Editing and preparing a poetry book is a wonderful process. It requires tact and delicacy as well as close collaboration with the poet. It just isn’t possible to spellcheck and copyedit such phrases as “quocking mongst a twittered groin” unless the writer is completely involved! This project had another layer of complexity as well, as isabella required that all writing is done in lower case, and she describes why in her introduction. Like all poets, isabella works with layout and line length and the look of the poem on the page, so again close collaboration was key to the success of this book. It took several iterations back and forth until we found the exact layout that worked for the poems, for the poet and for the publisher. I prefer to work closely with the writer so this process of review at every stage was very satisfying for us both.
This poetry project had the additional aspect of using images to illustrate each chapter section, requiring a more complex print process involving colour insert pages, which necessitated a more complicated layout and delivery to the printer. Happily, all this can still be done with print on demand, a technology that really does enable the printing of much more poetry than ever before.
Of course for years poets have been using the letterpress to produce their chapbooks and slim volumes in small runs. But poets without access to a letterpress can find this process quite expensive if they go to a print shop. Not only that, but the digital ease with which the print on demand process works means that the volume can be easily reprinted at any time, and at a relatively low cost per item.
One feature that differentiates this tea table book from other poetry publications is that the poet explains in prose the background to each poem, giving the reader another way in to the poem’s meaning and purpose. Balancing the prose and the poems, while still featuring the poem was a visual challenge that we both collaborated on.
One of the best aspects of being a book coach is seeing the final work as a book, not as an idea or as a manuscript. I sat down with the draft version of this poetry book and was amazed and impressed with the depth of feeling and the clarity of image that isabella had brought to the pages. The process was almost over (just a few minor tweaks to go) and the book was in its form at last. Poems from 1980 – 2006 were set out for all to read and relish. When the final version of the book was made public, the intense process had already vanished from our minds, leaving only the poetry – the voice of the poet.
For more on this book, and on isabella’s work, go to teatablebook.com.