It's strangely exhausting. I'm just stripping the poems that are going into my book out of my blog, putting them in a single text file, and doing a few minor edits. Mostly these consist of de-capitalizing the first letter of every line, which I stubbornly kept doing the first couple of years I wrote poetry, not realizing then how pervasively the lower-case convention has taken hold in modern poetry, and how outlandish I was making my verse look. I have, as you might say, capitulated.
I did rewrite one poem extensively. But for the most part it's a simple clerical job, and not a difficult one: find the poem in the archives, copy it to the file, de-capitalize the first lines, save the file, delete the blog post. But it's taken me all morning to do that with ten poems, and I feel as shaken and worn as I did after the first time I lectured to a crowd in a big hall. Clearly, the fact that this is a book that's really going to be published has brought the big guns of appearing-in-public anxiety to bear on me. I've been shelled all morning.
The book as I picture it now is in five numbered sections of about ten poems each. This is the second section I've extracted. My persistent worry is that the book is just too big -- but I remind myself that I'm a wimp in the matter of reading poetry. I couldn't even read the four poetry books I set out to read for Poetry Month: I got through two of them, by pushing hard, and that was it. So I'm not a good judge of how much poetry is too much poetry.
One good poem throws a hood over my head, shoves me into a jeep, and carries me away to an unfamiliar place for days. People talk with funny accents and none of the street signs make sense. I eventually find my way home, but the Stockholm syndrome is strong in me, and ever after I wonder if this home is really the right home after all, if these people are really my people. There's a limit to how many times I can stand to be carried off in a month. Other people though seem to take it quite in stride.
But. Shaken as I am, it's joyful, gratifying task, making on this scale, even though I have seldom been so keenly aware of having no idea what I'm doing. I'm very grateful to have the chance to do it.
PS Go read Luisa Igloria's latest Morning Porch poem.