I haven't talked much about my work-in-progress toward publication, so I thought I'd catch everyone up on what that is. As much as I'd like to dive into the next book with abandon, I decided long ago that my second work would be a collection of my poetry. After all, it wasn't long after I enrolled in AllWriters' Workplace and Workshop that I began to "mess around" with poetry. Of course, at the time my main focus was on the Dirty Shirt material, but every four or five weeks I'd commit to writing and bringing in some poems. I literally had no idea what I was doing; driving blind, stabbing in the dark, dancing with no shoes on.
Something like that.
I started writing it because a couple of fellow writers inspired me with their work. Kathy Bram was one, Mario Medina was another and Alita Burmeister a third. There have been several since, but these three were the first, the inspirational ones, so to speak. They had a way of clunking and chunking words together to make a poem sound like a really, really short story. Their words were packed with stunning imagery and eloquence and more often than not hit you in the jaw at the end like a prizefighter. Some had a moral, some didn't. Some were hilarious, some sad enough to make you tear up. Some were short haikus, some were more prose like in paragraph form.
The genre was strangely appealing to this non-fiction guy. So I took it up for fun. It was trial and error at first, and my first few were pretty dreadful. I'd take them in to class and the folks there were always kind of surprised to see me writing poems. But then, they'd help me shape them up, take out the extraneous words, format things differently, add descriptors and, in general, de-crappify them. Of course, the clunkers remain clunkers even today. Some should never see the light of day again.
But others took flight and got noticed. My first published poem, Anyone Seen Sally?, was only four short stanzas, but I credit those four stanzas and their publication in a local magazine with fueling my desire to be published. You never know where your writing will take you sometimes.
The fact of the matter is that writing poetry, in my opinion, makes me a better writer. If demands conciseness (is that a word?) and brevity. It forces you to visualize before you verbalize. But most of all I think it taps the creative side of the brain in different ways maybe than nonfiction. If anyone can speak to this phenomenon, I'm all ears. It's probably a little like an oil painter who also dabbles in sculpture or pencil drawing. Shaking it up keeps it fresh.
And along the way I've had some pretty decent success with it which sets the stage nicely for a collection of a number of them.
Anyhow, so yeah, that's what I'm working on now. I'm still writing new poems and seem to hit about one good for every three clunkers. (In fact I just had one accepted today by Torrid Literature Journal.) I guess 25% good is about the best one could hope for. At the same time, I'm busy cleaning up some of my completed works in the hopes of declunkifying them. That happens maybe 50% of the time. The ones that don't make that cut just languish in a folder somewhere. Every once in a while I'll open one up and go, "Oh my gosh, that's dreadful." I've come to the conclusion that some poems are just destined to clang like a Shaq free throw.
So the plan is to take the 100+ poems I have and work them down to the top 65 or so, more if the publisher wants more. I feel confident that I can assemble 65 pretty good poems. If all goes the way I hope, I plan to submit them this winter for publication in the spring. It is as much a dream of mine to do this as it was to get the book done.
All that's left now is doing it.