As Pause Mid-Flight started coming together a few weeks ago and I began letting people know about its release, a few enthusiastic souls asked me for a book blurb to help promote the chapbook/CD set during events. I was stymied - even after looking at several examples online and on my shelf, I couldn't wrap my mind around creating a simple paragraph describing the chapbook.
It's a compilation, really, a gathering of my poetry from the last decade or so, some published in small journal, others not at all, and one 'published' on a t-shirt worn by someone running around Greenlake, WA. I first heard about chapbooks from my favorite urban fantasy author, Charles de Lint. In his early writing days (and perhaps still), he publishes a story as gifts to friends and family once a year. His chapbooks were special bonuses, something he created himself to share with the people he loved. That sounded like a good idea to me - bring all my best poetry together and share it.
The idea reflected what I've learned from violinist Swil Kanim - whatever it is inside you to share and give, express it. Be generous. Because what you have is a gift from God, and it's not supposed to stay hidden, even if you think it's very small. Friends and family helped encourage me too, read my poems and said they wanted to read more. So the chapbook came together. I sent it out to a couple of contests last year, but honestly, my heart wasn't in it. When I didn't win the contests, I figured the poems weren't all that anyway and I shelved the project.
Briefly. Because there it was again, that idea of self-expression. So what if I didn't get picked up for publication? I know how to put a book together. I know how to layout and choose the right fonts and such. The chapbook creation process itself became an act of self-expression. The creative energy was back with me, not in the hands of another. (Mind, I'm not saying that seeking a publisher is a bad thing, it's just a different kind of energy.)
Now, the project could have stopped there with layout and design, but then I thought, hey, I know some cool musicians and there's this place called the Urban Longhouse where my friends jam and make stuff up. I wonder if they'd let me read some of my poetry at the same time? Then the project gained a whole new community. There was the community that supported me, encouraged me to write and publish the chapbook, even when my poetry was only semi-pro in quality. Then there was the community of artists and storytellers who saw in the project an opportunity for self-expression of their own.
Most of the tracks on the chapbook CD are improv pieces or riffs off of original music unique to each musician. They'd play, I'd pick a poem, and just start reciting. We'd do that a couple or three times, then we'd eat and chat and just be together. We recorded what we could, and my husband mastered the tracks, completed the final design of the chapbook and CD label. In the end we created a 44 page chapbook and a 12 track CD.
My name is on the cover and on the labels, but really, the project was a community effort. The communities who supported me are generous and I'm very grateful to them all. Tonight I did a pre-release reading at Swil Kanim's First Friday concert (and sold 4 books!) and the skeleton of a book blurb emerged.
My chapbook is about community - the communities I've lived in, the communities I've resisted, the community of my heritage and the community of the land I live on. The poems reflect my thoughts and feelings about those communities and how they interact with other communities for better or worse. Even in the Before Times, there was a community - Sky, Sea, and Wind.
I'm very grateful for the gift of community tonight, for without community, this project would have remained a burden on my brain and heart, instead of a beautiful book and CD that I'm very proud of.