It turns out speaking in Willie Perdomo’s VONA poetry manuscript class was timely. I will be teaching two manuscript classes and two poetry writing workshops, and I will be reading with Justin Chin and Scott Inguito at this coming weekend’s Foothill Writers’ Workshop. Yes, this is the same weekend as the PAWA Arkipelago reading, so it’ll be lively in a few days. First thing: the entire four day conference plus all the faculty readings costs a mere $53. You can still register by showing up at the registration table with your checkbook or credit card. Talk about accessible.
I’ve just noticed that for the Foothill manuscript workshops, each attendee is to bring in two pages of poetry. Wow. This is my challenge, how to discuss manuscripts with students bringing in two pages of poetry. Back to the VONA talk then. What from that talk can I use. Again, I go back to my Gravities of Center experience with compiling and organizing, how the collection begins, how it ends, how to determine the trajectory from the beginning to end. I could also discuss the themed manuscript (for me, Poeta en San Francisco and Diwata). It feels like the difference between these two “types” of poetry manuscripts is that for the former, there are many possibly disparate poems that need to be organized into a cohesive body. The concern here is that organization. For the latter, we being with an idea or concept, and perhaps we already have a few poems speaking to that idea or concept. It’s a matter, then, of fleshing out the idea and figuring out what kinds of poems to write, from what voices, in what tones, in order construct the body.
Also very important: talking about editors and editing. We need fresh eyes on our work, given our inability to be objective, even given the possibility that we are too emotionally invested in every aspect of our poems. So how do we find or select editors we trust to be hard, critical, and honest.
I do not know if students will be interested in the process of manuscript submissions, but I always find these discussions helpful. Certainly, when I was much younger in the industry, when I had no idea how to find a way in, it would have helped to be told about researching independent publishers for their submissions policies, their niches and aesthetic preferences. It would have helped to hear about open reading periods versus contests, and the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing. Manuscript submissions could always be the “If we have time” item.
I do hope I have enough time to ask each student to speak on what s/he envisions for his/her manuscript project. I have to set parameters otherwise I suspect folks can just keep talking. “Sell me your elevator pitch,” I can say. We are in an elevator for five floors, and before I step out, you’ve got to tell me everything you think is necessary for me to know. If I were Dan Langton (actually, a better link is here), I’d be able to hear each pitch, hear each attendee read two poems, and then immediately direct each attendee towards further reading, as examples of authors with similar concerns, or as models of construction and organization.