Saturday, December 31, 2016

Beyond Brink: or thinking about the next-next book

My next book, now it’s public, will be called Brink (unless there is a last-minute title change, always possible in publishing). Now that it’s more or less settled, I am of course working on writing ideas beyond that – ideas that are more than a poem here and there. Needless to say, this includes a ‘next next’ book, the one after this next book, as an idea. 

I realise, of course, that in poetry publishing there’s never a ‘next book’ until it’s signed, sealed and delivered, but the idea of ‘next’ is a focus for activity, as well as a goad, and a reminder that there may be a place for a few things to land together. It may never happen, I may not make it (that gets more clear as you get older), and the-world-as-I-know-it may not make it (that’s pretty clear right now), but you never know your luck.

Brink, I suspect, will be seen as broadly ‘ecopoetic’ (more on that soon) – anyway, I’ll bet at least one review (should I get any reviews but, hey, you never know your luck) will mention a variant on that phrase, and why shouldn't it/they. Still, I’d like it to be seen as far more than that, being someone who is allergic to themes in a narrow, categorical and/or marketing way. And I should beware of presuming to either know what I’m doing or know what others will make of what I’m doing.

Nonetheless, in my poet-working-mind, the next-next collection after Brink, if and/or when, will look/read/feel differently to it, unless I’m kidding myself (you never know yr …). Of course, the concerns with the environmental disaster we are currently within will continue to be a part of things I write – how could that not be. It’s the air I breathe, literally. Nonetheless, some of the concerns of this future book will resemble more the kinds of ideas I was working with in Dark Bright Doors (2010) and, to an extent, the now out-of print Broken/Open (2005). Poems I’ve been working on consider ideas around the self or selves, 'subjectivity' if you want to be fancy (lots of ‘I’ poems, you know, the kinds of poem we’re told not to write), the body (yes, I apparently have one), my own peculiar metaphysics (nope, not scared of that stuff), as well as more play with form.

And, gee, put like that, these are hardly new ideas. Of course, they’re not, they're old as the proverbial. Plus it’s all pretty broad (and see comments above on themes) but the real use for themes/categories, for my poet-mind at least, is to provide ample catch-alls to help me sort through past, current and future poems, to be able to place them into this book/idea or that. And none of this speculation stops me taking up some other concern if it arises. I do have some recent pieces that work with history, with citation, with self-appropriation, a continuing interest in ekphrasis. Whether they find favour either with my own self or with other readers, who knows. All you can do is test things out.

Looking back on this little screed, I’m not sure it says a lot. I grow ever skeptical of being able to understand myself, my workings, in particular. I suspect the mind is simply a bag of tricks, wonky connections and self-deceptions. OK, my mind. Let’s keep it personal. But, as folks of my generation used to say, that’s where I’m at, and definitely what I’m working at. It may not be keeping me honest but it is keeping me occupied.

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