The Bowie Poems and Thoughts on Manuscript Organization

I’ve been out of orbit for awhile, in terms of blogging, mostly due to balancing teaching, writing, and “studenting” responsibilities.  I’m prepping for my comprehensive exams, so I’ve been maintaining a separate blog of research notes, and the summer term brought my teaching total to 14 courses for the year.  Then, of course, there’s the writing, which is the whole point of this blog, so I’ll get to it!

In short,  the Bowie Poems Project is finished.  It’s been my primary creative focus since late January, and I  just put the final touches on it yesterday.  The next phase of its actualization is still pretty embryonic, but I’ll certainly be updating if and when things progress.  I’m so freaking that this endeavor, which started as a single poem intended to be a one-off, is now a full-feathered creative beast in its own right. In any event, I thought I’d like to use my next few post reflect on the process, as it was a fairly intense one for me.

  • Writing a Collection Poems is Different from “Curating” a Collection of Poems

When it became clear that the Bowie Poems would be more of a collection than a small series,  I really didn’t think about how the production experience would differ from putting together my first full-length collection, or, for that matter, and of my indie chapbooks from my early slam days.  That being said, the sense of accomplishment I felt when I put the finishing touches on my Bowie manuscript was very different from my euphoria upon completing the manuscript for How a Bullet Behaves. I definitely think this is due to the fact that the process for each of these projects was very different.  When I began preparations for How a Bullet Behaves, I had a thematic plan for the book in mind, although it evolved slightly throughout the process.  This thematic thread determined, to a great extent, which poems I selected for inclusion in the collection.  However, I was mainly selecting pieces from a preexisting body of work, as opposed to producing new pieces for the collection as I went.  (I did write a few new poems for the collection as I went, but the assembly process was more organizational and discriminatory as a whole.) The bottom line is, when I wrote the poems that ultimately made up How a Bullet Behaves, I was not necessarily able to envision how they might work as part of a larger collection.  My work on the Bowie Poems was, however, more structured from the start.  As soon as I decided to write a series of found poems using David Bowie lyrics, as opposed to just a stand-lone piece, I envisioned a collection that would organized chronologically, according to album release year.  This not only determined the book’s layout, but also the means of the poems’ production.  With only two exceptions, I following the chronology of Bowie’s discography when writing the poems, as well.  I feel like this created an extra layer of synergy between the writing process and the layout process.  Additionally, because I’d already envisioned a plan for the project, the layout process was notably less laborious for the Bowie Poems than for HABB.

So, what does it all mean?  As a Western author, I’m wary of the Western tendencies of binary thinking, and my purpose is not to pose one of these experiences as superior to the other.  My goal is rather to invite authors to examine the ways in which different factors can influence the experiences they have when pulling a poetry manuscript together.  The elements I’ve discussed represent only a fraction of those that might impact this kind of experience, as many authors have, no doubt, already observed.  In the meantime, I’m currently working on my next full-length collection, and I’m finding that my approach is a bit of a cross between the two I’ve discussed.  While I did write most of the poems with this collection in loosely in mind, I also culled some pieces that had been written quite independently of any intention for a collection.  I’m also still in the process of writing about a quarter of the poems that will ultimately be included.  Now that I’ve reflected upon the process of compiling two previous collections, I’m wondering if they had any bearing upon the way I approached the third.

That’s it for now!  Happy reading, writing, and living.

 

 

 

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