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The Publishing Process - Reading, Learning, Editing, Cutting

Fast forward to the middle of June.

The publisher said he could go ahead with the manuscript as it was and it would have been alright. However, there was potential to make it something really impressive if I was willing to continue working on it. He gave the collection to an experienced poet who's been publishing and editing since the 1970s in order to get more detailed feedback. Plenty of encouragement to begin with. Out of the 49 pieces in the manuscript there were 21 that needed no revisions. Another 9 needed only minor changes (capital letters, missing words, commas, etc).

The other 19 were a mixed bag of challenges. It was an interesting exercise to see if I could keep my rhyming schemes in certain poems while still improving on imagery and word choices. And of course there were some suggestions that I just wanted to ignore altogether!

For example, there was an adjective flagged in one poem because it can be argued that it's not true in 100% of cases. I think it works nicel…

The Publishing Process - Early enthusiasm

I had a conversation early last winter with a publisher of creative writing. I was volunteering to help them with another project at the time, but it was casually mentioned that there might be an opportunity to get my first collection of poems published sometime soon. I mentioned that I'd read a collection by another local poet of a similar age-bracket to myself, and was told very firmly not to be too influenced by what they had produced. I also mentioned that I had nearly 250 poems to work with and was told to put together closer to 50, and we left it at that.

I didn't mention it again for several months so for a while I didn't know if the opportunity still stood. Even so, I took some time over the May Bank Holiday weekend to put together the first draft of a manuscript. It was a 40 page document with 47 poems in English, 2 in Irish, and 2 English translations. Some of the poems had scarcely changed since I wrote them as a teenager, and at the time I wanted to keep them…
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Hunter-Gatherer

The older cat leaps onto the soft leather
armrest of the two-seater couch, crouches
and sits and waits, surprisingly patient.
There was a time when he would cry any
occasion when he felt we'd kept him
waiting too long for his afternoon meal.

These days he's turned the tables on us,
conditioned us to respond, like the dogs
making Pavlov scribble in that Stivers comic.
We even open windows to let him in
when he climbs onto the house to hunt for birds,
arthritic limp ignored for rooftop thrills,
green flashes of emerald eyes gazing
up with echoes of something ancient, primal.

Borrowed Lines and Spare Time

Hey there, strangers smiling at the bar,
And hey there, barman in behind.
You're a little more familiar now,
And I'm okay, yeah, I'm just fine,
I'm just sipping on my stout
And chasing away the minutes and hours
Long before you call closing time,
Yeah, closing time, but for now it ain't that late,
I'm just Tom who sips and Waits
For my very sweet companion,
For a lady who listens to Lou Reed
And Leonard Cohen, my partner found,
She's late, not lost,
She'll be dressed in black and polka dots
And she'll take me away, we'll leave here, yeah,
But for now, hey, I'm waiting for my gal.

In The Lodge

It's hard to believe
It's been six years,
If I'm correct in
My reading
Between vague lines
And if there's any truth
Behind the icons
Red on blue
Atop the screen
In the Social Network,
Since we shared
A moment that should
Have been forbidden
By all the usual standards
And the rules
Expected of friends or exes.
But despite passing time I still
Cannot help but recall
The thrill, the elation
Of how it felt, extreme,
Not because it
May have been wrong
But because it
Was electric and exciting,
And despite the years
That have passed since
And the lingering fact
That it
Should never
Have happened
At all
With you
Too close a friend
And me
Grieving,
And believing that you
Were taken too,
Despite that, tonight
I remember you well,
And me drunk under lights,
A cheap line,
Pressing our lips,
Seconds of time,
And then never
A hint
Of anything else.

Climbing the Wall

I have known fear,
I must confess,
Yes, I have been afraid
To visit him
And get to know the world
As he had seen it
For reasons obvious,
Of course,
But also more obscure
More selfish
More vain,
Being concerned that
My efforts would merely
Pale in contrast to his,
That I would
Simply be
The poor relation
Who does no more
Than ape the
Genius
Of a previous
Generation,
That maybe
I just miss the point,
The crux of this craft,
In ways
He knew naturally,
Made look easy.
Fear there was, too,
That I would be
A copy-cat,
That I would
Steal his style,
Try to mimic
All his best verses
Or produce
No more than tributes
And carnival mirror
Images,

Despite the contradiction
That I show
No such reverence
To those names
Of great renown
Who moulded and shaped me
In the early days
Of this lonely
Apprenticeship.
And there are
Common details
That I cannot escape:
Each of us liked
To take our name
In its translation,
Loved to see
The places where
Old tradition
Lives on,
Dabbled
In the same vocation.
And I too Have known darkness,
Known exhaustion
And despair,
Though …