Shanna Compton


I have been typing through Brink. What this means is that I have pulled the poems out of a booklike arrangement and confronted them again individually, by taking one poem at a time and typing it. I type it on my manual typewriter (an Olivetti Lettera like the one above) and on the computer too and sometimes I even handwrite them, because each of these feels different. Retyping is like playing a piece on a piano or something (not that I play piano). I've talked about this before. Basically, I can feel the poem with my fingers as well as hear it and see it, and the manual analog slowness of the typewriter (and also somehow the sounds of this) create a situation in which I and the poem are sharing a kind of physical experience.

I do this with all my poems, eventually. It's interesting to watch how they change. I think it's possible that sometimes the poem as it stands in the end (which is not even to say in a book, because I've changed poems after that too, sorry future) could be the same way it stood the first time, or mostly the same. Revisions are sometimes very minor things like articles or commas. But usually there are words that change, and very frequently the lineation changes quite a bit. Since the way I make lines is almost purely intuitive, that means it's emotional and emotions are mercurial. So I can retype the same poem a dozen times on a dozen days and have it come out differently, even twice in a row sometimes. The core of it probably remains the same most of the time though. And eventually they seem to settle into a form that seems right, and that's what I go with.

Some of the poems in this collection are bleak. I mean, I was directing my thinking intentionally toward Doomsday sorts of themes and naturally that has consequences. Cultivating a climate, like a sort of weather. And sometimes now the weather I'm in doesn't match the weather of the poem, and so there are some clashes and frustrations there too. But if I look at this all as an interesting experiment it's OK and is yes an interesting experiment. Anyway, not all of them are bleak, since my response to despair is usually to crack a joke, or to love something/someone like it's an emergency. [Update 10/22 to say that now that the book is finished, finally, and all the new pieces are in, it doesn't feel so bleak to me after all. I think some of the older poems (the oldest goes is actually 2003 but I guess I lost it for a while; most are 2007-2012 though) trigger certain personal memories about things going on during the years I was writing them, but those things aren't in the poems. These resonances are peculiar to me, and will not be there for readers.]

Not directing toward, letting it drift. The work is actually in keeping it from doing that all the time, isn't it?

So that's the sort of thing I am doing.

I'm writing some new poems to go into it too.

I'm also working on some editorial things, other people's spring books. And we got more chapbook submissions than expected, still reading those. (An update about these things would be more appropriate over there and is coming.)

Sandra is blogging this week at The Best American Poetry blog. Today she wrote about the sonnets that will be in her next Bloof book, House of Ions. Monday she wrote about lived experience and near-death experience and how poetry gets made. And yesterday she posted this conversation about women and poetry and critical work, with Juliana Spahr, Vanessa Place, Sina Queryas, Elisa Gabbert, Danielle Pafunda, and me. Well it was less of a conversation (by the time I came into it anyway to fill in for dropouts) than a sort of questionnaire, but it's still interesting, and we make a few witty jokes too. So, you can click that link to see these posts and our roundtable. I'm looking forward to seeing what she's going to post the rest of the week too.

I'm going to go hike four miles now. The other day a vulture stalked me while I was doing this hike, but I told him he was way too early. I can't help myself: I like vultures.

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