Ray Hsu writes poems. In fact, he has published over a hundred and twenty-five in over forty magazines internationally. With two books under his belt (Anthropy and Cold Sleep Permanent Afternoon), he’s well on his way to infiltrating the Can Lit establishment. Ray was good enough to answer my editing questions in his own inimitable way:
How do you work your way through revisions? Do you have any tricks or theories to removing commas, words or lines?
Revisions remind me of extraordinary rendition: you reach for your sharpie, then you get rid of them, or at least relocate them. You put them on a plane and, on paper, it’s as if they never existed.
Robert Lowell wrote that “Revision is inspiration.” To what extent do you think that’s true? How would you rewrite Lowell: “Revision is __________”
Any pet peeves when it comes to editing your own work or someone else’s?
When my first book was going to press, Anne Carson was one of my favourite writers. My editor encouraged me to ask her for a blurb. I printed out my manuscript and went to see her give a talk in Montreal. After she spoke, I went up to her, stack in hand, and asked her whether she could write a blurb for me. “I don’t do blurbs,” she said, and smiled politely. So did the person next to her. A little shell shocked, I sat back down at my table. But I realized that I’d printed out the manuscript in any case, so I went back over to her table and said, “I printed you a copy anyhow, so you can read it or not as you’d like.” She smiled politely and took it. What was the question again?
Are there any lines from an early draft of a poem that you’d like to share? What ideas, principles or gut feelings guided you through those changes?
I’ve attached a scan of former titles for my second book, Cold Sleep Permanent Afternoon, along with notes on the table of contents by a poet-friend CX Dillhunt who was offering manuscript feedback. This scan and others may appear in a companion volume for Cold Sleep.