Publishing The Elastic Dome, my new poetry collection, was anticlimactic. I got home late in the evening, exhausted: no feelings of exuberance and triumph. I drank merlot, wrote to a friend, and listened to records of Dylan Thomas reading his poetry. In hindsight, that seems fitting: writing is a solitary craft. I also knew there was a lot of work ahead marketing the book. But there was satisfaction in finally putting it behind me.
My last collection, Postcards from the Tattooed Man’s Chest, was published in 2007, and 10 years later I managed this one. The Elastic Dome didn’t take long to compile, though it underwent numerous revisions. I wrote 70 poems poems in six months; only 36 were chosen. It was a furious sprint, and there was an urgency to it. I think that’s partly because I began it shortly after dad died, and working on it helped me pull through, at least temporarily. But it’s not a book about grief: it’s about nothing in particular and everything of importance. I would say the underlying theme is anxiety, and that seems appropriate in an age of anxiety.
I’m still not in a celebratory mood: I feel relief, more than anything. It’s well documented that many artists undergo a sort of depression after completing a project. I don’t feel that yet. Instead, I moved on to other projects: another poetry collection due next year, titled Handlining Telegraphs; a play; a collaboration on rengas (linked verse); and work on my first novel, The Art of Spooks.
In the end, sales aren’t important to most poets: the demand for poetry is slim, and sales are often anemic. What has more value is getting a book in the right hands, someone who may enjoy a poem or two and remember my voice. To quote Dylan Thomas :
“When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labor by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.”