Erin, a former coworker of mine, sent an Instagram message to me this week. It was a photo of my first chapbook, open beside a cup of hot cocoa or maybe coffee. Ah, an Insta-share! Be still, my heart.
She told me how, after settling into her new home in Philadelphia, she ordered my book again. She had ordered it before, but something got messed up with the first order. “I love it,” she said. “I can hear your voice reading the words as I read them on the page.”
Holy moon buckets, I needed that! She went on to say “They’re all amazing.” And she told me her favorites. Erin’s message brought some brightness and joy to a somewhat dim and difficult week.
Why? Well, she’s a librarian, an artist, and a former fellow editor at Word Fountain. And to be frank, I’ve sometimes worried about that little book. It was my first, and I know intimately its flaws and shortcomings. I had been working on several manuscripts when I compiled that little chap, fishing for themes that might hold together, not just with new poems but with several very old ones as well, some previously published and some not. I feared it wasn’t my best work, but it was the first collection that someone had offered to publish—thank you, Finishing Line Press!
Sometimes when I read again through these poems, I feel a good flow going, a series of images and movements that create a mood. But often, I wish that I had adjusted a line here or there or waited until this or that poem had fully finished cooking. I don’t know, maybe that’s normal. I don’t intend to pull a Walt Whitman and spend the rest of my life updating, editing, and rewriting my first little book, but a couple of poems may find themselves tweaked and republished later.
Only three of them have insisted on alterations. One was set aright with just one word. Two of them needed slight modifications. I can always pencil in the changes, as I have done, at public readings.
Speaking of reading, Erin’s words encouraged me to read two that I hadn’t attempted to record before. They are both moon poems. The first is about the mother of my (now grown) children. I knew it was the right ending, yet something nagged at me that I hadn’t quite got the right words in the last line, and one or two bits begged for clarity. The jagged spots finally smoothed out as I read it today. It feels like my sort of poem now.
The second one is the first in the book and the oldest. It was originally published in 1996 in a university student lit mag. And while it took me 22 years to realize how to read it aloud properly, it hasn’t changed one line or letter in all that time.
Maybe you’d even consider donating a copy to your local library? That would be super cool.