Yesterday, the books came, marking the end of months of editing, proofreading, checking the proof, talking with designers and photographer, and hundreds of emails to and fro with the press, and the 93 contributors. When I thought of doing the 150 Kansas Poems site, the idea of a book was just a glimmer (as in, “This might be a cool book”), but as the site unfolded, the poems shone brighter, and Woodley Press indicated some interest in publishing an anthology, a book became inevitable.
The space between a book’s inception and the box of books arriving isn’t often pretty, and it’s always far more complicated and challenging than any writer or editor imagines. I learned even more how much I hate rejecting people’s poems, particularly when some of the rejectees take it personally. I struggled with how to organize 150 poems, finally settling on a seasonal approach, and then finding ways to fit the poems together like a puzzle that would reveal a narrative of moving through weather, places, changes and realizations. There were many details to check over and over. “Begin Again” isn’t just a title of a wonderful poem in the anthology by Nancy Hubble: it’s a way of life for anyone putting out a book.
At the same time, I worked with great people — Kevin Rabas and Dennis Etzel at Woodley Press, designing poets superb Matt Porubsky and Leah Sewell (who also fed me at the fabled Porubsky’s in Topeka), and photographer of the skies Stephen Locke. Holding this book in my hands, looking at how artfully the photograph wraps the cover, and how full the book is of poems of so many stripes and spots, I’m very happy……and happy it’s done.
Now that Begin Again is finished, we begin anew to do readings – over a dozen happening soon or in the works, and some in a city near you. I’m especially looking forward to a Southwest Kansas tour (Garden City! Ulysses! Dodge City!) where we’ll bring a little poetry roadshow to a corner of the state where there aren’t many readings (I’m told our reading in Ulysses will be a first).
The book is beautiful, the poems are gorgeous, and where the book leads us now will bring many writers in this state and beyond together in ways we’re just glimpsing at the moment, kind of like the notion of this book itself less than a year ago.