A year ago today, I got my first copy of my new book while driving in a car along Harbord St., headed for the Black Swan Tavern to give a reading at Hot Sauced Words. It was a moment of relief and anxiety — relief that it was finally done after many years of doubt, but anxiety that immediately something would be wrong with it, that something had been missed like a really dumb spelling mistake. I worried I had not taken enough time and kept asking myself, as I flipped through the thing, Was this the best I could do?
But there it was, all red and gold and shiny, a reflection of its somewhat ostentatious title. Months before, I had agonized over letting it go. The manuscript had become a companion I carried everywhere with me over the course of a decade, and whether I sat in H&R Block waiting to do my taxes or in a damp streetcar on the way to teach an afternoon class no one would show up for, I would pull the thing out, and, in those spare moments, read and make notes and try to dream it into light. I did this for so long it became routine, and, at some point, that routine turned into the focal point of my life. When that ended, seemingly suddenly after the final round of copy edits, a deep emptiness settled within me.
That night at the Black Swan, I read poems for the first time out loud to anyone. In the months that followed, I would read them again, and would learn slowly to separate myself from them, to close in a little on that glaring emptiness. Mostly, this was because I no longer had them to work on. I could no longer change a word, an intention, a pause. And it did not matter anymore. The damn things were no longer mine. In the year that followed, I struggled, and continue to struggle, to accept this enormous change in my life.
But now it is spring again — time to rake up the soil and start something new.