This February I celebrated my birthday in Puerto Rico. It had been five years since I had seen my family. I stayed with a close friend who made me feel at home. She lives near Calle Loiza, in Santurce, a working-class district, and I walked up and down that street every day, looking for new angles and things I may have overlooked. We went to Old San Juan, too, but stayed in Santurce most of the time. It’s a street photographer’s dream.
It was liberating to get away from the routine back home: going to the same places and yet not quite getting it right but tired of those places and going anyways.
I still think poetry surrounds us wherever we go, and if we’re poets, we’ll decipher it.
To capture it is another thing.
I took these images during a recent trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. These were in Calle Loiza, Santurce.
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.”
The print edition of my new poetry collection, The Elastic Dome, is now available from Amazon, along with the Kindle edition. Those who pre-ordered should expect copies within two weeks.
All the poems were typewritten, and several talk about typewriters and the writing life. The book features 38 poems. Seventy were written in a six-month period, and I chose what I consider the best. Several were published in national reviews.
My goal for this edition is to have 50 or more downloads, and at least 50 more for the print edition. The average chapbook sells 50 copies, so that would be an overwhelming success. However, I’m offering free downloads through Monday in an effort to get it into as many hands as possible. If you read it and have thoughts to share, please leave a review in Amazon.
Edwin Feliu is an author, journalist and artist. He studied and taught in Rome, Italy, where he collaborated with other artists and was mentored by Irish poet Desmond O’Grady. His poetry and prose have been published nationally and abroad. He was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and lives in San Diego.