Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Back to writing....
There are two plumbers in my barn and cellar this morning. I love these guys. Mike is the brother of my next door neighbor and he has done a lot of work for us. Brad is one of the guys I called "The Basement Boys" back in 2006 when we were full on into getting the furnace and pipes up to best working order as the kitchen was being redone. These guys are geniuses. Just talking to them makes me happy. (I could use a little happy today... see earlier post).
While they pound away at the latest project (moving the washer and dryer), I am pounding away at my newest manuscript, The Boyfriend Project. I have enough poems. I need an arc. I am still not convinced a chronological arc is the way to go. Seems a bit boring to me. And if I am bored....
What I think is that I will start with the "crush years" as a kind of prologue. Then I could move into a more braided approach, weaving the deep connections boyfriend experiences with poems that comment about love and relationship. I think this is way more interesting. Feel free to weigh in here!
Because this manuscript breaks a bit of new ground, I am pretty free to float some philosophical poems about love relationships into the poems about actual boyfriends or written TO actual boyfriends, mine or otherwise. I like this idea. I read all the poems again this morning, making a few editorial tweaks, opting to alter some lines or to revisit a couple line breaks. Sigh. Thought I was done with that. Maybe I will fly the whole group to my writers group again. When indeed is a poem really DONE?
One of my favorites of the poems is one called No Boyfriends. It starts out humorously and ends with a bit of a twinge. I worry about doing this generally as the poem can fall on its ass with a thud, a reductive or sappy thud. I am pretty sure this poem doesn't do that. I did try it out on a Jr. High girl at a reading and she was totally thumbs-up on it. It is a poem about jr high boyfriends, so I'm thinking it is good as is.
One of the big dangers in writing books or even individual poems or stories is that our readers can misinterpret the "voice" of the thing, can think that each "memory" or "story" belongs to the poet. I get discouraged at this phenomenon. Occasionally, at a reading, I will use a disclaimer. Then afterwards, I ask: "Why do I do that? Why do I care if the readers/listeners think it is all ABOUT me?"
The reality is that poets and other writers pour themselves into their writing. There is often sensitive, raw, or even drastic material put forth on the page. And we live in a rather literal world right now. What bothers me is that. I want to yell at the top of my lungs: THIS IS CREATIVE WRITING!!! Most novelists or short story writers don't have this problem. People seem to see that it is fiction (except for those who thought/think The DaVinci Code is "real." Memoir writers have the problem in reverse: if they fictionalize anything in a memoir, there is a cry to lop off their lying heads. I want to scream THIS IS NOT THE EVENING NEWS, PEOPLE. Oh, but then the evening news is likely to contain made-up material. And we swallow THAT as literal too. It is dizzying.
We pretty much exist in a world of fuzz and vaseline here. The lines are so blurry as to obscure any kind of veritas. I think I'd be a bit happier if we assumed a baseline of disbelief. Let every written piece be suspect. Let all our readers assume we are making it up. We are. Oh, now calm yourselves... of COURSE we write from truth (with the small t) and want to have ourselves and our readers arrive at Truth (with the big T) from the feelings and flavors of our writings. We want to lead our readers into familiar territory with an unfamiliar take on it, to into unfamiliar territory with a familiar feeling coming from it. We want to keep them reading. Above all this.
I for one am ready for any or all of my readers to believe what they want to about the voice(s) in my new work. It will not change me, my life, my past to have them think what they think. What I do want is for them to recall old loves, to relish themselves as loving beings. So, I pound away. The plumbers pound away. In the end it is all good work.