Thursday, August 15, 2013

The "Impermanence, Ontario" Diaries | #1

When I began writing again in the spring of 2011, the idea of pulling together a collection of poems the size of a full-length manuscript and then picking out a focused, chapbook-appropriate handful was beyond a dream to me. Who knew how many poems I even had in me; I was simply motivated by the willingness to grow, to peer beneath the clich├ęs and half rhymes of my previous work and start anew.

Over two years later, I find myself not only at that stage, with over 40 poems sitting patiently for something to happen, but realizing that I’ve been putting off the next step for months. Organizing a chapbook to submit for publication is something I’ve never attempted. (Earlier this year I made a charity-based, small-run sampling but that doesn't count). In the past – before I had the good sense to submit my work, attend readings and immerse myself in the writings of others – I would wrap up a collection, pat myself on the back and wedge the pages somewhere deep in my closet. That won’t do anymore.

The first cull is easy enough: I separate poems that thematically stem like branches and twigs of my focus from the one-off poems written, and in some cases published, on the side. A natural fracture occurs in the process, isolating several poems that will be better served as part of a spiritual tome. I don’t get in the way. A few others I designate as being okay enough to self-publish – good blog content. Whichever lone selections are still giving me trouble, I take along for the next round.

Problem is, I still have 24 poems in the running. How many does the average chapbook contain, 10 to 12? Gah! No more chopping – it’s clear I’ll have to carefully prune for here on. I begin by listing “crucial” poems, those serving as foundational to my theme and otherwise favourite children. Categorizing by concrete place, by abstract memory and occasionally by whim, I dissect my theme into emotional strands with the hope of recompiling each nerve into some commanding, unflinching voice.

Possibilities beget possibilities. The next step appears to be tinkering and reshuffling in chase of the right sequence, one that’ll let the necessary poems breathe and the unnecessary ones shake loose. I'm cross-eyed by the task in front of me but excited to push forward. Pointers and strategies are welcome!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Curious things for August 2013...

1) The Ottawa Poetry Newsletter has seen a surge in activity lately thanks to new feature “On Writing”, in which guest writers share their disciplines, habits and challenges. So far we’ve seen entries from a wide variety of perspectives, courtesy of Anita Dolman, Amanda Earl, rob mclennan, Michael Blouin, Michael Dennis, Faizel Deen and Pearl Pirie, with more talents slated for the coming weeks. Read them all, categorized via this link.

2) The 3rd annual Ottawa Zine-Off returns this September. Create a small-run of zines, trade them for other zines, make friends over zines and talk about zines! Sounds like great fun and I wish I could be there. More details here.

3) For whatever reason, I’m always sapped in July. Nevertheless a few chapbook reviews have escaped my summer doldrums over the past month. Click here to familiarize yourself with Jason Christie’s Government and Jessica Smith’s Mnemotechnics. Then maybe click here to investigate Aaron Tucker’s punchlines. All of them are available from above/ground press and they’re each lovely pieces of work.

4) Miranda Hill has written a fine piece on “Writing There, From Here” for Open Book Toronto. As I’m currently wrapping up a chapbook manuscript that analyzes the meaning of home through the lens of different cities, Hill’s focus is near to my heart. Read it here!