By the side of my computer is a pile of papers which represent two years of work, two years of new writing. The papers have been annotated by three excellent writer friends of mine who gave up their time to read through my work and then in a slightly terrifying two hours over a cup of tea gave me excellent feedback, encouraging, warm and honest.
What did they say?
They said lots of insightful things; here are some of them.
I use the word ‘and’ a lot apparently, and when I check my poems [rather defensively] I find actually do. It’s clearly a filler word, used for an extra syllable when required by the iambic pentameter police of a Shakespearean sonnet. The shame is that it’s actually easy to come up with something that adds to the line and to the poem. It makes me think again of the truth of my own mantra that in a poem every word must do a job.
I hear punctuation in my head when I read my poems aloud but sometimes I don’t put it on the page. This is a classic when one is editing/looking over one’s own work. The eye glides over errors and omissions again and again, does a kind of auto-correct in the gap between the page and the brain.
Sometimes my intentions are not really clear in some of my poems. And when I look at them again they are not even clear to me. And I wrote the bloody things. It’s time to take my own advice again; ask yourself what you are trying to say, and then check whether you’re doing it. Simple… you’d think so.
How did it feel?
It felt great, both affirming and yet revealing my writing to myself. It was also very
motivating and made me want to really look at the poems again in terms of their individual success, and their order in the collection. I had started out with seventy-eight poems. It was easy to get it closer to seventy [my intended number] after this process. Some poems went because they could be interpreted in ways I did not intend. Some because they just were not very good.
But the greatest outcome was that yesterday I was able to send my collection to Valley Press just within the deadline. The cover has been decided. We have a notional date for publication. I will be working with a Valley Press editor over the intervening months to make it the best I can. I feel very lucky.
PS: Thanks go to Kevin Holloway, Pat Pickavance and Steph Shields for their brilliant