I am reading at Much Wenlock Poetry Festival this weekend as part of the Nine Arches Showcase with Abegail Morley and Isobel Dixon. Excited but nervous is probably the description that bests describes how I feel about it. A friend of mine suggested that I blog about the experience, which I may do if I have time.
Having a book out is tremendously exciting but it also makes one feel a little weird - it is after all the culmination of a lot of (years) work, so there is inevitably a feeling of anti-climax and something ending. There is also the realisation, as the book gets nearer to being in my hand, that other people are going to read and judge it. Having a poetry collection is very different to having poems published in journals. If a poem is published in a journal people either like it or they don't like it and move on. With a collection each poem isn't simply judged on its own individual merits - the body of work is looked at as a whole. The poems have to work together, but be different enough to one another to hold the readers attention and not make them bored. There has to be no feeling of padding - poems that are in their as filler - that perhaps aren't doing enough to earn their place. For a first collection there is also some extra pressure - as it is your first foray into the grown up poetry world - people will judge you more on your first collection than on subsequent collections. It is your first and possibly only chance to grab the poetry reader's attention, if a reader thinks your first book is weak they may not ever look at your work again.
I think it is also very important that the first collection feels like a fully realised whole and not the best poems you have written over X many years - a greatest hits almost. This is a trap that I have seen a few first collections fall into. A few strong poems and then the rest feel like filler. I have mixed emotions when I read a book like that - happy to have read some good poems, but tinged with a sadness that it wasn't good all the way through, that the poet didn't have the courage to wait longer (until they had more really strong work) or to put out a pamphlet rather than a full collection. I am hoping that my collection doesn't fall into this category. I feel confident that it doesn't because I waited and didn't publish too soon, and because I had Pascale Petit as a (most excellent) mentor and she threw out quite a lot of the padding and sent me away to write more. Working with a publisher then adds an extra stage of close editing - where poems are tweaked even more, and more poems are thrown out.
Well I will have the book in my hands in a couple of days - and it will be unleashed on the public. I wonder what they will think.