I took some students to hear Sandra Beasley read at another college in town (she was great, by the way), and, to research for the reading, I was perusing some of her work online and her blog. She has some great blogposts on how to promote your work when you have your first book coming out—so helpful!–but when I started reading through them, this thread of panic cinched in me.
I am terrified that people won’t like it. won’t think it was good enough, will think it’s cliché, disrespectful, too revealing. oh all the things people could think. And not just people,in general, but people that I want to think well of me—mentors, friends, family, students. There will be, at some point, a negative review that I’ll have to face (or maybe I can just not read it?); and, despite years of workshop, I don’t know if my skin is quite so elephant-and-leathercouch thick that I can take, with a smile, a rejection of the entirety of my life’s work as a poet.
My book is not meadowlands(is anything meadowlands? Is meadowlands even meadowlands?), but I hope that, when my people read it, they like and understand most of it. I expect to get a few calls from family members asking what a poem means and if a poem is about them (likely, yes), and a few comments from friends that I probably got my theology wrong somewhere or other. and I’m sure when I’m reading through the actual printed in-my-hands copy for the first time, I’ll bemoan the poem order at the end of section three I was so sure about or wish I’d taken something out or added something in or broken the line here instead of there.
Revising is never finished—and the thing I am most excited and afraid of is letting this book finish. it was the right time for Keeping Me Still to stop being a manuscript and become a book—it’s complete in itself, and I’m ready to write new things. I just need to be a little braver about letting go of this first work and giving it over to others—to you, dear readers.