1st of tha Month

Originally uploaded by Moonrhino

August is here and it’s a real crunch time for me. I’m working on a couple of different projects right now and managing my 9-5. The good news, right now I feel like I have a pretty good handle on everything. The bad news is that my day job gets real hectic come September and doesn’t let up for a couple of months. Meaning I’ve got to make some hard choices soon because the bottom line is that I can’t make it through life on just poetry.

No need to throw a pity party just yet, just time to take advantage of some of this down summer time and make some moves while I can.  Number one priority for this month:  rehaul the manuscript. The last time I looked over the ms it was just coming in at 44 pages or so.  A bunch of poems that were saying the same thing had to get the axe and order was a serious priority.  A couple of people had looked at it and the feedback was encouraging.

So the challenge now is to fold into the ms the new poems from To the Break of Dawn.  Poems that a few months back I thought wouldn’t make it into my ms.  Not because I didn’t think the poems were any good but because I had this ideal theme for my manuscript that revolved around writing about growing up in the South Bronx just as hip-hop was forming with the manuscript ending just as the first commercial hip-hop records were coming out.  Sounds good, heh?  And then come the new poems which I like and actually serve the manuscript very well, if I extend out my original idea.
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You can learn more from a critique than a compliment

And when in doubt, I return to the vatic words of Kanye West.

Before I start detailing the changes to my current manuscript, I have a question: Why is it that for every other art form folks can easily tell the difference between an amateur and a professional but refuse to do the same in poetry?  Case in point: I can’t sing.  Punto.  Now, if I went to tryout for American Idol, I’d probably end up on the blooper reel or that cruel episode where everyone makes fun of the fact that the people on the episode can’t hold a note to save their lives.

Meanwhile, back at the poetry ranch, folks write trite shit and it passes as Powerful or Creative Expression or Truly Moving.  Not that I’m saying folks need to be mean and dismissive (like say when poets from political situations write about–drum roll, please–political situations and it cast aside as being too ghetto) but I am saying you can learn more from a good editor than from a pack of cheerleaders.  Which is my remix of the Kanye quote with a little Saeed Jones added for good meaure.

All of this to say that thanks to Barb for looking over my manuscript and helping give it a new shine.  And how did this happen?  Easy, we took a big ax to it.

I say ax but what I really mean is scalpel cuz the cutting happening here is not some clunky chopping for chopping’s sake. No, it was time to cut through the fat and excess of the manuscript so that the truest intent of the work could shine through.  For that, you need not only a sharp instrument but a purpose behind said cutlery.  In this case, I had to remember the origins of my manuscript.

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Code is Poetry

morse code
Originally uploaded by jenny downing

If only code was poetry, I’d be the most prolific jibaro on the block right now with my acclimation to the WordPress interface and adding new bells and whistles to the website.

Some of the changes, messing with text layouts and adding the right amount of sidebar content, is a lot easier to do than others, like messing with the widget codes to appear exactly as I would like.  Sometimes I hunger for the days of coding out the HTML also entirely by hand and knowing the purpose behind all the lines of code.  I think that was my inner 12-year-old talking and remembering what it was like to put together a graphic display with BASIC on his shiny new Commodore VIC-20.  Yeah, those were the good old days of block text.

Today, all I need to do is drag-and-drop a widget here, mess with some settings there, and Poof! instant layout.  Clean, simple and leaving me no smarter than when I started.  So that’s what I really miss about knowing my website inside-and-out, even when there is a tiny mistake, one that I’m sure no one else can see, I know it can be fixed if I plug away at it hard enough.  With all this “easy” code, I have to wait for an upgrade to come along or just suck it.

I’m guessing I have the same mentality when it comes to some of the more difficult aspects of my writing life.  I’d rather tough out writing a review or putting together a deep lesson plan in favor of making things easier by looking at some pre-established models.  Same with manuscript revision, I’ve been stuck on a chronological layout of poems instead of seeing what makes the most sense thematically.   This is usually around the time I think I’ll go back to the drawing board and start all over but maybe the wiser move might be to just stop where I’m at and be honest about what is and isn’t working in the manuscript.  It would sure be quicker than going all the way back to square one.
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