Sunday, October 04, 2015

Making 'Breaking the Days'

I am currently involved in the various tasks in getting a book ready for print and release. The book, at this moment, is called Breaking the Days, and was a joint winner of the Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize last year. The other winner, Tracy Ryan, has already published her volume in late July.

But back to this process. Because they are tasks, things that you do to make something. My initial task was to complete the manuscript after having the initial 150 lines (or so) being chosen last year. And thanks to Whitmore Press folks for offering this ongoing opportunity to poets, and, of course, for picking my manuscript last year.

I did, in fact, have a longer manuscript idea I was working from, so I knew the field of poems I would be playing with. Mostly, though not entirely, they were a series of writings I had done during 2014, and to narrow it down, mostly during the first seven or eight months of that year. I have since included a few newer 2015 poems and reworked one or two much older poems. Overall, I was aiming at a different feeling in this book, a kind of stripped-down, more direct, at times dead-pan atmospheric. But always with something ambivalent, de-centred, or strange in the mix. It remains to be seen how that approach will be read, both of itself, in the context of my own work, and within current poetry in general.

The poems, apart from a long sequence, all fit on one page. Thus, it was at one level easy to decide what kinds of poems from this field would get into the book. It still took some time to select, order, edit and, in a couple of cases, rewrite. Every poem in the winning manuscript is there, however, pretty much as originally submitted.

The original title wasn't quite right - Breaking the Plates. Well, in a sense it is exactly right, and I liked it, still like it, but I could see how people could latch onto it as a kind of feminine domestic, ie something easy to dismiss, the usual yadda-yadda. My work's been dismissed like this in the past. The male domestic, of which Australian poetry is chock full, never gets named as such, nor receives such short shrift. So, the plates were out (they are still in the poem from which they came), and the days were in. The poems are deliberately daily, quotidian Adelaide, and the 'a' vowel sound remains, so that worked fine.

But, obviously, a manuscript is never the end of book making. Books, publishing, these are collective tasks. People are working together to get an actual thing done, made. Thus, editing, proof-reading, type and book design, cover image, front and back matter (sourcing endorsements, bio notes, etc), thinking about a launch (or two, and where, by whom, etc), all requiring the work of a few people. So, I and others are within this complex of tasks, though a fair way down the track.

I began keeping quite specific notes about this book, once I had got back to Australia at the beginning of the year; some of them are simply to do lists, but also a lot are a kind of thinking through what I thought I was doing with this book. It has been a useful process, and I may put something together from all of that once the book is out. I'm not sure why I began doing this. It may have had something to do with being out of Australia for nearly six months. It may have had something to do with the fact this book is more of a particular time and mood than my other books. It may have something to do with doubt or with simple curiosity.

There's no date yet for a launch. It will most likely be in Melbourne, in mid to later November. There's still work to do.

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