Newborn.

A book manuscript I thought I was only half done writing suddenly came together into a draft. A draft that runs…maybe a little on the long side. I’d thought the book was so far from being done that I had started flirting with another manuscript I saw coming together, even though those poems feel more troubled to me, need more work.

I had been working/revising with a paper draft of the (good) poems, loosely thrown together in a haphazard order, when, while driving from Detroit to DC, the appropriate structure for the book struck me. For a month I kept that idea at a low boil in my head, and earlier this week I started putting the plan into action.

I retyped them into a new document page by page. It took about four hours. (Naturally, in the midst of this I had to eat dinner, play my guitar, etc, so it wasn’t four constant hours. But close.)

The exercise–retyping drafts–is one that I’ve come to find essential. I retype my poems from scratch several times throughout my writing process now. It helps me shake off any unnecessary words or phrases, like how transplanting a potted plant allows you to shake loose the old, unhealthy soil.

And when I feel cringe-y when typing something, I just cut it from the draft, even if it means putting myself on the spot to rewrite the ending or come up with something new for the piece.

There is something about working with the manuscript holistically, from the start to finish, that means the arc of the book is preserved and the language and diction remain fairly consistent. Of course, it also means I sometimes grasp at straws and throw in something that’s all wrong–but generally, it’s better than what was there and it’s closer to what it should be.

I printed the manuscript off and, for the last few days, I’ve felt like I’ve been in that aura of having-just-met-someone-you-really-like. I steal glances at the stack of pages on my desk. I flip through it gently, marveling at my turns of genius. I want to call people I know and say, “I think I’ve met the one!”

All of this, but I know after some time, the newness will wear off. We will slip back into our routines and, while we will still care for each other, it won’t ever be so perfect. I’m good with that. When the aura wears off, I can tinker with the poems again.

But for now, I’m enjoying the glow.

The Cruelest Month

Well, I did it. I made it all the way through April and posted a book a day! Probably not a big deal, but it was tough for me since it was such a busy month.

Thanks to everyone who posted/sent/commented with encouragement and positive feedback! I’d love to see everybody else’s lists some day too.

Let’s just hope I can blog at all during May.

The Salt Ecstasies

Could not find a book cover, but perhaps because it is about to be rereleased by Graywolf as part of Mark Doty’s RE/view series that has republished so many great volumes of poetry.

I love books by Minneapolis poets. I do not know why. I love them when the poems are set in Minneapolis. It is a city unlike any other. In my memory, it is the only city. It is the city I go back to when I convince myself there will never be another winter. It is a city of people I love, people I loved, people I wanted to love.

And there was this book, which is so full of longing and yearning that you almost have to tear it in half as you read. It’s almost too much. It’s almost so dark and depressing you want to rush into it and shake him and say “GOOD GOD MAN IT CAN’T BE THAT BAD.”

But it is that bad. But it wasn’t always that bad, and that’s why this book sings. It remembers.

And that memory lingers like a curse.

Powerless

How odd, to have googled for an image of this book cover and discovered a photo of myself ca. 2006 among the results.

At first I thought this was like a designer imposter version of Frank O’Hara (“If you love O’Hara, you’ll LOVE Tim Dlugos!”). The flighty arrogance, the irreverence, the slight snobbery of knowing a lot about art in a society that prides itself on disregarding art. The flirtatiousness that is played both for comedy and for sting.

But Dlugos is more than that, becomes more than that through the course of this book. Disarmingly so. He writes the true thing, the awkward thing, the real thing that is so real it makes everyone in the room a little uncomfortable.

The poems are often lush, overfull, voluminous. They are litanies of the every day. And you know now how much I love a litany.

Kinky

I can still remember reading this book on the airplane back from an AWP conference. It might be because I wasn’t above playing Barbies with my girl friends when I was a kid that this book really appeals to me. I don’t think it’s limited to the Barbie experience, though–even my G. I. Joe action figures had complicated relationships and rich imagined lives, and took frequent and long-term exotic vacations together.

I love this book for its obsession. It relentlessly reinvents Barbie again and again.

Read one way, it’s stand up comedy.

Read a little more deeply, it’s a tender and touching tribute.

Read even further, it’s a smart and biting social critique, not just of Barbie or of the man’s world or standards placed upon women, but of the culture that is both blind to this fact and completely beholden to it.

Plus, the brilliance of all the invented Barbies–Mormon Barbie, Sister Barbie, Apocalyptic Barbie, Bisexual Barbie, just to name a few.

The Changing Light at Sandover

A book with a Ouija in it. Who knew you could have Ouija in a poem?

An abecedarian book. Then, numbers.

I love the way the two men in the book are so domestic and loving of each other. It gave me hope for this at a time when I had none. I also love how simply it is expressed–there is no grand outing. Their love is so clear it is not mentioned as such, but is evidenced as such.

The playfulness of messages from the beyond. This book feels like it was started as a lark, but then the lark became an eagle.