Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Sometimes when I think how good my poetry sequence can be, I can hardly breathe."

For two months now I have been researching, pondering, and, recently, beginning to write a new poetry sequence. The problem: it's hard (in more ways than one). 

Growing up I always imagined being a novelist and would spend hours writing long stories, but when I discovered poetry I fell for the compression, for taking a story and trimming down. As most of my readers know I write almost entirely narrative poetry. They are often "story-like," but are small pieces I can mold and shape, that's not to say my poems are short. In fact I've been writing rather longish poems in the last year, but they are still manageable, because they are one piece and all interconnected.

What makes a sequence so difficult? For me it is thinking through the big picture and trying to make sense of all that I want to include and shaping it in a way that connects together, yet allows some of the poems to stand alone. It is the challenge of telling a longer story, but in multiple pieces. I can't just worry about the one poem. I have to worry about the poem that follows it and follows that one, etc. 

This is why, for the most part, I write individual, stand alone poems. Yes, they often connect in subject matter, style, and voice, but they are their own poems. I have only written two other sequences. The first was my Brad Pitt poems and these came easier to me because I didn't know I wanted them to be sequence until after I had written two or three of them. After I had those three poems, a lightbulb when off and I saw the whole project before me. I then went to writing the poems that needed to be written to fit my plan. I guess I work better this way. 

My other one is called "Confessions of an Open Relationship." I planned this one out from the start and it was difficult at times, but pulled itself together with a lot of work. In the end I enjoy this sequence, but have found that no one will publish it or even parts of it (maybe it is the subject matter). It is a sequence of 13 poems, but they rely too heavily on each other to stand alone, which has been frustrating, because few publications will print 13 of your poems. In many ways this is why the sequence was a bit easier to write than my current one: the poems and subject matter are a bit more narrow.  

This time around I'm feeling overwhelmed. This new sequence has the potential to be great and really challenge me in positive ways. I'm very excited about it, maybe too excited. I had so many ideas and information floating around inside my head that I had to plan it out on paper a week or so ago for fear that I would get lost in the middle somewhere. I've sketched out my plan for about 12 to 13 poems.

Honestly, underneath it all is fear. Sometimes I get ideas that I think are too good for me to be able to pull off. This causes me to freeze up and worry about fucking up. Welcome to the life of a writer, right? But I'm pushing forward with the sequence and hoping for the best. I have drafts of three of the poems and I'm praying to Truman Capote that the momentum with keep going and things will fall into place.

I don't want to say too much about the sequence as of right now, but I will say it involves a gay porn star, crime, prison, Armenia, and a crazed fan. 

Stay tuned.

Stephen (Capote) 

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