Lately, I've been thinking about all the questions we ask ourselves as a manuscript comes together. What to keep? What to leave out? How to structure the book? How to avoid the famous saggy middle? Should the book have a rising arc? Sections? Interwoven themes? Transitions or interlocking images between individual poems? More importantly, what are the poems trying to say? What am I trying to say? And what is the most effective way for this book to say it?
The photo above, taken by one of the guests at our B&B, represents some of these structural and aesthetic concerns. How to balance the difficult and prickly with the lovely and lyric? Does the collection need cohesion, symmetry, balance? Or will the poems naturally fall into place? How can the aggregate form something that allows the details of the individual pieces to shine, but still offers a collective experience? How to maintain a sense of intimacy and close observation while also providing a striking vista of the whole?
Every collection is different, of course. And every poet strives for objectivity, trying to see their work with fresh eyes, trying to see the forest despite all those individual trees, or, in this case, petals.
Jill McCabe Johnson's research and writing practice follow the tradition of the French Medieval poetic form, the "chanson d'aventure" or song of adventure, where a writer walks into a new environment for enlightenment and inspiration.