March 14, 2017 by Jaimie Gusman
I wrote a book.
7 years ago, I started writing the poems that would become Anyjar, my first full-length book, which will be out by the fabulous Black Radish Books this fall. I got the email that the book was accepted for publication just a few days after giving birth to my daughter. I was split and sewed and happy. Anyjar was my first book baby: I rocked and shushed and changed and hated and loved that baby. I felt so very full by her existence.
Thoughts on copyediting:
Who is this person?
Who wrote this book?
I used to be a sucker for articles. For pronouns. For gerunds.
I used to be 25 years old and obsessed with space. Creating enough of it. Protecting it when I had to. Offering it to others out of love or fear. I moved from a peninsula to Puget Sound. Water comforts me, makes me feel the infinite levity of space. When I moved from the Sound to an island where space is coveted and commodified, water felt heavy. I sat in my studio apartment overlooking a sliver of the Pacific. When I wrote a poem I imagined how the words would move through the ocean like light.
Space is survival. Ask any kid. Ask any mother.
Motherhood makes me want to downsize. It’s a way to make more room for my body. For my daughter’s body.
The first day of copyediting, I rearrange Jonie’s furniture. I pick up all her toys and organize them into baskets. I watch her take my sorting to task as she empties everything on the rug. While she naps, I break my manuscript into parts, give each section a space on the floor. I place my babies on their stomachs when they sleep.
I know I’m in there. Somewhere. That 25-year old who walks home carrying fifteen books in her arm. Sweating from the afternoon Makiki sun. Who places the books on her rented kitchen table/desk, between a toaster oven and a stack of plates. Who lights a match, reads one paragraph on the first page and falls asleep.
Between who I was and who I am is a line break
or a page break that needs to be finalized.
I try to remember what it feels like to have 500 sq. ft. to myself. Then, I remember to divide that by two.
I lay down in the office I share with my husband. I close my eyes and stretch my arms.
If this were a coffin. If this were a coffin.
Jonie’s first word is “eyes.” Then “eyebrows.” Then “Elmo,” who she’s only seen on the cover of a book we rarely read.
At the beach, we see a couple carrying two red canoes. Jonie points and yells, “Elmo!” as they disappear along the beach.
Book proofs, round 2:
I’m not sure there is much difference between the way I write and the way Jonie learns language.
I forfeit words for space. Jonie points into the abstract and waits for the words.
My daughter learned the sign for “all done” and “more” but she confuses the two by motioning one sign, then the other immediately after. I love this innate desire she has for a representation of meaning.
all done / more
white space / text / white space / text / white space / text / white space / text / white space / text / white space / text / white space / text /
I’ve written about a jar that’s been following me around for years. I drag it like Jonie drags her wooden dog by the orange shoelace leash. Whenever my husband or I wear drawstring pants, she wants to lead us around the house, laughing at the control she has over her parents. Anyjar has lead me in this directions.
I’ve let go of lines I’ve loved or needed at some point in my life. It feels so good to be able to do that, to bottle all of it up, add it to the repository.
In Anyjar, one of the quotes I used to ground the book is from Susan Howe’s Singularities:
All things double on one another
On to pure purpose
This is the tragic elliptical of history, but it is also about the infinite value of space.
Last proof: do I need to look?
The footer reads Anyar instead of Anyjar.
For fun, I google the mistake:
Anyar, Incorporated is an established Government Solutions provider headquartered in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, with a satellite office located in Atlanta, GA.
As a Minority, Woman Owned, Small Disadvantaged Business and certified 8(a) participant, Anyar delivers professional Research and Development (R&D) services as well as professional and administrative staff augmentation services to our government and commercial clients.
According to Wikipedia, Anyar is also “a Malayalam language film of India. It was released in 2003. The film deals with the hot topic of communal polarisation in Kerala.”
Kerala is on India’s Malabar Coast, and is becoming a popular tourist destination for its beautiful tropical landscape. Like where I live now, it is a colonized state.
I look up the many definitions of “polarisation” and settle on this: “the action of restricting the vibrations of a transverse wave, especially light, wholly or partially to one direction.” How fitting to think about over the days of executive orders and marches. Over the days of taking Jonie to the ocean, showing her how to make space for herself in a wave.
After hours of looking at the proof, I think it might be appropriate to leave this mistake–all of them. But, I don’t, of course. I note the correction, send it back and move on.