Monday, May 3, 2010

Poem Conversations

Here's a picture of my book in progress.

One of the sessions I attended at AWP was about manuscript organization. It was so helpful--really, amazing ideas from a slew of poets. One of the things one of them said was to think about the conversations poems have with each other and use that as a structuring principle. Of course poems do talk to each other, and the poems directly before and after a poem affect the way we read a, conversations.

I finally took a day off from grading, locked myself in my office, and spent 4 hours working on structuring my book. I thought about it's "spine" poems, it's opening and closing poems, and its conversations. It was amazing to start grouping them together. I did it wholly intuitively...not by topic or theme, but by obsession and intuitive linking. One thing they emphasized was that we obsess when we write poems, and often a particular obsession shows up in muliple poems. We don't want to necessarily put them together, but to let them refrain. So with that principle in mind, I worked obsessively/intuitively instead of in any kind of surface organization. It was really cool to see how certain poems changed as they started sparking against other poems.

I made an enormous mess on my office floor (once again, Virginia Woolf proving herself right about "a room of one's own"). So I could teach the next day I stuck them all up with magnets on my wall, and I'm doing to let them germinate there for a while, to see how they work and grow together.

Now this is the fun work of writing.

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