In which I throw myself a pity party.
The news is good–my first book is going to come out because the budget didn’t suck quite as bad as it looked like it might. A Witness In Exile will be published, and I’m planning on being positively obnoxious about it once it’s available.
What that means in practical terms is that I have to finalize the manuscript, and that’s proving to be tougher than I imagined. See, my publisher has given me a great deal of control over this manuscript. This wasn’t a contest win–it’s a handshake deal between me and an editor who’s published a number of my poems and who trusts me, which is great, because that means I’m not forced to include poems that no longer reflect my poetics. I can produce a book that shows who I am right now, which includes what I perceive to be my newest and best writing.
That should be easy, right? Except it means tossing a lot of work, like a majority of the poems I’ve written over the last ten years.And there’s a part of me which wants to hold on to some of my newer work, save it for the next book, and include instead some of those older poems which I once loved. And if I toss that work, it’s gone forever, because this is stuff I really haven’t been interested in revisiting in recent years, not because it’s bad, but because it’s largely about being a Jehovah’s Witness, and I’m well past that part of my artistic life.
It’s also largely narrative poetry, and I’m moving beyond that as well, though I think there will always be a bit of the story teller in my work. There’s value, I think, in putting that older work out there, but when the book comes out, I’ll have to sell it. I’ll be doing readings from it, signing it, marketing it. I worry that if this is a book of older work, I’ll be less excited about it than I need to be to make it a success (as successful as poetry collections can be, that is).
I also wonder just how much this book will define the way others perceive me as a writer. I’m not that widely-published, not compared to most of my contemporaries, and so I imagine that this book will be the first extended look most people (outside my workshop-mates and teachers over the years) will have. I want them to see who I am now, not who I was four or five years ago.
Of course, if I save my newer poems, then I’m that much closer to another manuscript (“a manuscript you have no guarantee will ever be published,” my inner demon whispers in my skull).
I’m pathetic. I’ve got an agreement for a book and I’ve got near carte-blanche to put what I want into it. Someone smack me and tell me to get to work.