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.