Good advice in affecting a work of writing can never be overlooked though maybe it also shouldn’t be revealed. The creating of a work of art has to appear to stand alone, free of any outside influences. Yeah, right. When the year (1982) ended and I looked over what I had produced, I couldn’t get a clear picture of what I had, and so I sent it off to a trusted friend with plenty of literary acumen for an objective opinion.
Re: LET IT BE ME*
I’ve gone over it a couple of times and marked questions &/or alternative endings of lines. Mainly in my first reading I got sensitive to the bunch of the constructions. The particularity of the poems requires that in most cases, but when there is a choice, I think you should put in a little pronoun glue, and relate phrases to each other at the risk of pinning down the floating syntax & thought. I marked cuts where I thought you could speed up , too. (I have been proofing stories and this kind of nitpick thinking was way too available but I’ll let you have it anyway.)
Secondly as for strategy: I think you will have to present scenes, a little bit bigger chunks, & introduce other consciousness/POV to make this work as a long poem. PW [Philip Whalen] does it by becoming other people/kings/etc but it varies the mind on mind moving strategy. Page 36 & 83 for example, when you describe or give an exchange (a description can be an exchange of sorts), these seem welcome relief from tracking the thought. Basically I guess I’m saying that for a longer poem you need to vary the solitary consciousness (slipping between word levels/lyrics) in any way you can. Readers will get tired of slipping lyrically.
Scrap the forward—get someone to be serious about your work. This is too self-conscious and off-putting. Or have an afterword. If you’re going to write a long poem you want people to read it, so get out of their way & give them the business quick. You have plenty of time to be indulgent in the poem; in fact you have to be indulgent in a long poem otherwise it won’t get done.
Rereading I think you’re going to have to give up some of your language control & bring in bigger chunks independent of your rhythms—to play off & digest.
*Let It Be Me was the working title for the original manuscript.
Well, I tried to listen, and I’m limited only by my own ineptness and forgetfulness.
Cover design for Volume Three in collaboration with Suzanne Lang.
Made In The Shade Volume Three, Number Three (posted October 1, 2022)