to decide if and how to do that illustrating and blogging while vagabonding, since I am vagabonding again. Does this mean sketching simple drawings to go with drafts? Is that too messy to go here?
Blogging drafts, especially poetry drafts, can be tricky. Sometimes poetry/writing/art is of the moment and you want to speak/show/share it in the moment. Sometimes you look back and realize only 30% of what you make hits, makes the cut, would even be something you would want to hear at an open mic. And maybe you already blogged that other 70%. Ok, maybe it embarrasses future-me when that happens. But it’s not a big deal. People are wrong on the Internet, and artists are people, too.
So I’m looking at my Table of Contents trying to figure out if I want to start now, or on the road tomorrow. Try to make it a daily thing for a while, or go with the flow. Blog thematically organized (draft) sections of poems, which would break down to roughly a theme every two weeks, or take the one poem I feel like editing/sharing/illustrating on a given day, and run with that.
The Table of Contents looks like this:
- New Arriving, Europe—10 poems from London to Lisbon and Amsterdam, where I lived when I first immigrated to Europe.
- Finding Berlin, Germany—12 poems that are loosely about making my home in Berlin. I already blogged early versions of a few here and there. Some are more sexual/romantic, some are more political. A bit of a mix.
- High Art—10 poems on art. Some early versions of a few out there (e.g., 1, 2).
- Back in the Colonies—11 poems on goings-on back in the colonies, mostly America. Some early versions of several out there (e.g., 1, 2). A few new ones I think are really strong and would like to put out there.
- Back for Forwards—19 poems. Oy—I guess I’ll need to hacksaw edit or break up this section. The first nine are sort-of #MeToo related, but I hope in poetic ways that make them broad and deep. Then four on the difficulty of leaving the past. One on a murdered woman I met doing my dissertation research. One on moths flying back into flames. One on resilience. Two on autism and its misunderstandings. All on looking back to go forward. I don’t think I’ve blogged any of these and at least some are worth sharing.
- Relations—10 poems on family. A few early versions out there (1, 2). Includes what you may have heard me mention on Facebook as the nine-page poem on having versus not-having kids, which is now ten pages and seems to have convinced me not to. At least if this poetry thing doesn’t work out, I can always go back to stand-up.
- Nuremberg, 2027—10 poems envisioning future war crimes trials. I’ve already illustrated and blogged early versions of all these (and more—but I also already cut a bunch of them out of the manuscript).
- Vagabonding Anew—10 poems on traveling around Europe with my love in a camper van. Amazingly, I don’t think I’ve blogged any of these. They’re fun, happy poems about fun, happy adventures. Why have I not illustrated and blogged these? Was I too busy being happy, or what?
- Newly Arriving Every Time—10 poems on happiness and home with my love in Berlin. I think I already blogged just this one early version. Some of these are more sexual and as an artist they’re important to what I do, but it might also be a little scary to put them out there and see what happens. I also might need permission for that. Hmmm. Hi.
- Others—15 poems on sex, sexuality, desire, wildness, and the like. I definitely haven’t blogged these. Can I blog these? Among experiments last year, I was going to experiment with sex writing under a different name, but never did. I guess it wasn’t right for me. This year I decided I want to publish stuff under my name. Hmmmm.
- Sweet Home—12 poems on being happy at home with my love again, with a bit more of a domestic (but also sometimes sexual) bent. Some of them are probably too silly to include in the manuscript, but then I think—Mary Oliver gets away with being reverent and grateful for absurdly little things—maybe I can, too. The only one of these I’ve blogged, here, might not even stay in this section so that doesn’t really help.
- Sweet Roam—5 poems. At last you think I have won out and edited my hypergraphia into submission. But no, the last two are long poem sequences about longer, farther travels with my love. The first few are love poems.
So this turns out to be a pretty good summary of my life and what I’ve been up to lately. Does it help me figure out how to move forward with the manuscript? Can people even read this the way it’s formatted? Why do I write so much when generally the question is “What do I DOOOOOOOOO?????” and the answer is “Try some stuff that feels good and see what happens”?
I guess I will just post this, since I didn’t write it for myself. And maybe then ask people on Facebook/Twitter/email to tell me what you think. Or figure it out. Or finish packing. Whatever comes first.