And then, I had to wait….
I continued to feel a mix of excitement and apprehension, but I’ve had to concentrate on more immediate obligations, such as rehearsing with University Chorus and working on poetry with Binghamton Poetry Project, Sappho’s Circle, and Bunn Hill Poets simultaneously.
But now, with less than two weeks to go before traveling to North Adams and Mass MoCA, the conference is drawing more and more of my attention and emotions. Part of this is increased communications from the organizers at Tupelo Press, including photos of our residency apartments just across the street from the museum. I know that we are a group of seven at the moment; the maximum number was eight, so there is still a chance of another poet joining us.
The main preoccupation for me at the moment is the request to bring ten poems to the conference for workshopping, which means critique. It’s not that I don’t have (many more than) ten poems that could use workshopping; it’s figuring out what to bring.
On the one hand, I want to bring work that is strong and current, but most of that has been workshopped with one of my local groups, has been published, or is ready for submission. These poems have the best chance of putting me in a good light with the other poets and the poet/editor who will be leading the conference, but it is awkward to ask for revision for something that has already been published, although it could be helpful to fine-tune a poem that may one day make it into the chapbook or collection I aspire to assemble (at least on my more confident days).
On the other hand, some of my early poems – well, not really early in terms of my lifetime, but things that I wrote from 3-5 years ago before I connected to Binghamton Poetry Project, which led to my other groups – could use the help. I find it especially difficult to revise things that I wrote before I started to read and study more poetry; somehow it is easier to use my new skills in writing poetry than it is to apply my new editing skills to older work. However, these poems could make me look less competent as a poet and are often deeply personal, which makes critique seem especially (potentially) brutal.
The decision is not helped by the fact that I don’t really know the range of experience of the poets who will be attending. In my imagination, I will be the least experienced in the group, although that may not be the case at all, as the conference is open to any serious poet, published or not. I am toying with the idea of bringing along more than the requested ten poems, mixing some older work with some of my newer poems, and hoping that we don’t have to hand ten over at the beginning of the conference, so that I can tailor the poems I workshop to the group of poets in attendance.
Given that we have to bring twelve copies of each poem, the only risks would be wasting paper and ink and possibly arm strain from lugging so much paper around.
So, am I overthinking this? What would you choose? I’d love to hear your advice in comments here, on Facebook, or in person.