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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Poetry Manuscripts - Crawl On Your Hands and Knees

This may be one for Dear Dead Beat but here it comes anyway. From an email with a writer I know:

Any advice you can provide about preparing a manuscript would be much appreciated. I don't think for this project/grant, I need to consider everything but at what point, for example, do you need an editor? Or does the publisher assign that once the manuscript is accepted? To be honest, while I have enough poems for a book, I am not satisfied withmany of them and a lot still need revision. I'm always encouraged when I read of famous writers who wrote a 100 drafts of a poem.

With regards to preparing a manuscript, I was facilitating a workshop for middle year students from neighbouring High Schools today and was reading them some Carver - during a break I read the introduction to the book by his partner, the poet, Tess Gallagher. Here is what she had to say: "My perhaps primitive way of ordering a manuscript was to scatter the pages out on the living-room floor and crawl on my hands and knees among them, reading and sensing what should come next, moving by intuition and story and emotion."

I adhere to this method.Get a feel for the book, its overall tone, be guided by your senses. Open with strong poems (something else I was reading recently by John Ashbery that I agree with) - put the dodgy ones in the middle and finish with strong poems.The publisher if interested will provide an editor, so don't worry about that. Send a sample of your work, 15 pages or so, and outline your achievements, do not be modest, exaggerate when possible.

Get to it Dead Beaters, churn out those manuscripts.

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