There isn’t much left to be done. The proof reading, the book blurbs (they take longer than the poems), the nice quotes from other writers, all done. And the covers are looking amazing, like real books by real writers. It is all pinch-me territory.
As I head for the hills (which is actually the sea this year) I reflect on my conversation with a senior contemporary (I like that phrase, I wish I had thought of it before) who once complained to me about the ‘inevitable’ writing slump they fell into once a new book found its way into the world. I was having none of it. I told them to stop being so precious and to email me their next book the following week. I am still waiting to hear back from them.
I am a fine one to talk. The gaps between my own books seem to be lengthening. The last four go 2002, 2006, 2012, 2019. Only a year longer than its predecessor, the last one feels especially long. At this rate my next volume will have people queuing round the block in 2027. Which feels a lifetime away. I’ll be in my sixties. I should get a move on.
And yet, on the way to doing something else this morning (story of my life) I opened up a computer folder and saw that ‘the next book’ (I have no idea what to call it. I tend to give them sexy titles like ‘Working Manuscript’) is already populated by a reasonable handful (more than 6, less than 30) of actual poems I am pleased to put my name to. One of them even caught my eye as a possible title poem.
All of which might mean something, or nothing. It is perfectly possible I have just jinxed the whole enterprise (not that I believe in that sort of thing, not for a second). And I know I have been here before. A year or so after Riddance (2012) came out I was convinced I already had the makings of a new book, as though the poems had seeded and grown themselves overnight, like mushrooms, somehow without my involvement.
All I know is, somewhere between my copper-bottomed certainty that I have been doing no writing at all and my equally unequivocal belief in the process, it turns out some actual writing has definitely been happening during this supposedly quiet interval, quite possibly without my permission or knowledge. I take this as a good sign. It shows that the whole thing has a life of its own, and will take, as we like to say, as long as it will take, like making wine, or a baby.