Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Closer than You Think

I'm in the middle of giving my first batch of students their semester exam. We're in block scheduling until Saturday and I'm currently fretting over whether or not my exam is long enough. They're supposed to be 90 minutes long, but I wasn't sure if that was 90 minutes for the average student, or if I should make sure the slowest student could finish in 90 minutes. Anyway, not looking forward to grading these bad boys, but very much looking forward to Saturday afternoon, Christmas parties, and flurries of snow/shenanigans.


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I liked this poem. But the ending made me raise my cynic eyebrow...
(see profile picture)

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Received an early Christmas gift last week. Passages North accepted the title poem of my manuscript ('After the Ark') and Crab Orchard Review took three sonnets from a sequence. Jazzed on both counts. Both places I've been rejected before, for whatever that's worth...


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As far as titles go--I worry about mine. Mayhaps because a certain poet-blogger whose opinion I respect denounced it before even seeing the manuscript (which makes me think, perhaps the title is just that bad). But a question for those of y'all who've had longer relationships with manuscripts: at what point do you consider changing the title? Did you actively try and think of other titles or did it just occur to you after much wrestling? I've been thinking recently that perhaps After the Ark shouldn't be After the Ark, which, to me, is a bit of an existential crisis...


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Killer first line of the moment will have to be delayed this week. I'm at school and poetry-bookless. Though I have been reading Sandra Alcosser's Except by Nature, which surely has several killer first lines.


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Because for us academic types, it is this serious:

11 comments:

Sandy Longhorn said...

Congrats on the acceptances at two great journals.

As for titles, with my first book, the title was suggested by my thesis adviser and came from a line in a poem. With this next book, I started with one title that came from the title of a series of poems. After a year of sending it out, I reworked the sequence and started doubting the original title. I read through the ms. for the sole purpose of looking for interesting lines that might work as a title. I eventually settled on one of about eight that popped up on the close read. Not sure if that helps. I completely understand the existential crisis mode on this.

Gary L. McDowell said...

I'm with you in your existential crisis regarding titling the first manuscript. I'm actually more comfortable with the working title of my second manuscript than I am with the title I'm using to send out my first book. Sick, right? I mean, I like the title I'm using ("American Amen") but I'm not entirely sure it fits the book as well as the other two titles I've used seriously since I started sending it out ("Young Teeth" and "A Poem about My Father Will Always Begin My Father"). I don't know. Titling is very difficult, especially when trying to summarize and conceptualize an entire collection of poems. Not sure how people do it successfully. Hmmm...?

Traci said...

The only major suggestion from my publisher was to change the title. I also read for a book contest last year, and one of the winning books was in my pre-screen pile, and its title then is not its title now. All of this to say, it seems to be okay to get the title wrong. A press can always suggest something different, and it doesn't seem to have a huge bearing on judging. The judges seem to be into the work, not the title so much. So I say, no worries.

Also, I know you blogged previously about at what point do you stop listing credits, and I noticed on a publication's blog today that they say the limit is 5 to 6. Who knows, but I guess that seems like a good place to stop, otherwise your bio turns into an epic paragraph, especially for you and all the acceptances you've been racking up. HUGE CONGRATS, by the way.

PS. Don't you think your blog should have more pictures of your puppy?

Traci said...

And I just checked my own bio, and I'm currently listing 8. Guess I need to get out the scalpel...

Luke said...

Welcome, all!

Sandy--interesting you mention that. The other title I've been considering is actually the title of a sequence that sits in the middle of the book. But now I'm set to pore through the thing looking for "title lines."
You've given me a mission...

Gary--Those are all solid titles, imo. But like you said, it's hard to capture the movement of the whole book, and I think when you do that it's almost impossible to not lean toward generalities. I have a feeling that regardless what stamp I put on the thing, it'll still feel incomplete--maybe this is just evidence that the range of the ms. is a little wide. Who knows...all good questions to open up to the growler of Selinsgrove IPA in my fridge...

Brimhall!--comforting to hear your experiences with contests and titles, at least to know that the book won't be dismissed simply for an inadequate title. That said, I'm still going to knock mine around and see if it can last a few rounds. As far as credits go, I'm happy to have a number to go by. 5 it is. Look at me all spare and humble. When does your book happiness become public book happiness?

Luke said...

Oh, and also, thanks for the happy congrats, all!

Gary L. McDowell said...

Luke, if you're ever down with a manuscript exchange, lemme know. I'd be thrilled to... but no worries either way.

And yes, congrats on all your recent successes!

Traci said...

Sadly it is not public happiness until next Nov/Dec, but still in time for your holiday shopping.

Good luck with the title struggles!

Marcus said...

Congrats on the pubs, dude. You're tearing it up, dude.

Keith said...

I had finalist nods with both titles (ABOUT RAVISHMENT it was before GHOST LIGHTS), and I think the common thing seems to be the press changing the title if they're so against it but absolutely love the book and have to publish it. I had people that liked the former, and people who hated it. Most seemed to like the latter, and I realized how much it fit better. That was, though, about a year and a half after I started sending it out. Sometimes it comes in a weird flash of light, and if it doesn't stay as ATA, then you'll probably have that moment soon enough.

I'd rather have a great book with a shitty title than the best title ever and garbage between the pages. Meaning: I'm not sold on the title as the be all end all of the book.

See how it stands out in open reading period and the contest world... (and we'll talk about our respective manuscripts soon enough!). But there's also something to be said about getting a ton of opinions on the situation.

Anyway, that's my two cents. We'll talk more later about all of this.

Congrats on all the acceptances too. I can't believe how much of run you've had. Awesome all around... and it seems like it ain't slowing down.

Matthew said...

Luke,

I came back in search of this post because I thought I remembered something about a title poem being picked up....Strangely enough, Passages North just picked up my current title poem, which may also shift. Strange parallel, but I'm happy for us both regardless. Keep on.