Next big thing, and one more thing

Thanks to Catherine Daly for tagging me for the Next Big Thing! Here at last are my responses to this little questionnaire. (I think I will stop saying “at last”—everything takes time, and the more everything you do, the more time is taken up.)

So: here and now, on the first or the second day of spring, depending how you count, are my responses. The book that has occupied most of this year for me is first. But there’s news of the endearments too! (See parentheses.)

I am tagging Meryl DePasquale, whom I am very happy to have met recently, who is a fine companion in poetic pursuits, and whose next big thing promises to be awesome!


pbof coversWhat is the working title of the book?

A Pocket Book of Forms


Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was planning a train trip. I was imagining pleasant hours in the dining car, imagining I’d want to write, and possibly to play with some poetic form or other. But I knew I wouldn’t lug a giant book along just in case I got the notion to write a rondelet. So I made a small one.

It also came from my love of practical genres: signage, instructions, guides. And of small books, like the one of Edward Lear’s poetry and drawings that I bought on a trip to London in seventh grade.

(From the endearments, a group of poems made via an anagrammatic procedure and for which this very blog provides occasional annotations.)

What genre does your book fall under?

Instructional manual, artist book, pocket book.

(Chapbook. Of poems.)

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

What is it in me—besides my inability to remember very many actors’ names—that resists this question? A form is like an actor, a good one: it can become what the writer wishes it to, can become a whole lot of different characters. And yet the feeling we get from various actors is so particular that to assign real actors to forms could be limiting. Or it could be the basis for a really nice set of trading cards.

(Because I am also working on a poet’s play made of endearments, in which each one becomes a character, I hesitate to assign actor-actors to them either, for fear that the associations will color the characters as I make them up. I do, however, have fun imagining friends and acquaintances playing the parts. Also, the poems themselves are like action figures, more than other poems I’ve written. Having made them, I collect them. Which sounds narcissistic, but so is every collection, in a way.)

What is the one sentence sentence-fragment synopsis of your book?

A guide to poetic forms that is pleasing to the eye and travels well

(Poems made from the sweet words people call one another)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I made the first version of A Pocket Book of Forms in 2009. It was a one-page minibook at the time, the kind where you fold it all up and make a slit in one spot and suddenly the sheet of paper comes alive as a book. There were fewer forms in it then, because I included only the ones I most wanted to remember. It took a week or two of writing and thinking between doing other things. I made many iterations before the current version, which is now a pamphlet-stitched book, a little bigger than a minibook. I’ve added more forms. And I made revisions in response to the helpful poets who read it for me—Lesley Wheeler, Annie Finch, and Carolyn Beard Whitlow.

(I’ve been writing endearments since 2009 or so also, but the manuscript came together in a relatively short amount of time last fall. Time to put these action figures in a box. Time to get some sleeves for these baseball cards.)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I needed it, and it did not appear to exist.

(When I made the first of the endearments, I was broken-hearted and angry and, being those things, I needed to play. Now, although my feelings are different, I still want and need to play.)

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s made by hand and a pleasing thing to hold. There’s a standard edition and a fancy one; both are pleasing, the fancy one is just fancier. I think it’s important to have beautiful objects around, especially in a stressful environment (grad school, for instance)—and even better when those objects are also purposeful. I hope and imagine that someone will give a copy of this book to someone else who is a student of poetry. I would be thrilled if a teacher of poetry adopted it for a writing course.

It is truly pocket-sized—it has been tested on a variety of pockets and fits in all but the most strange and decorative ones. (Although, from the look of them, it is too big to fit in most of Nicelle Davis’s poetry pockets.)

Also, it is a guide to craft of a very particular nature. The small size places a useful limit on the contents. I have plans for other books in the series—A Pocket Book of Procedures, A Pocket Book of Meters.

(It will be brief, and dense, and persnickety, and joyous.
Some poems from it are herehere.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I designed the book and printed it on a Vandercook no. 1 proof press, with help and advice from lots of good people, particularly Rory Sparks of Em Space. The printing was done at Penland School of Crafts during a winter print residency (fabulous program!) and a follow-up visit earlier this year. I plan to finish the binding, and sew the slipcases for the fancy edition, in April. Information and updates here.

(Endearments seeks a publisher.)

Make up a question you think is pressing in way of poetry today.

How do screened devices change the way we read poetry? How do they change how we write it? These questions are worth answering now, when we are in a transitional space, before we forget what writing is like in a world without those devices.

(What can poetry do for love?)


Here are Next Big Thing posts from Lesley Wheeler and Kate Schapira—and soon to come, I hear, is a giant roundup of posts at Delirious Hem, where at the moment you can read the third installment of a nice roundtable on women publishers.

One Comment on “Next big thing, and one more thing”

  1. carol dorf says:

    Fun to read this piece — I’m doing a similar chapbook project with an artist friend.


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