Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Revision Detours

The beginning

Directions were meant to be changed.
   One definition of a detour, from the OED on line:  A turning or deviation from the direct road; a roundabout or circuitous way, course, or proceeding. That's certainly the kind of trip described in Detours

"Detour" can also describe the revision process. Revision often means reaching the intended destination by an unexpected route. It means keeping the end in sight while allowing for change, serendipity, or that harsh-sounding alternative, deviation. As if there were a clearly marked path that must be followed without fail; deviation brings punishment (shades of Little Red Riding Hood). 

Go back!
Try again.
   Revision might be avoidance: skip the pothole, the puddle, the flagger ahead, the expected delay--a roundabout evasion that can be a time-saver, or just the opposite. 
Diverge, converge, diverge

   But destination is another of those fungible categories. To a point. Rewriting, reworking a piece can be a means to a different end. It can be a long and complicated route back to the beginning, trying to say what I thought I knew I was saying all along, or a circuitous route that leads somewhere else--a longcut, not a shortcut, to a place I didn't initially understand I needed to go. 
Are we there yet?

Go left. No, right. Go another way.

     As I've been collecting detour signs, I've noticed the designers of those alternate routes are revising as well. Maybe not quite making it up as they go along, but reconsidering, reusing. Stockpiling against future need. There are models everywhere of ways to write, ways to think. As the traffic engineers responsibly recycle last project's sign, I might joyfully find a place in this poem for the glowing line that wouldn't fit in the last. 

Summer possibilities

Past or future route?

Here, again, is one of my favorite detour signs, an evident work in progress: 

"Path" may have been "route"? Ahead or behind? This way or that?

Detours can be ordered from Burnside Review Press

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Detours (and Signs)

Some signs are more directive than others
Ordinarily, I grumble as much as the next person at the prospect of road work and its concomitant delays. But not lately: in preparation for the release of my chapbook, Detours, by Burnside Review Press, I've been collecting detour signs. Pictures of signs--I haven't stolen any yet. I pick out those orange signs in the distance and think not, oh, dread but oh, goody. My family laughs at me, but they help me look; strangers ask questions and I tell them, "Working on a little art project," that little meant to keep my activities just within the bounds of normal. I've gathered quite a collection, and snapped more than a few blurry smears out of moving vehicles.

Detours began as a detour from what I was supposed to be writing: my dissertation. More than a temporary variant on a routine route, it was a return of sorts--I started out writing poems and stories, not literary criticism. It's a side route I've maintained, sometimes in parallel, sometimes intersecting, as I've continued to write scholarly prose (I did finish that dissertation).

One way--only?

I think of Detours as a kind of journey. Fragmented, interrupted, but circling back on itself from time to time, the fragments interconnected. I'm interested in collecting, in splashed images and unexpected lights, in words that sound different in different places, and places that look different in different words. Roads taken and not taken, by chance or by design. 

Detours can be ordered from Burnside Review Press.

Rain or shine