On The Beauty of It
Announcing…my new baby!
It’s my second published chapbook, and it came out, from Sheltering Pines Press, this week. My author copies were in my mailbox when I got home Monday afternoon. I have been waiting for them breathlessly since Annie Farnsworth, publisher of Sheltering Pines, told me that they were going to press. Actually, I have been waiting for them breathlessly since January, when I received the email telling me that my manuscript had been awarded second place in the SPP annual chapbook contest. That’s a long time to be holding one’s breath, to be certain. And now, finally, I can exhale.
I have to say that I was thrilled to be the runner-up in this chapbook contest. First place received a cash prize, publication, and 50 free copies; second place received publication and 25 free copies. Money is always nice, of course, but if you’ve been submitting pieces for as long as I have, holding your published work in your hands becomes far more important. Knowing that I would be having another book, back in January, was enough to send me into ecstasies. It helped me get through the long dreary winter. Come to think of it, that knowledge perked me up all through the spring, summer and fall, whenever I thought of it. A book! Another book! And it’s mine, mine, mine.
There are parts to the process of publication, too, which were fun. Choosing the cover art, for instance: when Annie sent along the photo we decided upon, by Laurie O’Neill and entitled “Remnants of Summer,” I was tickled, and promptly showed it to all my friends. With only one exception (and you know who you are), who thought it was too sad a picture, everyone liked it. I love the colors, myself, and the idea that there’s something over there on the other side of that fence. As Annie said, it reflected on the theme of the chapbook, that there is something better…over there. Maybe. That’s the beauty of it. You have to keep looking.
The title page of the book is lovely, too. It’s got my name on it! That’s enough to make any writer euphoric. Then there’s the
dedication page. I had such fun putting that in the manuscript, dedicating the little book to four of my greatest friends, the members of Simply Not Done, the women’s reading, writing and teaching collective the bunch of us formed in graduate school, in the Stonecoast MFA program of the University of Southern Maine. It’s a wonderful thing, being able to give a group of critical–but loving–women, who read and re-read every piece that made it into the manuscript, a present such as this. I love them. If they hadn’t figured this out before they get their copies and see that page, they’ll surely find out now.
Then there are the poems themselves. Many years ago, I wrote a brief article for Maine In Print, the publication of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, about putting together a chapbook. At that time, I emailed Annie Farnsworth at Sheltering Pines, asking her as a publisher what she looked for in a chapbook manuscript. Her reply was that she liked a narrative arc, some one theme that held the collection of poems together. The Beauty of It is about marriage and divorce and heartache and afterward knowing that it’s still possible to be in love with the world. (There is, after all, something on the other side of that fence.) I can thumb through the chapbook and name to myself the impetus for every single one of the pieces included, though they came into being not all at once, but over a period of many years. Still, when I was thinking of constructing a chapbook to enter into the Sheltering Pines contest, these were the 17 that seemed to want to live together. So I built them this home. The title poem, “The Beauty of It,” appears near the end:
The Beauty of It
Surprising beauty in unlikely places.
This afternoon, white smile, dark skin:
the hard-hatted man weaving his hands
through the elevator wiring in the grime
of South Station, plucking the strands
as though at the strings of a harp, or
at my own heartstrings, for that matter,
as he offers to lug my suitcase down
two flights of stairs to the subway platform.
I love this man. He must know it. As much,
perhaps, as I love the waiter twenty years
my junior, his black hair tumbling
over his black eyes as he pours Beaujolais
under the awning on Montmartre,
both of us looking forward to the intimate
moment when we link fingers and press
that secret coinage from palm to palm, skin
warm, tip cool. In some place
of longing beneath my walking from work
to the bus stop, from the bus stop to home,
I know: they are out there, jewels
littering the path, men to make my blood
pound, my skin tingle. Like the sweet fruit
inside the prickly outer shell, they demand
the work of looking. Just as the poet,
after the dissolution of the master class,
when we slipped into the whiteness of a light
snow, leaned in the car window to kiss
my cheek as a snowflake might in its drifting.
– (© Anne Britting Oleson, 2010)
That pretty much sums it all up.
Now this little book can take up residence on my bookshelf, with its older sibling, The Church of St. Materiana, which was published by Moon Pie Press in 2007. The two are, after a fashion, my children. I hope to be fruitful and multiply: I hope to have many more.
Would you like a copy of The Beauty of It? Go here and the magnificent publisher will set you up with your very own copy.
For that matter, would you like a copy of The Church of St. Materiana? This would be the place.