Frank Rubino’s letter of invitation and inspiration to the weekly Red Wheelbarrow Poets’ Workshop of January 19
I spent last week putting together a chapbook manuscript. Many in this group have put poetry collections together, but this is the first time I’ve done it, and I thought I’d share a couple of points about the experience.
1. Jim Klein told me that when he was putting together his great The Preembroidered Moment (https://www.errantpigeon.com/the-preembroidered-moment), he read the whole manuscript aloud over and over, always to Haydn and “fixed the meter” across all the poems. He said this was a strategy that helped line by line but also created a wholeness. Emily Hunt, in her Fall 2020 Brooklyn Poets workshop on spokenness counseled me to create harmonies between my poems by using common words, in particular “Pop” which is used as a fatherly address.Another poet I spoke with sometime ago (I’m sorry I forgot who) said they looked for chaining relationships between the last line of one poem and the first line of the next. Sequencing is tricky. I discovered that sequencing is much easier for me when I start like that poet with pairs that reflect one another somehow, and build outward.
2. Jim’s poems are autobiographical but reference a period in his life over twenty years prior to their publication. He said he’d arranged them in chronological order. I limited the scope of my collection to poems written in the past two years, but I did tease out a chronological arc. And another chronological arc. And another.
3. My teacher, painter Lousia Chase (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisa_Chase), said, “You can’t be another artist than the one you already are.” I thought about that as I looked at my work in pages on the floor, or in the table of contents in my word document. I wished I had other poems that went more deeply into some of my themes and re-played the leitmotifs more, and that I had created a richer experience. But I didn’t.
4. In my wife. I had a reader with opinions, who helped me organize and told me what was weak or false in the book. One needs a person like her in their process. Also. I have the Red Wheelbarrow Poets (https://redwheelbarrowpoets.org/); none of the poems in this collection have gone un-workshopped. On the other hand, Jim told me you have to spend years in complete isolation to come up with anything good.
Editing is hard, but, as Steve Jobs said, (this quote’s attributed to other people too) “Real artists ship.” (https://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?story=Real_Artists_Ship.txt)