Writing the 3rd poetry manuscript

The past year or two I’ve been working on my third manuscript–a collection of persona poems from the perspective of women from church history (it really is more exciting than that sounds!). I’ve got some of them linked HERE if you’d like to read a few.

I’m to the point where I’ve got 50ish poems in the collection–that is probably going to be most of it, but, since my last two books were fairly short, I’m aiming to write another twenty or thirty poems for this book.

For a while I was pretty unmotivated to work on this project. I have a side chapbook poem collection that has been sucking out a lot of my writing energy (but is exciting in its own way–not something that I think will become a book anytime soon, however).

Most of all, I’m disillusioned with publishing (see most of my previous posts). My books hardly sell, so what is the point?

Then I started reading PR for Poets by Jeannine Hall Gailey. I’ll post a review soon….but for now, let me just tell you: it has restored my desire to publish. Hearing that even the editor of RATTLE only sells a hundred of his books…within FIVE YEARS!….actually made me feel a lot better. I just need to find my audience! And perhaps learn to self-promote a little. But not in a yucky greasy way but in a “hey look at this!” way.

In the book she quotes Kelli Russell Agodon and she says not to put a spotlight on your work but instead the glow of a candle, or take it out in the sunlight. I love that idea. I want my work out in the sunlight.

but I am also thinking about my limitations — waiting another couple years would perhaps be better timing for promoting a book and certainly wouldn’t hurt the editing and refining.

So all this to say, the third book is chugging along, but don’t look for it on shelves any time before baby D is potty trained.

10 years ago, in Boston

I was visiting my potential grad school–Boston U–listening in on a workshop. Terrified, feeling completely incompetent. As wonderful as the workshops at my undergrad were (and are, I trust), I felt suddenly country-bumpkin, as unsophisticated and Fayette-County as they come. What is “ekphrastic”? I wondered. I shrunk back, watching, as the poets delicately picked apart the poem (with the poet sitting there coolly), fishbones from a fish. As much as the workshop scared me, the Poet inspired me. A normal guy with a head full of poetry, spouting off his favorites from memory, guiding the class.

Moving to Boston for gradschool was one of the scariest most exciting things I’ve ever done. I don’t think I could’ve done it, had I not been married to Bryan and had him to go with me. Living as a transplant in a complete world away from Tennessee taught me as much about myself (and my husband) as the classes taught me about poetry.

And, as impractical as an MFA sounds (and can be), it allowed me to teach at a wonderful little christian university, and to eventually teach online part-time from home while I homeschool my daughters. God blessed me with a career that doesn’t make sense at all on paper–a poet?!–and enabled me to not only continue to do what I love career-wise but also live the life I love everyday, focusing on the people I love.

I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to the traditional classroom any time this decade–homeschooling and babies are too much fun to give up– but I’m grateful for that time I did have on one side of the syllabus and on the other.