Why write a book?

What’s at stake?

That’s what Lorna Dee Cervantes asked at her LiTFUSE master class in 2008. In that workshop, we looked at music, image, and ideas. (Lorna will be teaching at LiTFUSE again this year.)

The other day I was walking the creek loop at work and thinking about this manuscript I’ve been worrying, and I realized maybe that’s my problem: I’m not sure what’s at stake for this book. Certainly music. And I have themes–relationships, wishing I were an artist, had that kind of vision, place, loss, and time (which is so closely linked to loss), always the underpinning of time and the lack of time. But now when I’m thinking about what’s at stake, I’m asking why.

I wrote Into the Rumored Spring because I wanted to, needed to do something for a friend. It was imperative. I wrote In Both Hands because it was the book I wanted to read (and because I was playing around with some fun forms and processes that were new to me). But why am I writing this book? (Shouldn’t every book be the book you want to read?) I’ve worked with some more made-up forms, getting into metrics (my personal scansion), and now I’ve put in the measurement poems, so it’s all together, but I don’t yet have a purpose, a sense of what this book brings into the world.

It’s a good question for me to unravel, and I imagine it taking years. Then I feel anxious, and I need to get over that. On car trips, I am not a good traveler. I want to get there. But a book is a different journey. I need to stop, look around, check out the roadside attractions, let the itinerary change, switch out the map. Who knows where this will take me? I’ve discarded many of the original poems already, and I’ll probably discard more. Or it will go back to being two separate projects. Maybe I do need to pull out my charcoal and get my fingers dirty for a while (I tried that last fall–so disheartening–but I didn’t try for very long). But I think I need to understand the why before I can figure out how it can come together.

What makes a book of poems a book? Why?

One Reply to “Why write a book?”

  1. Such interesting questions, ones that set me pondering, too. Maybe giving the charcoals another go (I hear you about attempts at art being disheartening, but also insistent) would allow you further space to consider these important questions?

    Also: I love that you wrote In Both Hands because it was the book you wanted to read. No accident, then, that it’s a book that’s *wonderful* to read!

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