Today I begin my long-awaited writer's retreat weekend. My bag is packed, sparsely. After all, it's just a three-day trip. But imagine my angst over what to take. Oh, not the clothes, another pair of jeans, a warm layer or two, and the toiletries kit that's always ready. I've studied the map and will shortly print out the directions to the house where I'll be staying. No, the big issue is what work to take with me. After all, I have at least six writing projects on my list, all of which deserve work. But this retreat weekend has me considering my focus. Right now I've tossed in my reading supplies, a copy of the Best American Poetry 2008 and Back to the Castle by Vaclav Havel (think about transition of regime and read this one), but reaching for a notebook, I went for the poetry. This might be a decision based on the good time I had at a reading last evening, or that I won this weekend in a poetry contest, or just the wish to sink into what I know best. So the dog and the poems will go south with me, once the fog and traffic clear.
What will I come home with? I have a hefty stash of poems that have never found a home and it's time to look at them with a sharp eye. One editor recently returned a manuscript with a request that I up the intensity of the language. Not an unreasonable request, but I don't automatically follow such suggestions from one reader. I want the poems to have more than flash and filigree. I want substance, meaning, memorable images. Typically, I don't compose well in a new location, so revising with these things in mind will be a logical goal for me. And maybe not having my usual distractions around will allow me to focus. Coffee, a couple of books, a lot of poems--I'm ready. I'll report back on Monday.