This was the view during two weeks in December I spent on holiday in Dipper Harbour, a small fishing community on the Bay of Fundy east of Saint John, New Brunswick. I’d watch the lobster boats come in on early afternoons while editing, and a few hours later darkness would catch the sky in its big, embracing net. More than once my hosts would boil up lobster over a propane-fueled stove on the patio for an early dinner. More than once we drove along the highway to visit a vast, interlocking web of family– uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews. We were offered home-brewed wine and a seat by the wood-burning stove, and I saw firsthand how news travels amongst the clan, from person to person, so everyone knows everyone else’s business.
It was a good way to end the year. When I look back over it, my view is of small yet substantial gains. I taught my first workshop, I did more public readings, I wrote reviews and moved closer to the goal of supporting myself with teaching and writing. Most meaningfully, I worked on getting rid of the little voice that for the past dozen years or so, has needled me with whys: why aren’t you doing more? Why aren’t you done yet? Where is your book? Since finishing my MA in 2012 I have been revising my manuscript, more or less constantly. Many times I had thought that I’d finished it for good, only to begin all over again. A publisher I sent it to made few, but vital suggestions; I went back wearily to rewrite. I wanted, more than anything, to make the poems exciting to me again. I thought this might be impossible and that I would have to abandon the MS altogether. It wasn’t obvious to me until recently that of course, I would be fearful of letting go of it, even though this was my most apparent desire.
At last, though, the poems began to talk to each other. I was astonished to find that they still had something to say to me. After shuffling all the poems into folders ranging from those that needed the most help to those that needed the fewest changes, I printed out each poem as it was finished and put it aside in a brown cardboard binder. The rule was, once it was in the binder I could only make minor changes. Once I reach 37 poems, I will be finished. I’m not sure why I’ve chosen that number, it just feels like a good cut-off. I have passed the halfway mark and know, in my anklebones, that this will be the last draft. Many of us celebrate the year with beginnings. I would also like to celebrating our endings, our letting-gos. The sudden room we make when we allow for dissolution.