Mostly feeling scared but at least it’s sunny.

This week I’ve been doing more work on my pamphlet. I’m waiting to hear from tall-lighthouse after sending them a rough manuscript and I’m already regretting not waiting a little bit longer before I pressed the send button. Two kind friends who’ve also looked at the draft pamphlet have pointed out rather a lot of grammatical errors and both have spotted that not all of the poems are currently carrying their weight.

One reader has made me think that I’ve included some poems, not because they are good enough but because they seem to fit well with the theme of my pamphlet. She’s right! I’ve allowed myself to place too much importance on the theme. And other poems, ones I thought were ready, perhaps need more fine-tuning, too. I have about four almost-ready poems that I was going to save to work on after my pamphlet was done but I’m now giving these attention to see if they can take the place of some of my weaker pieces. I have to tell you, it makes me feel scared, the thought of the poems not being ready in time. One poem at a time, is the advice I’ve been given, and I just have to do my breathing exercises and not panic.

sunnyOf course, all the while, as in so many households, I’m still looking after my kids and the house, as well as working on my projects for The Reader Organisation. Thankfully, Andrew, my husband, who works away from home most Mondays to Fridays, has been fantastic and cooked meals for three days yesterday – while the FA Cup Final was on (he kept darting in and out of the kitchen) giving me cause, yet again, to consider what a wonderful human being he is. Our family will eat this week and I might even write some poems.

It’s been a beautifully sunny weekend and I’ve been inside for most of it. Managed to take this snap of the garden and now I’ll get back to work. Our house is filled with the smell of cottage pie or, possibly, lasagne.

13 comments

  1. jaynestanton · · Reply

    I know just how you’re feeling, Josephine. I think I based my first choice of pamphlet poems more on ‘fitting the theme’ than anything else. It was a sobering experience for me. In the end, I started again and was much happier with the outcome. I’m sure that the expertise of your editor will come into play and give you a more objective view of your poems and how they fit, or don’t. I’ve found the editing stage much easier to deal with (and, as of yesterday, my manuscript is ready for typesetting). Good luck with it all x

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Jayne! Brilliant news about your pamphlet – good luck to you, too – will put on my shopping list :-) x

  2. Good luck! It’s easy to be self-critical, I bet it’s fab and fingers crossed! :)

    1. I know, I know! Just relieved I have some time to do more work. I need it! :-) Thanks very much for commenting, by the way :-)

  3. A book is not a “greatest hit” collection. You know, unless your title is “Josephine’s Greatest Hits,” in which case, errr, do NOT read the rest of this comment….

    Implicit in the absence of that title, though, is an inescapable fact–that the book is a collection of poems around a theme or idea or even a period of time in which they were written. If a “weaker” poems helps get you from your rock anthem at the beginning of side 2 to your penultimate slow-dance ballad, there may just be a purpose for it outside of itself but inside the book. Speaking as a product of the mid-20th century, I say this pickiness is not a phenomenon in publishing that goes back much farther than my time on earth. We we irreparably harmed by too many of Cummings’s poems? What would Blake’s work be if he just waited and waited and published a single volume of his “best” work? What about some of the great haiku writers who left us (literally) thousands of haiku? Gah.

    This publication is a moment in time. If you’re happy with the shape of that moment, then the book is exactly what it needs to be. So take a deep breath, and look at it again, maybe from your future set of eyes, and if you want to dig back in, go ahead. If you don’t, don’t. In the end, the only name on it is yours.

    1. Thanks for your detailed comment and interesting comment, Jeff and you have made me think about whether or not poetry pamphlets need to be themed at all. Sometimes pamphlets – and even collections – DO amount to ‘Greatest Hits’, that is, some of the strongest and most interesting poems the poet has written in recent years (in the last four years, in my case) and there will be variety in subject matter. I don’t think that this will necessarily disappoint a reader – in fact, readers often enjoy variations and range within a book of poems, I know I do. In my own writing, I’ve noticed themes emerging – I didn’t set out to write around a particular theme – and I’ve drawn some poems of a particular theme together for this debut pamphlet. But, as it’s a debut, I want to make a good impression, I don’t want to disrespect readers with poems which are only there because they fit well with the theme. Perhaps this will mean that there may be more than one theme in my pamphlet. I’m so grateful for your comment, which is very encouraging! At the same time, I consider this pamphlet a work in progress and I will continue to shape it – not waiting but actively working on it in as much time as I have before my deadline – with the advice of others, including my editor, of course. Thanks again and best wishes, – Josephine :-)

      1. Right! To follow on the corny LP conceit, there were plenty of “concept albums” back in the 70s and 80s. But not every book of poems has to follow a theme or concept, either. Mostly, work with what YOU will be most comfortable with and I’m sure it will end up being a solid collection. //Jeff

  4. Best of luck with it and bear in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect anything!

    1. Thanks, Jean! Such kind and encouraging comments on this thread – I’m really heartened.

  5. Hi Josephine – hope you’re feeling better about everything now! I think other commenters (commentors?) have already made some excellent comments – I’m sure there is a balance to be found between including only poems that you view as your absolute best, and poems which fit the theme. Like human beings with their “intelligence” and “strengths”, different works of art (and different poems) can surely have their own different kinds of “intelligence” and “strength” – it’s not always a simple case of best/worse/worst.

    On another note, when you read at The Bear in Camberwell in November, I’ll definitely try to come. I haven’t yet been to the Vanguard readings there but I used to occasionally go for drinks there with a friend who used to live in London – since she left it seems I no longer go! It would be lovely to meet you and I also note that the wonderful Michael Symmons Roberts will be there…

    1. Thanks for adding to these really helpful and kind comments, Clarissa. I feel heartened by everyone’s encouragement! Indeed, Michael Symmons Roberts will be reading and it should be a wonderful evening! Look forward to meeting you. :-)

  6. Thanks for telling us about your progress. Keep us posted about the adventure.

    1. Hi Elly! Feeling calmer this week (probably unadvisedly). A little tension and nervousness is good, keeps me on my toes :-) Thanks for your support!

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