The day spent in a bit of a haze, half-focused on things at hand and half-feeling like I’ve crashed through a thin wall of ice: everything’s the same on this side but I carry this something extra now, not only relief and happiness that the book has found a home but a certain rightness or order to my life, a trajectory, a validation: I am a poet and this second book proves it in a way that the first could not. It has happened twice, after almost 20 years of writing and not writing, of doubt and collapse and wrenching change and sameness and familiarity; it will come into the world and now I can move into the next book more fully, the one I have been chipping away at, and the one after that which is mostly still in my head.
For my first book I sent the manuscript out for over four years, revising, revising; it was a finalist several times but took such a long time to find a publisher. For this one, the time I spent at home when I was out of work was a gift, an opportunity to focus deeply on the project and dwell in it, and from that time I was able to see it more clearly and feel what belonged and what did not. I believed in this book when I sent it out, believed it was ready, and sent it out last March to a few publishers. It’s only gone to six, and only Pitt still has it, has had it for about four months, and I will write to them after my contract arrives to withdraw the manuscript though I am still hopeful that one day they will publish one of my books.
Which is not to say anything less about The Word Works: the process of bringing out the first book was an absolute pleasure and there’s so much to be said for a house to want one back again. I feel that, emotionally, these books are very much like siblings and share a similar intensity and maybe even a similar trajectory: spiraling into the breakage of an event, no, larger than an event, a series of life experiences that are utterly damaging, but then finding one’s footing, one’s way back out of that dark and horrible core.
Made a list of poems from the manuscript that have not yet been published in journals. I think it’s around a dozen poems, and I don’t mind at all if some of them aren’t taken elsewhere, but I would really love to have a few—like “Care,” “Cushion,” and “The Telling”—accepted by journals before the book comes out next year.
Moving and organizing some computer files tonight—T. has just left for work—and I found an extended biography that was put together in 2005, presumably as part of a press packet for Survivable World. At the end, it mentions the title of my next manuscript. I have been working under this title for at least seventeen years.
You are the beautiful half
Of a golden hurt.
—Gwendolyn Brooks, “To Be in Love”
Pulled a handful of papers in from the car last night. What I thought were cards and letters was actually a bundle of envelopes, all posted July 31 2010, all hand-addressed by Mom. She had sent 50 birthday cards for my 50th birthday. The cards must be somewhere. I think I had an idea to make something of the envelopes, or the corners that bear her writing. Bookmarks? I don’t remember. Can’t throw them out.
Canasta with Mom and S. today, with conversation sometimes fun and sometimes so frustrating I wanted to get up and walk away. Mom carps, or she acts all confused one moment then snaps at us the next. My mind’s made up; I want to go to a nursing home. Just sell—she sweeps her arm—all this shit and put me in a home; it’s what I want. Except it’s not; it couldn’t be. She’d hate it there. So what is this about? And why fight everyone who tries to help her organize her meds? To ask for help then immediately belittle the helper.
Stopped at the top of the hill to grab just one box of books (I was driving T’s car) and as soon as I opened the door to the old garage (the doors no longer shut properly) something fairly large scurried in the eaves. Squirrel, I guess. Something is chewing my books. I had to throw five away. Sorted the rest into keepers vs. those I am donating to the Nashville Free Poetry Library. We drive down in two weeks, then meet T’s folks in Pigeon Forge the next day. It will be good to get away, even for just a long weekend. (I am taking that Monday after off as well because it’s a long drive to Tennessee and back.)
Today in the book box, a card for Randy from Martin Garcia, with a sweet note, love you forever. And a birthday card to Randy from me. And a small spiral notebook with I think a poem draft written in the middle of the night, don’t know when, I haven’t read it through but recognized my scrawling-in-the-dark handwriting.