On returning to old work

I think it’s necessary to point you to this post by the poet Molly Spencer and tell you to read, read, read. I simply love her advice on about re-using (or cannibalizing) old work. It’s true. Sometimes I had some really great ideas while I was a less adept poet, and/or I had an idea and it just didn’t come together the way I would have hoped. Those ideas/scraps/almost poems have lagged in drawers and desktop folders for a long time in the hopes of being re-discovered.

In the past, I’ve looked through old poems and stolen lines or images and fashioned them into a new one, one definitively better and more interesting. My writing style has changed a lot through the years, and sometimes an idea or image is best served in a new style or in a new context.

Staying in touch with my own work means I’m also thinking about the arc of my own progression, being reminded of old obsessions, re-discovering quirks and turns of phrases I could use in later work. It’s like going back into your closet and finding clothes you can re-stitch and make cool again.

I’m having surgery tomorrow. Poetry manuscript deadlines are November 15th. I’m concerned about how long the recovery time is going to be (it’s laparoscopic) and how it’ll affect how much I’m going to be able to put into this manuscript, but it’ll get done. Everything will be okay.

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