Balancing precariously on her dashes
A final edit of a manuscript, in this case a volume called Sailing Her Navel, can be a harrowing experience. It calls to my mind Ezra Pound’s heroic edit and downsizing of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, Eliot’s landmark poem. Not because I compare myself to Eliot or Pound, but because the process is perilously demanding. You might see where you lost your way, where your cadence or rhythm broke down, where you became entangled in your rhetoric, where your thoughts failed to emerge clearly, where you struck an insincere note. The perils are myriad. Pound’s great love of poetry impelled him to undertake this uncertain journey for others, and this beautiful impulse goes a long way towards mitigating our view of his unbeautiful politics. Perhaps the biggest risk is that you should lose confidence in your project altogether.
So far I have eluded that eventuality, but I have ruthlessly revised, redacted, restructured and otherwise savaged works I once thought whole and complete. I have never been fortunate enough to have a champion as many poets had Pound or as Hart Crane had Harold Bloom. Put down it down to a reclusive streak, a perverse view of what is called networking as self-service, or whatever.
Pound might have reduced Sailing Her Navel to a chapbook or he might have advised me to stick to my first real profession, that of sailor. But who knows? As a young and much more ignorant man than I am now I didn’t imagine what Ole Ez might have said, but I did wonder what Gerard de Nerval, Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud might have advised me. (God help me, visi-a-vis Rimbaud.) And I did imagine chatting with Emily Dickinson, precariously balancing on her dashes.
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