Monday, June 27, 2016

First book reflections: My book is here!

It came! My first full-length collection arrived, and I’ve held it in my hand.

To most readers, it would probably feel a lot like any other poetry book. But I can’t stop slipping my thumbs along its glossy cover, or flipping through its natural-colored pages, or weighing its heft in my palm. The poems inside are what they are—the very best in me, and I hope readers find them up to snuff—but beyond the work itself, I can attest that this little volume is perfect in every way.

My cover art is by an extremely talented artist named Gabrielle Montesanti. She specializes in photography and mixed media, and the cover art is a wonderful collage of the partial facial view of a cow. It’s so unusual that my reactions, in order, were, “What?” and then, “Well, maybe,” and finally, “SQUEE!” I have remained solidly on “squee” ever since.

The exterior was designed by a talented designer named Kristen Camille Ton, and the interior was designed by Erin Elizabeth Smith, the head honcho at Sundress Publications. I was given a voice in all aspects of the appearance, including art, layout, and font selection. Although I’ve published many issues of literary journals, it was really fun to look at design from the slightly different perspective that a book project requires.

Before we got to the design phase, Erin and Sara Henning both served as my editors to help me revise and order my work. I’m thick-skinned enough that I actually found it fun to drop a poem or two that weren’t as effective or that didn’t fit, and to work to fix problems with my endings or with loose language. As I’ve mentioned, I’m late to publishing a full-length collection, and I wonder what my reaction to criticism might have been twenty years ago—tears and anger, I expect. A few things do get better with age. For those few suggestions I didn’t agree with, I merely said a polite no. We all operated in good faith, and I love the results.

Clearly, this book means a lot to me—and that raises an obvious question, since I’m also the author of two chapbooks, Stone for an Eye (Kent State/Wick, 2004) and Someone Could Build Something Here (Winged City, 2013). Did those chapbooks, or small-sized collections, not count?

It’s a tricky issue. I really love chapbooks. They allow a writer to pay sustained attention to a narrow theme that would be too much for a full-length collection. I love to be obsessed with, say, a stone (the topic of my first chapbook) for twenty pages or so. Almost anyone would be tired of rocks, or anything else, by the end of seventy pages.

Chapbooks are unique and singular works of art. I’m very proud of the two I’ve published, and I know I’ll feel the same about two that are now forthcoming—one a collection of personal poems and the other a collection of daily sentences that I write about people lost to gun violence. But chapbooks simply don’t have the cachet of full-length books, and I haven’t really felt like a varsity player until today, when the coach finally put me in.

Whether I can put up the numbers remains to be seen, but it feels awfully good to be in the game.


If you would like to purchase my book, ordering information can be found at this link.