Thursday, July 16, 2015

Updating Old Poems

I thought I had lost my big black 3-inch manuscript clip binder with all my poems, notes, publications, awards, from last century, etc., in it. It was my master copy, my hard file, so to speak. The other day, while I was sorting papers, I found it in a crate in the back of the closet.

Last summer, I decided to put all my poems up online via my blog, not because I think they're particularly wonderful or have literary merit, but because all my old electronic files are slowly going senile. Some are disappearing as well. It's not like there's a reader stampede to my blog either, some of those poems have been posted for ages and they've not been read once. This is my safe deposit box.

I have had a very hard time accessing the files from the 1980s, SimpleText, AppleWorks (the original version), and MicrosoftWorks, are no longer supported on any platform. OS X can't access most of those files.

Some electronic files were lost forever. Some turned into grey Unix bricks. Most, I could force open with TextEdit, but they were an ASCII clean-up nightmare, with all kinds of artifacts embedded in the dense prose block that looks like it's simultaneously swearing and sneezing while constipated and groaning.

Then there were the files that were only half there. I kid you not. Some had chunks missing in the middle, most had the lower end lopped off. And then I didn't have valid creation dates. Not to mention what poem was published where, or won awards...So I was pretty jazzed to find that binder.

I spent the day going through each hard copy of poem, and adding creation dates, publications dates, and other versions. Seventeen (17) hours later, I'm still at it, I'm up to W in my MS book. Nearly there. My eyes no longer work after that many hours of proofreading, so I used my iPad to magnify my faded pencil notes. Fancy magnifying glass. Brilliant! But I'm flagging. So, i can report most of my typed poems are up in the cloud, well on Blogger.

Blogger, yeah. I'd like to shoot it. What a buggy program. even with faster internet, it constantly hangs, and tells me in red banners that an error has occurred while trying to save  or publish my post.  Please try again. Ad infinitem. Try & get out of that loophole and not lose all your work. Yeah. Like this post, right now. I can't update it.

Notable disaster areas were poems from the 1980s, especially 1989. I had hard copy of several poems and no electronic file. None. POOF! Where did it go? Not good at all. Also, the early 1980s poems are also MIA. I think I have hard copies somewhere—hand calligraphed, as I didn't have a typewriter in those days.

As to the 1989 MIA poems files, in desperation, I began taking photos of my fileless hard copy poems and posting the jpg up as a placeholder, poems to be transcribed and typed up at a later date. I wish I had OCR software, but it usually is more trouble than it's worth by the time you've corrected the typo. Almost as bad as the ASCII bricks.

Still to do: prose. But tomorrow is already here, so I needs must sleep. But, oh, the memories unleashed by a poetry retrospective timeline. There'll be wicked dreams tonight, I'm sure.

NB 11/19/2015: I've made some serious inroads publishing old work as I began with 20 weak years worth of not enough posted work. The hunt for errant poems, and poems MIA (still quite a few to ID, but I've typed many of them up), is that through a series of mishaps, I've been able to pinpoint when many poems were written, and in some cases, post several iterations below the finished poem. When I finally process all my old papers and files in Forestville, it will yield many more poems, I'm sure. Right now, going to the source, my journals, means that I may wind up with two completely different versions of poems.

Years still left to fluff out (updated—there were 20 entries, 5 months later, I'm down to 6, the end is in sight.  —11/21/2015.):
    When I get at least 20 journal entries for each year, then I'll up the ante, my ultimate goal is a minimum of 52 bits of writing per year. Which means revisiting my old journals, and looking at my prose as a source. Not something I would've considered typing up, way back when!)

If you're reading this and wondering why I'm bothering to keep score, this is a series of notes to myself, so I can keep track. Also, when I grow weary of the process, I can at least see that I've accomplished something. I gain huge satisfaction eliminating yet another year from that above list. Yes! Endgame? To create manuscripts of poetry and memoir.

Oh me, oh my. I finally found my long lost black manuscript clip binder after it went missing for several years (since grad school, where I filed it page side up, camouflaged with my papers on Aristotle, Chekov & Stanislavsky).
Since many of my electronic poetry files from the 1980s and 90s have gone senile, or gone rogue ASCII, or worse, on Unix walkabout (unopenable bricks), so I decided to upload them all on Blogger. Bugger the published/not published controversy. It's my cloud and I post what I want.
But since I was posting poems in chronological order, vs. alphabetical order, I needed that danged ms binder for the creation dates, as well as my publication track record, not to mention revisions and awards. So, I've spent the last two days reconciling 20-years-worth of poems with their electronic dopplegangers.
Several poems had lost their electronic files completely. Now, I'm pretty anal-retentive when it comes to backing things up in multiple places, so it ain't gearhead error.
So I took jpgs of pages and posted them as placeholders. I did that too for multiple revisions. My eyeballs feel like sandpaper after a 24 hour proofreading contest. What a weird and strangely wonderful way to look at one's life events retrospectively, viewed through a poetry timeline. Now I need another big badass black ms clippie binder for this century's poems. Where to find one?

   I've definitely got gaping holes for several years. Hoping I can find them in my first draft hard copy piles. I've gone from feeling queasy to hopeful. Many of the files I did have, were earlier versions. SO finding my binder was critical. I was surprised that the poems I did find as Unix bricks (it took me ages to find a workaround to open them) , a nightmare to clean up, but my line breaks (I was wildly guessing) were pretty close.  

   I wrote this amazing paper for my MA on poetic process for Maxine Chernoff, that became, in essence, a memoir—and all I can find are the short 10-page early drafts, not the final, expanded paper, which was 25+ pages long. And I don't think I have a hard copy as I turned it in for a grade...


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