The Fledgling Book Flies the Nest

          This post is more meditative and personal than most of my literary musings, but I’ve been thinking about various reactions to some of the poems in Sonnets.
          As I was putting together the final manuscript of Sonnets, naturally I made certain decisions about which to include and which to put on the back burner, perhaps for future revisions. As well, in the final, published, version, there are some sonnets that I feel closer to than others.
          But once my book goes out into the world, I have no control over which poems, to quote Dickinson, make readers feel physically as if the top of their head is coming off, and which, not so much.
          For example, one friend named a sonnet that he particularly enjoyed. It was one that in the editing stage I had seriously considered tossing. This has happened often enough to bring home the point that after a work is released into the world, the author becomes largely irrelevant, unless biographical information contributes to the meaning of a poem (my Katrina poems, for example)—and even then. Unmoored from the intentions and contextual significance in the mind of the poet, readers become, to use Barthes’ term, writerly. I might not share a certain predilection for or interpretation of a poem, but who am I to say? And it’s a pleasure for me to know how others are reading my work.
          At a reading, I sometimes find myself about to start talking about what the poem means to me and then catch myself, so as not to impose a set of significations to the poem.
          And in the editing stage, when I had trusted friends help me to edit the manuscript, one editor felt that a certain sonnet should be dropped, while another felt it absolutely must be included. I hated to be the one to break the tie, but more often than not, iI decided to include it, since at least one seasoned poet felt strongly about it, and I didn’t want to deny the little sonnet its chance to shine, even if only for a minority of readers.
          It can be illuminating and broadening to read other’s interpretations of particular poems. Not long ago, Bill Knott wrote a sensitive and insightful analysis of one of the sonnets, “comatose in paradise,” in which he gave it a depth of meaning and pointed out interconnected ideas that I hadn’t noticed before. As much pleasure and satisfaction as I derive from writing, it’s at least as gratifying to hear others’ take on the poetry. Perhaps it’s true that poets are the worst interpreters of their own poetry.
          I’m wondering what others think when they hear such unexpected feedback from others.

Camille Martin
http://www.shearsman.com/pages/books/catalog/2010/martin.html

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