This residency has turned out to be a different experience to the one I imagined in my head. It wasn’t my plan to think about works-in-progress and how we edit/draft new work. But here I am thinking about it. Right now I’m not getting much of my own writing done: and not because there’s lack of inspiration, but because getting up with sunrise every morning (4am) is making my perception of time and the length of the days here very different to that at home.
In a previous post I talked about how Anne Sexton would draft and re-draft a poem 30+ times – and sometimes a lot more – and today I was comparing that to Carson’s precise edit-as-you-go process. Carson’s writing is taut and strangely evocative for such rigorous and scientific prose. Carson’s editor noted that the manuscript for Under the Sea-Wind was presented without a single typo or grammatical error. She crafted her sentences and paragraphs one-by-one, correcting as she went and ensuring each one was perfect before she continued with the next.
I envy Carson her process. I write like a blunderbuss scattering images and ideas all over the page. Then I go back and wade through the mess later. However, every now and then a poem comes out fully formed and complete. In my second book The Deadheading Diaries this happened with “Welcome to the Airlock” a very personal poem about my father’s family. And in my third full collection – to be published this November by Vane Women Press – there is “There has always been a delicate balance”, another single poem and example of a piece emerging in its final state.
It doesn’t happen often but when it does a poet usually takes what they can get: perfection is not possible but we can always strive to be the best we can. And in our own unique ways. I look to Sexton and Carson as interesting examples sitting at either end of the editing scale: both women were remarkable in their own way and I carry their work with me as I walk the dunes behind Beadnell beach.