Numbers (a book update)

  • 56 poems, total
  • the earliest poem was from 2007
  • the last poem was written last month
  • 37 of the poems were previously published in literary journals
  • 3 poems were written while I was in college
  • 13 while I was in my MFA program
  • the other 40 were written in the last four years, averaging about 10 from each year
  • I typically write at least 20 poems a year (to give you an idea of how many of my poems are “keepers”)
  • Favorite poem in the collection (right now, anyway): “Leah Separates” (it is new)
  • Poem I’m most nervous about (right now, anyway): “Storm Front” (it is old)
  • Number of times I sent out this manuscript before I was accepted: either about 12 times (how many times I sent out some form of that manuscript) or once (the current version is pretty different from what I had been sending out)
  • Real people who end up in my poems: my husband, daughters, sisters, mother, great-grandmother on my mother’s side, both grandmothers, my in-laws. If you are related to me, you are fair game.
  • The “you” or “we” in a poem more often than not is talking about Bryan (excluding the persona section)
  • The baby is usually Zu, though June is in there a few times (you’ll know it when you read it)
  • The settings: Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Boston
  • The forms: free verse, prose poem, list poem
  • Topics of interest: God, motherhood, sisters, marriage, relocation
  • It is all autobiographical, except for when it isn’t.

Fears (a book update)


I took some students to hear Sandra Beasley read at another college in town (she was great, by the way), and, to research for the reading, I was perusing some of her work online and her blog. She has some great blogposts on how to promote your work when you have your first book coming out—so helpful!–but when I started reading through them, this thread of panic cinched in me. 
I am terrified that people won’t like it. won’t think it was good enough, will think it’s cliché, disrespectful, too revealing. oh all the things people could think. And not just people,in general, but people that I want to think well of me—mentors, friends, family, students. There will be, at some point, a negative review that I’ll have to face (or maybe I can just not read it?); and, despite years of workshop, I don’t know if my skin is quite so elephant-and-leathercouch thick that I can take, with a smile, a rejection of the entirety of my  life’s work as a poet. 

My book is not meadowlands(is anything meadowlands? Is meadowlands even meadowlands?), but I hope that, when my people read it, they like and understand most of it. I expect to get a few calls from family members asking what a poem means and if a poem is about them (likely, yes), and a few comments from friends that I probably got my theology wrong somewhere or other.  and I’m sure when I’m reading through the actual printed in-my-hands copy for the first time, I’ll bemoan the poem order at the end of section three I was so sure about or wish I’d taken something out or added something in or broken the line here instead of there. 

Revising is never finished—and the thing I am most excited and afraid of is letting this book finish. it was the right time for Keeping Me Still to stop being a manuscript and become a book—it’s complete in itself, and I’m ready to write new things.  I just need to be a little braver about letting go of this first work and giving it over to others—to you, dear readers.

book update


Last weekend i turned in final edits, on my end—no more adding/removing poems or switching things around. Which makes me feel both relieved and a little nervous. 
In fact, sending out my advanced reader copies to those poets who’ve agreed to write blurbs for the book made my stomach turn to knots; I admire these poets very much, and I was touched that the first three I asked wrote back so quickly to say yes! I just hope that they like my book—even if they half-like some of my book, that is enough.

some of you have read earlier versions of my manuscript. It has changed a bit, as far as the order goes, to create a different emphasis, and I’ve written maybe five or six new poems that changed some things too. 
 

As many times as I’ve looked through my book, I kept coming to the same two poems as the opening poems (though I’ve switched their order at least a dozen times).  I changed the ending poem a few times, but I feel like the concluding poem is more complex than the one I ended with previously.

I ended up taking out three or four poems written in persona surrounding a funeral home director’s family—I don’t feel that they were, in themselves, callous, but juxtaposed to some poems about miscarriage, they didn’t work for me. 

I had, at one point, removed the sections from my book, but settled on having three sections and focusing the middle section on my Leah persona poems. Giving her a section to herself created some interesting perspective on a few poems that I’d not originally written to go with her story. I’d had her poems here and there in the book, but in the end she demanded more of a leading role.

Revising titles was another task I wanted to tackle when going through the book one last time. I’m not great with titles, so this took some time. I ended up going with a suggestion a reader gave me a year ago—changing many of the titles so they include “keep” in them, to go along with the title of the book “keeping me still”. I think doing that made the book more cohesive, overall. 

Keeping Me Still is scheduled to come out in late March, and I’ll give you more updates as they come up! the next update will be the cover reveal on the Winter Goose website, sometime in the next couple weeks.