Monday, July 25, 2011

There's No Script for a Manuscript

These past few weeks my most intense focus has been on writing and re-writing poems that will comprise my first rough draft manuscript, which I hope to complete this week. The manuscript will become a chapbook called I Can Make Life, and will be published sometime next spring.

I have been enjoying my work on the book and watching it transform so dramatically from its inception several years ago, when I started to record some of my experiences as I struggled with fertility issues. I Can Make Life was what I called that collection of small poems on my A Spark in the Universe. At the time, I wasn't sure I was capable of making life at all and the title was self-mocking, though also secretly hopeful. I didn't think at the time I started writing poems like "Bohemian Waxwings" or "Hysterosalpingogram" that these few poems would evolve into a collection of more than thirty. While I hoped my experiences would evolve over time into a larger project and ultimately speak to other women struggling with similar issues, I didn't know when or how that would happen, or dare to imagine what a complete book would look like. Now that I'm almost through the first draft, I'm feeling unburdened, relieved, excited and happy.

One of the most interesting parts of writing on a topic that is so vast and multi-layered is the unexpectedness of the poems which have spontaneously appeared. I started the chapbook with a goal of 23 poems, which expanded into a new goal of 30, and now has exceeded that number (although I haven't decided if all of the poems in progress will be included in the final submission). I began with a loose structure: some titles that were meant as a guide, to ensure I covered all of the aspects of a three year journey I thought were important to include. As time went on, titles got scrapped, loose ideas that I thought would become separate poems were incorporated into pieces that already existed, and entirely new memories and writings emerged.

The current table of contents is incredibly different from the one I started with. As my work on the manuscript has become more frequent, focused and intense, new ideas and inspirations seem to appear daily. I feel like I could continue to incorporate new memories that surface and want to forge themselves into poems well past the deadline of August 31st. But I have to stop somewhere, and that somewhere will be at some point in the next two weeks. My first complete draft will be circulated this week or next week at the latest for feedback from a lovely group of volunteers who have agreed to read my collection and provide feedback - a process I am looking forward to as the input of my readers can only make this effort better and stronger.

The second major project I have been putting much of my time and effort into has been developing the concept and content of a website, which will be launched in early October. I am excited about my ideas and have been planning, scheming, organizing and even sewing in preparation for the photoshoot. I have enlisted the help of some fearsome and awesome talents for my website project, and can't wait to announce the launch of the site when it is ready to see the light of day. I see some clinking glasses in the near future, in celebration of the milestones of this writing year; not least of all a website that is, in my opinion, a major accomplishment for a girl who has known for quite some time that she needs one, but wasn't eager to embrace the work to make it everything she wanted it to be. Unsurprisingly, the girl in question would much rather write for her life than spend time on the equally important work of supporting it...once again explaining the state of this sadly undernurtured blog...

At the end of June I learned that one of my poems, written ten years ago but recently submitted to a contest, received an honourable mention. The list of winners is on the Pandora's Collective website. My submission was a poem called "Me, Again", and is a memory of the magical time when I used to hang out in my parents' basement alone, choreographing dances to Montavani records in my navy blue gymnastics bodysuit. I am currently working on another poem to submit to the Pandora's Collective annual Summer Dreams contest, with a mid-September deadline. This poem is called "Three Ways of Looking at the Man who Stepped Off the Platform onto the Tracks", and is about the man who was killed a week ago when he calmly stepped in front of a train pulling into the station - the very platform where I stand waiting for my train to take me downtown each weekday morning. While I realize there is no way of understanding what happened or why, my poem is an attempt to embrace the act with compassion and to see the man who died though the lens of information we have - the details of the moment before he stepped in front of the train, the reactions of the people who were there, and the larger collective response to human tragedy, which is often deeply empathetic, but unfortunately sometimes much uglier than the scene of this man's tragic demise.