Today's blogpost is going to be a rambling mess of my talking about the disarray that is my current poetry manuscript. You've been warned.
Since finishing Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots, I've been having some serious issues getting my barrings straight on the next manuscript. This isn't a new phenomenon for me. In fact, I tend to feel a sense of loss and sadness when wrapping up a book-length project, followed by anxiety to figure out what the next book is going to be about. Maybe it's because people are always asking me, at readings, at work, in workshop, "So, whatcha workin' on now?" or "When's the next book coming out, Katie?" and, well, to be honest, I'm the type of person who's hugely motivated by the idea of end goals.
So, when that end goal is nebulous? I kind of freak.
That's how it's been for me these past few months. Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots was a huge undertaking, and even after ruminating on the theme of feminist goddesses for the duration of my writing which was over two years, I felt that I wasn't QUITE ready to let it go. Let it go, Katie. Seriously. Let it go.
This summer, my main goal, to be completely honest, was to shape my manuscript, figure out what it was all about. For the first month (May) my poems were mostly memoirish, based off my recent experiences with pain, disability, and healing. But meh. I'm really not a very interesting person. And not only that, but I really don't want my condition to define who I am as a poet, much less as a person. So getting some space from that I think was a mental necessity.
So I moved on, began writing different kinds of poems, too, alongside those. At a loss, I went back to the whole idea of writing what you know. And what do I know? Well, revisionist myth, of course.
Enter. More Eve poems. Ugh. I thought I'd been banished from the Garden of Eden when I finished The Garden Uprooted! Apparently not. Then I wrote a small batch of fairy tale poems, which, too, is familiar ground also explored in The Garden Upooted. Meh. Same poem over and over again much?
Then, in early June, I stumbled upon a call for submission for Wild West persona poems from Dos Gatos Press. I love the work they put out, and something in me really wanted to submit to this anthology even if I'd never explored that theme before and had nada. I started looking at interesting women heroes from the wild west and wrote two persona poems I was pretty ok with. Good enough for a submission!
But as I was doing my "research" (ok, reading wikipedia articles don't judge), I read a retelling of the Pecos Bill legend, and low and behold, he had a girlfriend/wife that I'd never heard of. Her name is Slue Foot Sue, a wild child of rural West Texas who among other things rides a giant catfish up and down the Rio Grande. The really weren't many legends about her, aside from those relating to her relationship with the infamous Pecos Bill. Hmmm...
So, I figured what the hey. If there's no folklore about her, then why not write some? And so was born my next project :)
I've got about 15 or so poems about ol' Sue. They're rough, but her story (or, rather, lack of story) has been inspirational. In a sense, I'm creating her narrative, her epic, of her life before she met Bill. And you know what? In my story, she's stronger, faster, and fiercer than he'd ever hope to be. I'm writing her epic in a mixture of blank verse and sapphic meter, though I think I'm going to stick to BV to really give it that umph... maybe just a few lyric poems here and there in sapphics.
It's been fun, and it's helped me to develop a central theme to work towards on my next book. I'm thinking of something along the lines of "The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue and other legends" and sprinkling it with some of my other revisionist myth poems that didn't make it into Goddess.
So phew, ok, now I know what to tell folks when they ask me what I'm working on. Instead of blumbering out "Oh, you know, women, vagina, feminism, body, Texas, revisionist myth, more vagina" I can actually create a coherent sentence. That's probably a good thing.