Last week, I said on Instagram that I would share my thoughts about turning in a final draft of my debut poetry collection, and joked that I would do so in the style of a recipe blog: unnecessarily long life story at the beginning of the post, then the relevant information slipped in at the end. Maybe I’ve subverted that expectation because I mentioned the big news already in that (unnecessarily long) first sentence. But I’ll say it again: last week I turned in a final draft of my debut poetry collection, True Stories, to Unsolicited Press. It’s coming out in 2024, and I can’t wait to share it with you all!
As I write this blog, I sort of understand the impulse to write so much lead-in. I’ve shared the big news: now where to do I from here? How do I gracefully transition into talking about all these feelings I’ve been having about writing and publishing? How do I start from the beginning, now that I have started with the end? Of course, I need to remind myself that the publishing of this book (in 2024! It’s not even out yet!) is not an ending, but its own beginning. So much will happen after the book’s release.
I don’t think I gave much thought to that “after” until the very end of the editing process. Over the past year I’ve been rewriting and arranging poems, thinking about sectioning, thinking about individual poems. But on the last day before I sent in my copy, I printed the manuscript pages and read through the way I would do a published poetry book. This past semester I took a poetry workshop and had a routine when reading the poetry books on my list. I would read them more or less in one sitting with a blank sheet of paper on the side. Whenever I came across lines/a line I liked, I would write down the page number and the line(s), and maybe some thoughts about what I thought was compelling. When I finished the collection, I’d write a few prompts for myself to inspire new poems later. The best books, in my opinion, make me want to write something new.
So in this last stage of editing my book, I did this. I sat down with the manuscript pages and a blank sheet of paper, and made note of the lines I liked. I think I am pretty self-critical, but reading my poetry like this–pretending it was a book I was reading for class–made it so that I could maybe see my work clearer. I have a tendency to think of publication as the end state, but it’s not. I should instead think: How do I want this work to be received? What is the reading experience going to be like? How do I read books (of poetry and otherwise), and does my own work stand up to how I read?
On the day the copy was due, I read my book in solitude as the afternoon slid into golden hour. I had some coffee, a pen, and I was reading carefully. I read lines I liked and I wrote them down. At the end, I wrote a few poem prompts, and in this way, the book is successful: reading it made me want to write something new.
I hope it does the same for you. I hope you read it when the light’s just right. I hope the lines demand your hand to copy them down. I hope this collection inspires more good work. I hope you’ll celebrate with me when 2024 rolls around.