Will you edit my manuscript?

Not this minute, as it’s been sitting around and needs a vigorous overhaul. But later, at some undefined point in the future, when I’ve pulled it back together again. When you’re comfortable you know what I’m trying to do with my writing. When I’m comfortable you have the poetic gravitas this project demands ipso facto, when I’m comfortable with your understanding of my writing. When we’ve established that we can work productively together.

This is a concept I blogged about last month. With the dangers inherent in the poetry contest system (we’ve all been following the Stacy Lynn Brown/Cider Press story, which has generated thoughtful commentary herehere, herehere, here, here, and here) – not to mention the sheer numbers & probabilities mitigating against one in the system – and the dearth of open-reading-period venues to which an unpublished poet has access these days, it does behoove us to be creative with regard to publication.

Are contests and open submissions to established presses the only/best way to get publication traction? Of course not, they are just two ways – which sometimes work and sometimes don’t. A third way is to self-publish – and once again, there are both many failures and many happy results of self-publishing out there. People who either publish their own manuscripts via DIY publishing service such as Lulu; or those who establish their own micro-presses and publish their own and others’ work, usually also via a DIY publishing service. As I noted in my July post on this issue, the problem with self-publishing is that the poet acts as his/her own editor. The upside of getting picked up by a publisher is that you get an editor along with that — the extra pair (or pairs) of filtering eyes that essentially add their own “brand” to the poet’s work, so that what is being sold at the end of the process is both the work itself and the brand. But the problem with current models is that the only way to get an editor is either to enter poetry contests or submit your manuscript to presses open to unsolicited submissions. Which takes us back to square one.

Those are the established ways, each with its strengths and weaknesses. What’s the harm in coming up with new ways? I’m taking up Reb’s challenge – we need to be creative and take responsibility for our own prospects.

So here’s my situation. My first published poem came along in November 2006 (yay, Shit Creek Review!) and as of now I have close on 40 poems either published or accepted for publication (see online work here). I’d like to put out a chapbook or manuscript, but am not sold on the poetry contest model and the fact is that there aren’t that many presses that accept unsolicited manuscripts (see Seth’s post again). Although I’m a huge fan of micro-presses and love the concept, I don’t have the time, experience or desire to start my own press.

What’s your situation? You’re an established poet with that all-important poetic gravitas. You’re not a poetry press owner and I’m guessing you’re not interested in becoming one. You like my work and think I am someone you could work with in an editing context. So what am I asking you to do?

Basically, I’m asking you to work with me to shape and edit my manuscript and to put your name on it as editor. I’ll do everything else – all the footwork associated with publishing — design, promotion, logistics, etc. (That is, unless you actively want to run/participate in any of those processes, which would also be perfectly fine with me.) If any profits are made (and yes, I know, that’s a big “if”), we could split them in any number of ways, or we could agree from the beginning that they would go to some non-profit poetry cause.

What do I get out of this? A published collection — self-published but without the ‘what no editor?’ stigma that sometimes accompanies self-published work, so therefore probably not most accurately described as “self-published”.

What do you get out of this? You get the satisfaction of having given a leg-up to struggling aspiring poet in whose work you believe. You get that much more editing experience. You get the knowledge that should I ever acquire any poetic gravitas of my own in the future, I will definitely consider myself committed to volunteering to edit some other struggling, aspiring poet’s work in a similar fashion.

It’s a win-win! We’d be a one-publication nanopress, you and I. Email me at nic_sebastian (at) hotmail (dot) com if you’d like to start the process of exploring whether this is a model that could work for both of us.

Grief, I mean, Grieg

Heh. Freudian slip of the week: this afternoon while typing an i-Tunes Store search. Yes, I was looking for something out of Peer Gynt and no, it wasn’t In the Hall of the Mountain King (which is the creepiest freakiest piece of music ever and sounds like something out of Peter & the Wolf in the worst way) – it was Solveig’s Song, which mostly rocks.

total submission

I just sent out a pile of submissions and feel like I’ve been spring-cleaning. Looking askance at the ones that were nominally in the submission pile, but somehow always got left behind. Some of them have been out on numerous occasions and just keep coming back, I might add.

I’ve pretty much stopped workshopping as a way of gauging a piece’s “readiness,” but workshops are a good place to reality-check those pieces you thought were ready, but somehow just keep coming back.

Some ways I’ve found useful to get a fresh look at an old poem I can’t “feel” any more:

  • Switch all the genders. Making a “she” do what you had initially written out as actions of a “he” and vice versa is often illuminating.
  • Switch “I” to “he/she” or vice versa.
  • Switch tenses. If your original piece is written in the past, put it in the future. Or get really daring and play with mood: use the subjunctive.
  • Cut out the first stanza and either replace it or amend the poem to do without it completely.

Any other ‘get a fresh look’ ideas out there?

verse novel?

Michael Symmons, writing in The Guardian, “explores the unstable ground between poetry and prose with his top 10 verse novels.”

Hm. All kinds of bells of resonance are ringing madly in my head. Why on earth? Do I really think I want to/can/should write a verse novel?

Whatever the case may be, some reading is evidently in order. I think I’ll start this project by exploring the following four recommendations from Symmons’ Top 10 Verse Novels list:

3. The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth
Already an accomplished poet, Seth flexed his narrative muscles here before embarking on ‘A Suitable Boy’. A witty and urbane San Francisco story.

4. Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Barrett Browning spent at least a decade conceiving and crafting this story of a struggling poet and her agonies about her vocation. Her work gave the verse novel a radical edge, raising issues about poverty, women in society and the role and value of art.

7. Shamrock Tea by Ciaran Carson
Carson is one of Ireland’s greatest writers, author of award-winning poetry books and novels. Though they are published in their distinct categories, many of his books could hold their own in either camp. His mastery of the long poetic line enables him to build stories and characters in the most wonderful lyric poetry.

8. The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson
Canadian poet Anne Carson’s tracing of a single love affair through to the breakdown of a marriage has won her many admirers. This book is an amazing balancing act – classical and colloquial, surreal but rooted in telling everyday details.

blog-posted poem?

Here’s poem that just got rejected (click to enlarge). I ran it through wordle.net (I owe a hat tip to a poetry blogger for the link, but can’t at this minute recall which blog I saw it on – will edit it in when it comes back to me). Does putting the wordle up here make it a blog-posted poem?

Long-time readers of this blog will remember that I was much exercised by the question of blog-posted poems and their publication chances in the past. This tag pulls up most of the posts, I think, and there’s a standing page on the topic here.


on my iPod. A sudden craze. I just listened to Kate Chopin The Awakening, a book I have started and never got anywhere with I don’t know how many times. It sucked me in, or its mood did, this time. The narrator read with a standard American accent, but did all the voices with a Louisiana drawl. I’m not sure what this added to or detracted from the whole. I’d have to actually read the text to see if there is a different feel to it without the drawl.

Now downloading Classic Russian Short Stories (Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov), which will make me want to ride the Trans-Siberian express for two weeks, which is one of those idle but aching fancies I have had ever since I read War and Peace and watched Dr. Zhivago (even though I understood almost nothing in both at the time), and which returns whenever I get even the faintest sniff of Russian literature, which I suppose makes me a vile and shallow stereotyper for whom the angels rightfully weep; and Kafka’s Metamorphosis which won’t make me want to rush off to do anything sterotypically Czech but is one of those “I really must read that one day” books whose time seems to have come. Maybe.