Friday, February 16, 2007

A Ten Year Journey—Michael Bonacci

Reading each of the entries by previous winners of the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook contest, I felt at home in their stories. So often, those of us who write poetry can get immersed in the cyclical nature of rewriting, resubmitting and having our work rejected to the exclusion of trying to find something new to say. As Annette Spaulding-Convy wrote about her revisions to her poems about convent life (In the Convent We Become Clouds), I, too, made a conscious effort to reinvent my past, or at least the order of it.

I am a great fan of quantum physics, though I barely comprehend any of its principles. The Möbius strip has become emblematic of my poetic vision, if I have one. Time doesn’t have to be limited to a linear retelling, and when I realized the inherent freedom in that act of rebellion, earlier versions of my poems finally lent themselves to being manipulated to fit into the narrative as I wanted it to unfold, rather than the way things literally happened.

I really don’t believe this is an act of deception towards one’s audience either. At least for me, while rewriting the poems that eventually were published in my chapbook The Former St. Christopher, all the events in the poems actually occurred over a ten-year period of my life. But it was important to me that the ideas I had several years later, or realizations that came to me after the events, could be reflected in the current conflict of the particular poem. My “future self” reaches back to my current self to assist me in becoming aware of, but not always understanding or comprehending, the events unfolding in my life or the lives of those around me.

One editor (not at Floating Bridge Press!) once said my poems were relentless in dealing with my partner’s death and my decision to leave the Roman Catholic faith. I eventually came to agree with his opinion. I’m fortunate that the editors at Floating Bridge saw a glimmer in each submission to the chapbook contest that the future version of the manuscript would be more universal in its scope. It was my hope that a reader could be the “you” remembering what it was like to care for a loved one as he or she was dying, or would be able to understand, as I did, that sometimes you have to leave your faith behind, and even stop believing, in order to be receptive to new experiences and new relationships.

It took the painful process of being repeatedly rejected, or being a finalist at Floating Bridge and several other small presses, to scrutinize my collection of poems to the point of completely altering not only their order, but also their viewpoint. You can read similar stories under Kelli Russell Agodon’s entry about her chapbook Geography as well as Tim Kelly’s comments about his decision to focus on “clinically-themed” poems in his collection Toccata and Fugue.

It’s a gift to be in the company of such incredibly talented editors and fellow poets. And each chapbook is a work of art in itself—Jules Remedios Faye is an incredible letterpress artist and lends her vision to each manuscript. I remain deeply grateful, and humbled, to have had my manuscript selected and published by Floating Bridge Press.


Blogger Russell Ragsdale said...

Thanks to all for sharing this process on a blog. This is inspiring and very helpful. I am now aware of where and how to start putting together a chapbook. What a wonderful piece of luck to stumble upon this. Thanks again!

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