Selected Poetry 2012-2014 is almost here, it will publish in May 2015.
I thought you might be interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the process of putting together a poetry print book, ebook and audio book. For this project, I worked closely with literary strategist Yen Ooi on concept, design and formatting.
The first step was for me to decide which poems I wanted to include in the selection. As I looked back over three years of writing poetry, I was struck by how many poems connected to what I’ve been writing about in my fiction and nonfiction at the same time — especially around the impulse and flow of the creative process itself.
I had been unconscious of this until I did this look back and review and saw them through that lens. Once I did, I found myself organizing the collection around three themes: Reach, Hold and Return, which for me is the rhythm of life, the pulse of the creative process that brings everything into being.
And out of being.
From something as momentary and intangible as a breath to something as solid and long-lasting as a mountain: every thing in the physical world is born, holds life for a while and then, in time, returns to the mystery out of which it was made.
These poems celebrate and explore this rhythm, the flow and ebb of creation. As do, in a quite different way, the Go Creative! Books and the WB Yeats novels (fiction about a great poet) that I’ve been writing over the same period.
Another factor: I was looking for poems that still felt relevant, months or years after I’d written them. Many of the shorter and slighter poems didn’t make the cut — though some “shorties” were retained, if they fitted the organizing theme of reach — hold — return.
The pamphlets shared a strong image and design (the work of Andrew at Design For Writers). Only the colors varied. I immediately thought it would be great if we could integrate the ‘selection’ in a new, different cover, that would incorporate the three colors in a new and vibrant arrangement.
I approached illustrator/designer Paola Pagano, whom I’d worked with on another project, with the brief. We were very pleased with the image that she came up with, which captured and collected all our ideas, and caught the sense of the poems.
You can see here how the three colors are represented, how the image of the flower is updated with the contemporary brush strokes, yet the title font clearly carries over the sense of the three previous pamphlets.
[Orna] Audio recording
When I started publishing my own work, I started with poetry. My logic was: poems are short and very structured and so easier to manage. If I made a mess of things [I am not the most technologically gifted person in the world], the poetry-reading public is very forgiving [and very small!].
Similarly, when I started to produce audiobooks this year, again I started with poetry and I’m really glad I did. Reading your own work is a daunting experience. I think everybody is surprised by, and recoils in some way, from the sound of their own voice.
Certainly I did.
Being Irish, and not in any way an actor, means departing from the received pronunciation and reading style that features on most audiobooks produced by trade publishers.
But I’m told readers love to hear authors reading their own work. And as an Irish person who is old enough to remember when this accent was widely considered not different, but wrong, it feels transgressive and empowering to read it myself. Always a good creative feeling.
So I hope my Irish accent and deliberately low-key delivery doesn’t put off those readers who’ve already enjoyed the words in written form.
Staying with this through the inevitable creative doubt and challenges, recording and rerecording with sound engineer Joe at Resident Studios, was another step forward in my confidence, and competence, as a self-publisher.
And again, poetry has been a gateway. I’ve now moved onto recording non-fiction too, and I’m considering that I might even [scary, scary thought] record some fiction, someday, too.