Galician Poetry

The Background to the Editing of My Second Book, Santiago Sketches

I'm happy to announce that my second collection of poetry, Santiago Sketches, has been launched by Ireland's Salmon Poetry. Appropriately enough for a book set in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, publication date was 25th July, which is St. James's Day. (St. James the Greater being the apostle who, apparently, is buried in Santiago cathedral, which is the goal of the famous pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago). Here is the description from the back cover:

Santiago Sketches is a book of short, imagistic poems entirely set in Santiago de Compostela, where the small and the local are revealed to be universal, mirroring the process whereby this small city near Finis Terrae (the end of the earth to the Romans) became central to human patrimony and declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. Since the 12th-century Codex Calixtinus – the first Camino de Santiago guidebook – many books have been written about the paths to Santiago. Santiago Sketches is one of the first books in English about a year in that city to which millions have travelled, but which most arriving pilgrims depart after a brief stay. Here, McLoghlin uses his fluency in Spanish and Galician (galego), and his background as a Hispanist, to capture what Virginia Woolf called “moments of being”, and translate them to us."

I'm excited to present this book to the world, given that I wrote these poems originally in that Erasmus year abroad in 1993-94, but they lived in notebook form until, in 2009, I began the process of transcribing them onto my computer. At the time, I was on an artist's retreat at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig. The process was arduous, and with tendons like hawsers, it was carpal-tunnel inducing. Originally, back in 1993-94 I wrote the poems in small pocket notebooks while wandering for hours around the city. Then I transcribed them several times a week into hardback, page-a-day calendar diaries. All together, there were more than 1,000 pages of poems, mixed in with addresses, shopping lists, and the usual marginalia. After transcribing the "Yeses" and the "Maybes" to my computer, I let them sit from 2009 until 2013.

That year, after getting married here in New York and waiting for my permission to work to come through (I was in the initial stage of Green Card application, my year of Optional Practical Training post-MFA having come to a close), I took up this task again. The second stage of the editing process was to began winnowing. On and off, between 2013 and 2017, I polished and reduced, until I arrived at the approximately 60 poems that make up the book. Part of the reason why this collection didn't constitute my first book some time back in the mid-1990s, is because - as a 20-something - I didn't believe I had the editorial wherewithal to do that kind of labour. This wasn't laziness exactly or a lack of confidence but, I think, lack of ambition. It didn't occur to me to do it.

So, this book has been a collaboration - between my younger self as writer, and my current, older self as editor (by editor, I include all those parts of writing that are not just putting a pen to paper. As Rebecca Solnit writes in an excellent article in Lit Hub: "Remember that writing is not typing. Thinking, researching, contemplating, outlining, composing in your head and in sketches, maybe some typing, with revisions as you go, and then more revisions, deletions, emendations, additions, reflections, setting aside and returning afresh, because a good writer is always a good editor of his or her own work."

Editing your younger self is a fascinating process. I think the fact that the zero draft contained just over 1000 pages allowed my current editorial self the freedom to, initially, make a stressful and joyful mess, and then to slowly get more serious, and zero in on finer and finer levels of editing and distillation, until I reached the point where the final draft contained 6 percent of the original. (I first came across the concept of the zero draft in the book Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day by Joan Bolker. The zero draft is essentially that catch-all document that is pre-first draft. A draft may or may not exist, at that point.) The fact that the book's skeleton is seasonal, and month by month, was a useful structuring device to hold on to.

Practical details: If you live in Ireland, Europe or the UK, your best bet is to purchase it directly from Salmon's website, here. If you live outside Ireland, remember that Salmon will ship for free on orders over 20 Euros. (Given that the dollar is doing well against the Euro, and that the book is 12 Euros in Ireland, this is very good value.) You can also order it from your local bookshop, or from Amazon.co.uk. It is currently on pre-order mode with Amazon, and will move into full release mode with them on 26th September. If you live in the USA, you can support your local bookshop via Indiebound or order from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It's up to you.

The North American launch will be at Terrace Books in Brooklyn on 22nd September at 7 p.m. Have a look at my website's Events page for directions and further information about this reading, and upcoming readings in September and October. I hope to see you there. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions, or if you'd like to join my newsletter Hedge School to keep up with my news and to receive recommendations for further reading in the field of poetry: http://www.davidmcloghlin.com/contact/

Finally, in the next few weeks I will be regularly posting extracts from the book for your enjoyment.

"Evening, Quintana" - David McLoghlin | [WMAGP II]

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I'm very pleased for a poem from my new collection, Santiago Sketches (published on 25th July, which is St. James's Day) to be featured here on this superb and original blog about Galician literature. Click here to read more of this great post, which contextualises my work in terms of Galician poetry. To my mind, this is what good criticism is all about: apart from bringing work to the public's attention, it should also make us aware of interesting and surprising connections, and this is something that Patrick at Aslant on Bent Seas is doing here.