An update about my pamphlet

After the happiness that came with an email from Gareth Lewis telling me that tall-lighthouse would like to publish my pamphlet (which I mentioned here) there was a time of staring. Staring at my computer screen (sometimes on, sometimes off), at my hands, at the wall, out of the window, at a sea of printed out pages of poems, calm and flat on my stripey rug. There was much tea drinking and some toast eating. There was staring at tea and toast. There was scrambling around on the floor ordering the poems. And reading aloud. Then, backache, while I sat at my computer pasting 24 poems into one word document. An attempt to make up a title (still working on this) and an email to Gareth Lewis attaching the manuscript of poems. A few glasses of wine.
pamphlet June 2014

Then, dread that the poems are rubbish, that I didn’t send enough, that I sent too many.

Then, Life. Buying food, cooking it, feeding family, clearing away. Repeat. Likewise, cleaning, washing clothes, driving to work, emailing, texting, telephoning, being on the internet, reading with people who have dementia (this is my part-time job and I wrote about it here). Meetings. Being on trains, falling asleep in the passenger seat of our family car. Swimming in the sea (once).

Then, the thought that he’s changed his mind about publishing me. I haven’t heard from him because he’s made a mistake and he’s trying to find a kind way of telling me. He’s not contacting me so that in the end I will get the message.

I carry around pages and pages of unfinished poems that will be better than the ones I’ve already sent him. I stand in a room that I used to call my children’s playroom that I’ve now organised as a kind of second sitting room and study, and I can’t move for piles of paper and books. And washing. And jigsaw puzzles that haven’t made a picture for years. Letters from my children’s school. Piles of ironing.

At work, with my family, baking a cake for my daughter’s birthday, I’m re-arranging the order of my poems in my head, and trying out titles and re-writing another poem and another and wondering why he hasn’t contacted me.

I email him: “Just wondering…..” and he emails back “Will be in touch soon. And most poets imagine they have far more space than is actually available in an A5 pamphlet.” I think I’ve sent too many poems. I think I have enough poems.

A few glasses of wine.

I print out the poems again and re-read notes about them from kind friends who’ve read the draft manuscript. I kiss my husband. I kiss my kids. I have four years worth of writing – eight years if I count the four years it took to write my first decent poem which had started out as a short story (I wrote about this here). I have put in some hours. He hasn’t changed his mind. I will think of a title. My pamphlet is still forthcoming.

20 comments

  1. What a worrier you are! I think, in this case, no news is good news.I’m certain you would have heard quite quickly if there was a problem. It’s going to be great. The title will come. xx

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    1. Thanks, Lesley! I know, I am a worrier and it’s such wasted energy. I know, I know, I know! Thanks for your support :-) x

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  2. More tea, more wine and more kissing of your family. It will be ok. Actually, it will be brilliant. Just wait and see.

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    1. Thank you, Isabel. Do you know, I’m not after it being brilliant, I’m just after it being. Once I’m holding it in my hands, I might relax (…then again…..). Thanks for your kind words. :-) And, crumbs, I know there are far more important things in the world to be worrying about. x

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  3. jaynestanton · · Reply

    Once the poems and their order are decided, you’ll feel so much better, Josephine. The stage your pamphlet’s at, is perhaps the hardest to live with. The editing stage is much more bearable as the end product seems more tangible. And I’m with you on title woes: after a Friday email, I’m currently torn (read ‘agonising’) between three possibilities, with a Thursday deadline…

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Jayne and good luck with the titling! Have you read Pascale Petit’s downloadable course from the Poetry School (towards a first collection, I think it’s called, with a whole chapter on titles)? It’s £10 but I found it helpful. Otherwise, a Google search might lead you to helpful links?

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      1. jaynestanton · ·

        Thanks for flagging up the Poetry School download, Josephine. I’ll check it out. Clare Pollard’s Mslexia workshop on putting together a pamphlet is also very useful (should still be accessible on their website). And Fiona Moore blogs eloquently on the process, too.

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      2. Thanks for these recommendations, Jayne! x

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  4. Loved your post Josephine. Excellent way to help deal with the worrying (maybe it helps if we call it ‘excitement’ :-) ) and to share your experiences with the rest of us at the same time. Titles are a challenge. All I knew (at first) was that I wanted to use one of my husband’s paintings on the cover of my chapbook – so I chose the painting and then came up with a title with the help of the artwork. Looking forward to your pamphlet x

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    1. I hadn’t thought of starting with an image, Elly! That might help. As always, thank you so much for commenting :-) x

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  5. Hi Josephine, I recognise this so well, this sense that it must be a mistake, that the work is no good. A fear that I’m going to be found out. You’re right that it is such a waste of energy but I find it so hard to switch my mindset. But your pamphlet WILL exist in the world and there are a lot of us who are looking forward to its arrival. Hang on in there!

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    1. Thanks for this kindness, Hilaire! Comforting to know it’s not just me. Wishing you much power to you pen :-) x

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  6. Yes, agree with Hilaire.

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    1. Thank you, Rebecca! x

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  7. I love the quiet honesty of this post. I know it’s easy for an outsider to say, but I have no doubt your pamphlet will be marvelous when it’s here.

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    1. Thanks for your kind comment, Joanna. In all honesty, I should probably be working on my pamphlet rather than being here. Then again, we all need breaks …. and the lonely life of the writer, etc. :-)

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  8. It must be hard not to worry as the excitement will kick start your nerves but there’s no doubt all the ‘What if…?’ moments will be worth it in the end. :) x

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    1. Thanks, Helen. I think it’s hard not to think “this could be better” and to keep changing, or wanting to change, my manuscript. At the same time, lack of time and fear of failing keep stopping me in my tracks. All being well, I will have some dedicated time to work at the poems again before the final deadline. Thanks for commenting x

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  9. […] This post from HappenStance Press asks How Much is Poetry Worth makes for very interesting reading for those of us writing and reading poetry and Josephine Corcoran  has written another great blog post on her writing process.  This time she shares the ups and downs of working on a poetry pamphlet manuscript. […]

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    1. I do apologise for the late reply, Stephanie! Many thanks for the link and very best wishes to you and your projects. – Josephine

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