Braided Calculations: An Update on the 20 x 20 Project

92º feels like 102º ~ the sun will not quit, neither will the cicadas, no rain in over a week, heat advisory in place until the weekend, have been out walking in the evenings, body adapting

Just now, I met one of my major summer goals, and I am chair-dancing & singing Wahooooooooozas! Those familiar with this blog will know that I spent last summer working on a collage / poetry hybrid collection, which I called 20 x 20: A Self-Ekphrasis. In February, I reported that the project was complete. Over the past year, I sent out a handful of pieces to a few journals I thought would be receptive and able to handle the art-text duo. However, for this summer my goal was to organize the pieces into a manuscript and to send a complete book out. I was delighted to learn that Pleiades Press now has a Visual Poetry Series, and their reading period is in the summer. While I would have eventually completed the process of getting the manuscript together regardless, the extra motivation of having a target press in the middle of its reading period gave me the last boost of energy I needed to succeed right now.

Over the last few days, I returned to the work; I spent several days reading (and by reading, I include the “reading” of the collages alongside the text of the poems). Then, I had to struggle with ordering the collection. I was so lucky with Alchemy, with its built in narrative. With this collection, I was back to the mix-tape method. This required sitting with the pieces and listening to how they spoke to each other, then creating a first stab at the order to try and suss out what overall story it would tell. After letting that sit for a couple of days, I went back, listened some more and made some radical changes. I read again and this time, a better idea formed in my mind. The collection held together based on three threads: family debt, the delicacy and strength of specific parts of the body, and women’s issues (coming of age esp.).

With the order in hand, I created a single Word file and created the table of contents; however, I was stymied by that one major necessity, a title. All year I’ve been calling the project 20 x 20: A Self-Exphrasis; however, once I gathered all the pieces together I realized that this title did not do justice to the major themes of the book. It makes sense that I used this title in the past because I was searching for new themes and new obsessions. Finding a title for the whole collection will be the end of that search. I shifted to future tense because for the sake of sending in the manuscript, I settled on the title Braided Calculations, which is a title from one of the poems in the book. I’m not 100% sold on this as a title, but it is close enough for putting the work in front of an editor. After all, many publishers ask for title changes along the way.

Finally, I had to learn some more about technology. The finished PDF was a huge file, and Pleiades had addressed this in their guidelines, asking submitters to use smaller files, even sacrificing quality of images, knowing that high resolution files would be requested for any accepted books. Seeing as I’m a learn-as-you-go kind of person, I had to figure out how to compress a PDF (without using a .zip file, which the submission program wouldn’t accept). Luckily, I have good friends with better skills than mine. Writer-colleague-friend, Jennie Case, came to the rescue to teach me about, et voilà. Thanks, Jennie!

Moments before starting this post, I uploaded all the necessities and clicked “submit.” Wahoooooooooooooza!

Posted by Sandy Longhorn


Kathleen Kirk


Sandy Longhorn