Sunday, May 10, 2020

REVISING THE CHAPBOOK AT LAST

On Thursday, I had my first call with my current coaching program, and let everyone know that the revision I hope to do on my chapbook, "Portal of Light," is awaiting my daughter/critic's comments. Since, due to the shelter in place requirements, she is now homeschooling 5 children and juggling a two year old as well, I thought it might be a long time before she was able to give me her next round of suggestions.  However, that very afternoon, she called and told me that she had several pages of critique and would send them to me before Sunday, when we will be able to get together (in the back yard) for the first time since we all went into quarantine.  She sent them off, and I looked over her comments, noting that she had removed some of my favorite sections from the chapbook.  I called her to make sure that they weren't just parts that I hadn't yet added, and, sadly, they were deliberate cuts.  So we'll have to hash those out when we get together (although one of the poems she removed was one that I already agreed didn't go with the overall direction of the chapbook).
In addition, she listed all the various quotes from Song of Songs that she thought should be included. She used a different translation, so we'll have to look at those side by side.  I copied them all from my translation (the Anselm Academic Study Bible) so we can compare them.  
I felt very humbled that she had taken so much time on my chapbook, when I know she has so much else happening, but she said that she thought the best gift she could give me for Mother's Day were her comments, and she is so right!
Today (Mother's Day), she and her whole family came over to my house, and although we didn't hug one another, it made such a difference to see them all in real life!  The children played soccer and badminton and basketball with their father while Mary and I went over all her suggestions for changes in "Portal of Light." I realized again how insightful and analytical she is, how she can see things in the chapbook and in my poetry that were mostly subconscious when I was writing it.  I agreed with her suggestions to remove certain of the poems, because they didn't really fit the structure of the chapbook overall, although I fought longer for the "Ziggurat" section.  But she eventually carried the point that it was a static section, that didn't move the chapbook forward--it can be a poem that stands on its own--and only the last section, which takes place on mountain paths, should stay.  
Once we had the overall structure of the chapbook rearranged, then we looked at her comments on individual sections. I still have some narrative parts to write although I don't think they will be as long as the section I wrote on Theresa.  But each time we meet, or talk over the phone about the chapbook, I see where I need to go more clearly; the structural bones appear, the framework rises and the entire chapbook becomes more coherent and luminous.  Although I miss my poet mentor who died a few years ago, I think that only Mary could have sharpened the focus of this chapbook in the way that she has, and I am deeply grateful to her.  
And now, I've got to go work on all the things she told me!

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