I always thought that poets working on more than one manuscript at a time were just too ambitious or something, but now that I am working on a themed manuscript I can see how very easy it is to end up with more than one project at once.
Manuscript 1 is my Church Ladies collection–nearly complete with about 60ish poems, a large number placed in literary magazines already. I’ve got a full vision for this manuscript, right down to the table of contents, and it is exciting to see it almost finished. The poems are primarily in persona, from the point of view of various ladies from church history–missionaries, saints, pastor’s wives. These poems have required a bit of research so they feel a little more demure and academic than the poems in Manuscript 2.
Manuscript 2 began as a folder of misfit poems–poems I wrote because I was inspired to write them but that weren’t about church ladies. When it so happened that all the poems were centering on a certain theme, I knew this was the core of a new manuscript. This one is riskier for me personally. I’m a firstborn girl and concerned with being “good” so I never wrote things that would make people upset or feel uncomfortable, all the way until a couple of years ago, after writing my first manuscript.
I had the good fortune of having dinner with Sharon Olds, the queen of uncomfortable poetry, and I asked her how she did it, how she wrote things that would make people she loved upset. She said she could either write it now, never let them read it, or wait til they were dead, but she was going to write it. I felt after that, that I needed to give myself Permission to write what I wanted to write–even if I never published it or waited fifty years to publish it, I did not need to censor myself during my writing process.
While not all the poems that have come after I stopped censoring myself have been quality poems–if you read any confessional poets, you know this happens pretty often when one starts baring ones heart!–I got better at it as I went on, and more nuanced with how I wrote about The Hard Things.
So those poems grew into a chapbook and are now headed toward a full book, Manuscript 2.
So those are what I have in the works. Never have I felt less rushed to publish though, so I don’t suspect these books will see the light of day for another five years or so. I find the process of writing and compiling a collection so very much more fun than actually having a published work that I’m promoting.