The Manuscript I’m not Editing

Or, how to get my head into the space necessary for editing is more the point. I’ve spent the morning circling the editing truck like a vulture around road-kill. I’m not waiting for anything in particular to move me–although inspiration of a heroic magnitude would be nice. I’m pondering, or so I think, a rethinking of my poetry head-space–100 pages is a lot to rethink, not that all 100 pages have to rethought, but in a way, yes, they do; the impact of one change may alter greatly a number of things (structurally anyway, but I haven’t even reached that point!). So now, I’m reading about Stanley Kunitz’s “A Living Poem”, then an essay by Mary Kinzie. This paragraph by Kinzie struck me as a way to get back into the editing mode:

Stevens thought that things, which were once human, had lost their former power to conceal themselves. But if we imagine things as having once been persons, wouldn’t they retain at least the shape of their once symbolic hulls, however little they could now hide within them? Isn’t the material world fundamentally a kind of vulnerable or inept concealment? A fly apparently buzzing in place within the web, but in a shell the spider has siphoned the strength out of, moved now only by the wind… the reflection of a stone granary in the mere… freckled leopard apricots…. Grace that has been frozen – a bicycle frame like an antelope; a submerged jar; a shoe made of willow. At the edge of a hot field, a cow shed and chicken coop; beyond these, in a forest of hard blue, the “pierced iron shadow of the cedars” (Marianne Moore). Close around them, against the male sun and the cool female forest, the stretch of ground somebody has mowed despite the desolation of these frames with their sagging silvery boards. The coop. The shed. Who abandoned them and yet comes back to mow? Don’t ask realistic questions. Patience, soon you too will sleep.

I’m going back to clip an exposed manuscript, its human-like lawn a frozen hair-do (probably already a brush-cut), but its poems still green and growing.

4 thoughts on “The Manuscript I’m not Editing

  1. Good luck with the editing, Tracy. Are you analysing, to see connections, play with punctuation, organise patterns of thought; or are you trying to feel your way back into the writing? The essay’s intriguing, and certainly got me thinking. Not sure I agree with her comment about “the windless, bony dusk” being better in a poem than prose. To me, it works less well in her prose because it comes at the end of a long string of adjectives, which weaken it. In the poem its power is as much a function of its position as the quality of the words. What do you think? In any case, it’s seemed to me for a long time that poetry is a quality, not a form. (Hmmm, I see I’m in contentious mode again.)

    I was fascinated to find her mention of the etymology of “wake”, from “vök”. It seems to be synonymous, or at least very close, to shul: a mark that remains after that which made it has passed by.

  2. I’m doing everything, mostly organising patterns and connections, but some drastic rethinking of the poems themselves, which then requires going back in, to a certain degree, to the thought process–although I’ll try to stay out of the poems as much as possible for the sake of editing, if that makes any sense.

    As for the functionality of “the windless, bony dusk”, the play, or so I think, is simply in the image itself, (which is what I think you remarked on about the positioning), and not so much just the meaning behind the words. The sparity of words in the poem work to separate the image, thereby strengthening the words, but in her prose they are conditional to the words that come before, and not just an image by themselves, thus they have less of an impact on the reader.

    (I suppose this is why language in poems sharpens an image?) I thought her essay read very much like a prose poem, not really prosaic as much as lyrical in itself.

    It is interesting about wake. I find it much like the process of editing, and in some respects, I feel that reentering the manuscript intensely is a bit like I’ve reawakened from a dream. (I did find her essay helpful in that I was able to do something constructive today).

  3. In this context, shul is Tibetan. I was struck by the similarity of meaning of the two words from vastly different cultures, both referring to a concept we seem to have no common word for (“wake” is generally interpreted very narrowly) in English.

    I certainly agree about the essay being essentially a prose poem. Sounds also as if your editing traverses the spectrum from proof reading to what might better be termed revision (i.e. re-vision)? Anyway, it’s all good neurobic exercise ;^).

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