I. Process

I’ve never been the type to express myself out in the open through any other means than poetry or fiction, and even then, I try to cloud the emotional side with image and metaphor. Well, my step-mom convinced me to document the process of putting together a manuscript, all of the emotional ups and downs, the thought processes, the frustration, the excitement, and the insight that comes from putting a collection of poems together. It has been interesting trying to make them all sing along.

A little bit of background to get to the point where I am now:

    • Step 1) I collected all of the poems that I thought were even the slightest bit close to making it–somewhere around 80. I printed them all out (poor trees D:) and put them in those really annoying plastic sleeves.
    • Step 2) Since I already had a very long poem that I was going to use as my “thread,” I arranged all of the poems into sections that fit with the sections of the “thread poem,” not worrying about order.
    • Step 3) I pulled each section out, one at a time, and arranged the poems in a way that created a type of logical progression, whether it was the name of the poem (for instance, The Pilot comes after The Travel), or a theme or idea that fit together within the actual lines. I even found some poems that didn’t quite belong in the sections that I originally thought. Once they were arranged, I’d have to say, there was a type of emotional overload. It felt like I finally had a skeleton of what would become a finished manuscript, and it felt good, but also like I imagine letting your child move away to college feels like, which is odd, considering I don’t have children, and I’m still a child attending college.
    • Step 4) Once the poems were arranged, then it was on to editing and cutting. A lot of the poems needed reworking, and luckily, I had spent enough time away from most of the poems to see problems clearly and to fix them. Some of the poems weren’t going to cut it even after significant reworking. They just weren’t up to the standards of the other poems, and they weren’t worth salvaging. This is where I may have been overly critical, since my manuscript is now down to 67 pages (if I include the page-breaking of sectioned poems). And though I have a tendency to be over-critical of things, I think it’s okay in the formation of a manuscript, and needed.
    • Step 5) After I did some more minor reworkings on all of the poems, I printed a new copy of the manuscript with all of the edits. While I was doing this, I was also constructing a .doc file with all of the poems in order, as well as separate .doc files for each poem labeled with their order and their new titles/edits. When I had them all printed, I taped them to my bedroom walls to get a different perspective and to have them continually haunting me whenever I enter my room.

From left to right: Section 1, 2, and 3 below.
This is where everything has started to come together, and where I’ve found glaring issues with the manuscript. At least, I think they might be problematic. It’s hard to tell anymore. In this stage there were two major discoveries. One being that my entire manuscript is about lifespans. It makes sense, considering I’ve been obsessed with the idea of a lifespan for the passed year, and my “thread poem” is specifically about the stages of life. I also discovered that I have a reoccurring syntax.
This is the part that I’m worried about and I’ve asked a few of my fellow poets whether or not they think it’s a major issue, and will be hearing their thoughts soon. Some people are on the side that it is my style and something that makes me the poet that I am. I think that using too much of one thing can destroy a manuscript if the reader feels like they are being beaten over the head with an idea over and over again. Though my manuscript is mostly image-focused, these things do worry me.
Anyway, back to process. In this stage, I am editing on the walls, walking down the hall to my computer, and making the changes in both the single poem .docs, and the large manuscript file .doc. It’s forcing me to think about the changes for a minute longer, and by the time I reach the computer and change both files, I’ve usually decided whether that image truly needed a change, or not. If the changes are significant, I print a new copy and place it over the old one. That way I can look back through the drafts and contemplate the changes.
This is where I am now. I’m currently working on this stage, and will post updates when I move forward.
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