Indigo Moor is a poet, playwright, and author currently residing in Sacramento, CA. His second book of poetry, Through the Stonecutter’s Window, won Northwestern University Press’s Cave Canem prize. His first book, Tap-Root, was published as part of Main Street Rag’s Editor’s Select Poetry Series.
Three of his short plays, Harvest, Shuffling, and The Red and Yellow Quartet debuted at the 60 Million Plus Theatre's Spring Playwright’s festival. His full-length stageplay, Live! at the Excelsior, was a finalist for the Images Theatre Playwright Award and has been optioned for a full length film.
A graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Program—where he studied poetry, fiction, and scriptwriting—Indigo is a board member for the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, a graduate member of the Artist's Residency Institute for Teaching Artists, and former Vice President of the Sacramento Poetry Center. www.indigomoor.org
Poet and playwright Indigo Moor shares his advice on how to choose the poems for a poetry manuscript.
How to Sell Your Children (Part 01 of 04):
Preparing a poetry manuscript
I. Realizing it’s Time to Sell
You’ve been writing poems for six months, a year, all your life. You look at your computer, and the pages fly by as you scroll down. It looks like a good number of poems. So you print them out:
You sit down to read the poems. Peruse them carefully. Giving them the attention they deserve. After all, they have sprung from you like children, your cherished offspring. Even though many of them drove you crazy, you have come to love them over the years. Over the time consuming, soul-sucking years that you will never get back.
And it’s all those years that leap out at you now as you realize these children were born at different times in your life. And what you actually have is a loose collection of poems you hope can be cobbled together into a manuscript.
Twelve of them were written right after that first conference when you realized you actually have some talent, a voice. Three of them following the style of that poet you heard read at AWP; the time when you knew you had found your new voice; the voice that sang for about a month in your head before morphing back into your old one.
Nine of them came from that workshop where you learned the difference between parataxis and hypotaxis. Five from your blue period when you lost your job and the world spiraled down to chaos, Leonard Cohen, and Miles Davis at 3 a.m. A few from the regrettable period when you were madly in love with that person you saw reading on the subway every day, who turned out to be homeless.
Fifteen or so about your kids… or the kids you wish you had… or sometimes wish you never had. A handful from the prompts you got from that one website you were ashamed to tell your poet friends you went to when you were stuck. Five from your dream journal. And a bunch more from divine inspiration, the great beyond, or the Great Gazoo, i.e., you don’t know where the hell these poems came from and you secretly wonder if you wrote them. In short, you are looking at a whole gaggle of misfit children. They don’t look like each other. They don’t even look like they should be playing in the same yard.
Be patient. Look harder. The more you look, the more you see an ear that’s definitely from you, or one of your parents. A laugh that belonged to your uncle George. Your mom’s disapproving head tilt. Yes, they carry their own quirks and idiosyncrasies, but those are all your quirks and idiosyncrasies. They belong to you. And when you can see that, you’ve begun. It’s all you need to propel you to the hardware store, buy some rope, round up all your beloved children, and sell them off like cattle.
II. Pick Out Your Favorite Children.
Unfortunately, like children, how you feel about them runs the gamut. Some you are damn proud of. Many, you simply like. Others, you would rush into a burning building to save only if there are witnesses. And, let’s face it; there are some you would give to the gypsies just so you wouldn’t have to look at them again. This is fine to admit. Cathartic and necessary. No more of that “I love all my children equally” crap. It’s time to put them in categories and stamp a price on their tiny little foreheads.
Put all the poems on a table or, my preference, the floor. Don’t forget to put the cat and/or dog away. Spread the poems out. ALWAYS have them facing toward you, right side up. This part can be frustrating. Your mind will be racing. Don’t complicate matters by having to spin them around.
Put them in stacks:
1. Poems you love
2. Poems you like
3. Poems you don’t like
4. Poems you kind of like, but they need work
If you can remember that there are two categories separating “poems you love” and “poems you kind of like, but they need work,” you may save yourself a lot of heartache.
Coming soon… (Part 02 of 04):
Being Honest With Yourself and Your Children
(i.e., I like your brother better than you and this is why)
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