For the longest time, I’ve heard friends who have applied themselves to the foolhardy task of writing, speak of completing a book in birthing metaphors. Even men say such things.
I remember before I gave actual baby birth, my midwife told me that labor is the word for the birthing process because it is ‘hardest work you will ever do.’ The hardest day’s (or night’s) work. Indisputably true. So, why the comparison? This has not been an excruciating, short, sharp or fast process. Instead, it has been arduous, requiring, unforgiving, seemingly without end, and once the actual book is in hand, a whole new set of labors begin. Once birthed, it still needs to be pushed out, into the larger world. Yet for those of us who are still a tad shy, the notion of pushing anything that bears our name is almost as noxious as the idea of this new lovechild of ours going unseen, of dying through neglect, the absence of light, of being handled, read and maybe loved.
That seems to be the dilemma and the utter folly of this entire venture.
Once a book is birthed, the coaxing out starts. However at that point, I for one, would certainly prefer to sit back on my self-satisfied laurels, smile lovingly at this new manifestation, then go make a good cup of tea, read in front of the fire, rather than hurl my tender self out in to a larger world, to read, promote and sell. The secret hope (rarely admitted) is that mysteriously, it will get ‘discovered’ or taken on the wings of fairies to all those worthy hands and minds. That it will be found, because it is that good, that relevant, that artful and will fly, on it’s own wings. But that is not now it works, these days.
Whether you self publish or are picked up by a publishing house, unless you already have a very solid readership, you have to foster one. That means getting the word out; friends, generating readings, a book launch, interviews, some level of social media. Add a little therapy to my ‘to do’ list, to deal with the jitters of live readings, find an appropriate venue for a launch. Calculate whether the space is big enough or way too big because of course, I imagine a huge storm that evening, anticipate no one may come. To add to this rapidly escalating neurotic cocktail, each of my books comes with a book mark, with a download code for an audio recording of 11 of the poems. That involved take after take; the inevitable garbled word at the very end of a section, which forces yet another beginning. Hours in the studio, till at last and finally, I’m compelled into silence since I’m utterly sick of the sound of my own voice. As I say in one of the lines of a poem ‘I could go on and on’……
I discuss with others involved in their own creative endeavors the difficulties that this stage of the process requires of us. Often berate myself for bothering at all. Seriously wonder if it is simply some old fixated ‘attention need’ being acted out, and while there may be elements of that in the mix, my deeper sense is that creation of all kinds is ‘a relationship’, firstly between and within myself and then in relation to a larger world, with you, the reader. It is a circle that must complete itself by relating outside of itself. As Thomas Merton says, ‘a poem is meant to be read’. A mug is meant to be drunk from. A vase is meant to hold flowers. A book is meant to be held in hands that open it, feel the smoothness, smell the paper, allowing the words to find their own place and meaning within the chambers of heart and mind.
May it be so!
Because this book is poetry, ( and some prose), ordering and sequencing becomes as important as editing the individual pieces. This is the first (of at least 10 different) orderings. On the left is Erin Robinsong, editor and poet extraordinaire, on the right, myself, in appropriate be-fuddlement.
of Bone and Breath is birthed and has make its way out into the world. May she fly safely into your hands and hearts.
Available at this point through Amazon.com
and Boulder Book Store