The Second Book

Last year was the first year I didn’t submit to the Yale Younger Poets Prize, and it wasn’t because I’m 40 (although it’s getting closer every day). Some of my favorite poetry books are published in this series. They aren’t the most polished books, but they have something raw, something new, something good.

Beth Ann Fennelly writes about how she worked so hard and long on her first poetry book that it became her second book. It was smoother, the experimental poems fell out. She learned more about her craft, she got better, and her book won a Kenyon prize.

I have a poetry manuscript that I’ve had for years. I’m very tired of it. I was explaining that to one of my friends at AWP, who told me something someone had told her. Start your second book, but keep sending out your first book. She had two poetry books published in a two-year period, and that’s how she did it.

So I’ve started my second book. (I’ve had three or four second books, one of which became my memoir because the poems sucked.) I’m thinking of killing my first book. Or possibly savaging it for parts.

When do you stop sending it out?


7 responses to “The Second Book

  1. I stopped sending after 16 queries. That may not seem like a good effort, but the comments made my decision. I was told I can write, one of our favorite agents said the writing was beautifully controlled and evocative, etc etc, and all were followed by the big BUT. The story is dark and depressing. I read it for the first time in months a couple of days ago, and it is. I’ve abandoned it for a future rewrite, maybe. My new book, the second one, is better planned. I’m not too disappointed over the first though. It feels like I cut my teeth on it. I learned a lot and hopefully, the second will benefit.

  2. Maybe you answered your question with this sentence? “I’m tired of it.” Move on, for now. It will always be there in the drawer, when/if.

  3. I’ve decided to give it a year, then reassess.

    I say this because when you tell people you’re like a monkey in a trap who won’t let go of the nuts clutched in her fist so she can escape and move on to other tra—uh, stories, they tend to give you the numbers of their therapists.

  4. Are you tired of it because you’ve read it too much, or are you tired of it because you can’t get it right? Take some time and work on your memoir. I think it’s OK to work on two (or 5) projects at once. Whatever gets you writing…

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