IMG_5685Although I’d reviewed a second set of galley proofs for The Heart Contracts, my new poetry chapbook, two weeks earlier, I still experienced a huge rush of excitement when my husband called as I was heading inside the supermarket Thursday after work to inform me that a “large box” had arrived at our doorstep.

It was all I could do to complete my shopping duties, double-check my grocery list and wait in the seemingly interminable check-out line before resuming the trip home. When I finally arrived, there it was on the kitchen counter: a blue-taped cardboard box — not really all that large, I thought; it wasn’t quite square but measured approximately 12 inches x 10 inches, with “Finishing Line Press” typed in the return address label. I split open the box, pulled out the green air pillows (imagine them flying in the air) and the paper packing material…and there, arranged neatly in stacks, were the books.

They look fantastic. I’m picky, and I’m thrilled. My biggest worry was that the colors on the cover, which features an image of a photo of a raku panel by Tom and Nancy Giusti that I happen to own, would not “pop” sufficiently to do justice to the stunning artwork. I’m truly happy at how they turned out, and the silky-smooth coating on the cover stock was an added bonus. In fact, I took a copy into work yesterday and a co-worker who knows quality in printing commented at how beautiful it was. She also said the cover “makes me want to pick this book up and read it.” That was about as thoughtful a comment as I could have hoped to receive as I shared it selectively and basked in the glow of final publication: My first book. It’s here. It’s really here.

With luck, everyone who ordered copies of The Heart Contracts will have their books by mid-July. It would be wonderful if people are attracted by and pleased with the look of it, but my real hope is that readers will be in some way reached or moved by the poems they will find inside of its narrow spine.

It’s a skinny little book; it’s a chapbook, after all. There are 27 poems in The Heart Contracts, some dating back decades. All started with an idea, a concept or more than that, a need to say something I felt was important at the time. Over time, what I thought I wanted to say or needed to say would often change; it might develop in a more nuanced way, it might vanish altogether or become a different poem entirely than what it was when I started it. Each poem in this collection underwent extensive revision, even in some cases after publication in a literary journal.

About half of the poems in this collection were previously published in such journals. I am deeply grateful to those publications and their editors for the validation and exposure their acceptances gave me. I’ve tried to find and thank every editor at every journal to let them know the poems they selected now have a home in a published collection and that they had a part in. While I wasn’t able to reach each individual editor I communicated with, I was mostly successful (the exceptions being when journals had folded or in a few cases, sadly, when an editor had passed away.) In most cases, the communication I last had with these editors was several years ago, but renewing those connections has been extremely meaningful.

These poems are a part of my heart, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be sharing them with the world in this small way.