Monday, February 27, 2012
I haven't been to campus since I packed up my boxes and tore the calendar from my cubicle. But I tucked Maya away at a friend's house and went, coatless in February, to Lind Hall, which seems just the same to me, turned a sharp corner, and spent an hour in my advisor's office, came away with a few new books and some good advice. It's always strange and thrilling to hear someone else talk about your work--to have them beat a good rhythm into your being.
He warned me of his standard-defense questions:
- Why is the book structured this way? / How did you arrive at this order?
- Who are your poets of influence?
- Ideas about recent books? Examples & counter-examples.
- What do you see yourself doing next?
- How did your work change or develop?
(Oh, how I'm ready to answer! Now! Which is so good. I won't mention how he said he'd sign off on me now.)
He told me the heavy carpentry was there, that I could focus on the line edits, the trimming, the clarity, the "quirking." He said the book is poised between two styles--there is the metaphysical, the dream-like, the Plath-like, the emblamatic treatment of motherhood and the body, and then there is the natural and literal. (Oh!) He spoke of the Jungian-belief in central form, dreams yielding toward central vitality, images also photographic and imagistic. So then: turn to formal tensions.
Some issues: there is the repeat of gesture--one example, corroborative example. OH! The articles and prepositions!
This manuscript is obsessive: see James McMichale with Good Things and Each in a Place Apart. See also Elizabeth Arnold in The Wreck, Civilization, Effacement. These books will help with the central, book as series. He spoke: gaze shifts but still thinking, radial shifts from the same hub.
I've spent the past week or so since our meeting sloughing away at the manuscript: I've cut six poems, let one return, combined others, added yet another, and the biggest was picking away, as one rubs away dead skin after the shower, of the excess words (the word the deeply excised, and from Josie's recommendation, the word little also shifted) and phrases.
I hope to give this manuscript the heave-ho, to start circulating it amongst publishers at the end of March, but we'll see if I can give it the polish I hope to: there's a part of me that wants to go through with a goddess-narrative, see where Hera can find company; there's a part of me that wonders if the expectations of motherhood is enough, if the introduction sets up something that isn't followed through with, so there's that too.
It's a first book, which is bound to be riddled with missteps. And as I send, I do hope it evolves. I don't want to be the sort of submitter who just leaves it be and pummels the editorial boards: rather, my pummeling should come from full presence with this manuscript and the next, which is nagging me more and more each day, should let each become fully formed, whatever that might mean.