Birthing the Book

The Miracle of Mercury (Finishing Line Press) has finally landed in mailboxes and homes and I have to say it's a bit of a stressful feeling. It's like watching your second grader through the back window of a school bus and understanding that, from this moment forward, the path leads away.

Finishing Line PressPoetry is such a cerebral exercise in writing where you are stuck inside a lot of emotion during the process; it's as if the outside world doesn't exist. Then there is this little collection of things that all seemed like a good idea to explore in the quiet space of your writing room but now that it is part of the outside world of real people it takes on a life of its own.

So off my little emotional child goes into the world and I try to objectively read the poems to see how someone will interpret them or, more precisely, interpret me. What will they think of the things I have explored? Too raw? Not raw enough? Too many secrets held up to the light? Or, will it be that rare instance of connectivity when a poem gives someone new words for something very old.

Understand that I am referring to this as a birth and my emotional child because for the first time I have really explored my childhood with as brash an eye on myself as the other characters penned here. I look at my participation, both consensual or otherwise, in these things. I see clearly choices that could have gone another way or things said aloud that should have never been spoken. But I do speak about them here, with very little reserve, and damn, if that is not a frightening thought I don't know what is. Who will you think I am now, once you read my story?

Everyone wants to buy the tee, wear the bracelet, retweet the slogans of the cause, but to actually sit down and read a collection of poems focused on domestic abuse is quite another thing. I have said this before, I wish I had a different story. I wish I had a sunshiny cheery place to bring you to; but I don't. I only have this life I've traveled through: sometimes willing, sometimes not. And I think at some point we have to think about the life we have been handed and do something with it other than just hang on and survive.

So I have done this with it. I have scraped the inside of myself to find the spark of fear, the spearhead of anger and the smoldering aftermath of it to see what has come of it all. I want to say I hope you enjoy it, but what I really want to say is that I hope it rips you apart. I hope it tears down your layers and pulls at your hidden fears and angers you enough to look into those locked away places and pour brilliant light on them. I hope it makes you angry enough to look around you to see that this is not just my story. This is all of our stories.

So there it is,  the plain truth: I want you all in there with me in that damn pit. I want you to know that this is where I began. This is where I learned to fight. This is the beginning of the woman I am today. All of these little clustered pieces gathered here now to testify that they never go away but only crystalize into something else; something more. So welcome the The Miracle of Mercury and "my sheltered layers of truth in all of its imperfection."

You Think Poetry Is Hard From There?

The Miracle of Mercury should be out shortly. I edited finalized galleys and got everything back to the publisher before the end of the year. There were several complications along the way and while  I know these things happen, am getting anxious to finally see the copy in my hands. It's an odd thing giving birth to a collection of poetry. There is the process of writing itself and then there are the
worries that I went too far, was too open. I'm afraid the emotional lesions will manifest themselves in reality and not just in my mind. And there is also the fear that one day there will be a knock at my door and some enraged reader demanding to know how I thought I had the nerve to sketch them into a poem. I am having this ambivalence more I guess with the poetry in this collection. It is pretty raw. Even for me. I don't much like finding myself there at times either, so if you are on those pages just breath, it's all okay just remember, I warned you. Or, maybe I didn't.

So having said that, once the mechanical shifting of pages and emails and galleys and covers and acknowledgements are all moved around and settled it does become a thing about the content. Now I'll be the first to admit that the writing process, especially for poetry, is extraordinarily solitary. I don't have readers that read the poetry (well, except for my poor husband who has to feel like a captive at times).  For me, writing poetry is primarily self-contained unlike fiction. Fiction is different: characters can get off track, plot lines dangle off the edge of movement until they are lost in a jumble of lost threads that seemed like they were going somewhere but ended up not. But the poem is an entity that has to stay in my head until it sees the thing. Captures the thing. Becomes the thing.

Unraveling the emotional drooling becomes what I have to conquer. Can I get to the emotion of that moment? Can I capture it with a mere grouping of words? Is my recall honest enough to be honest in the poem? Can mere words pull out the experience so that a reader can experience the same moment for themselves? And, finally, can I really convey with tiny words these things that haunt my dreams?

So, this process then becomes about the challenge of creation and not about the thing. Until, that is, the writing and the editing and the publishing processes are completed, like busy work that has nothing to do with the collection. Then, oh, THEN it becomes about the content and this is where I begin to shiver...

Realization usually hits the first time I read from the new book; after the poems have sat awhile, cooled off their heat, left their emotional connections behind. It's when I actually hear them out loud in a room full of strangers that take that thirty seconds of pin dropping silence to respond that I think, well, maybe that went a little too deep. Maybe I bared just too much that time. Maybe I will look down and see skin pulled back from my arm, my leg, my cheek like a physical manifestation of each poem that tells the stories everyone wants to hide, well anyone that was there anyway.

So I am bracing for the release. Trying to find that balance between pride in a feat accomplished and the terror that I have allowed others to look a little deeper into my soul.  There are civilizations that believe that taking your picture steals your soul. I wonder, how much of my soul do you think the pieces of me in these poems take? Or, is THAT the very thing that these poems are about?