May 31, 2001 Copy Edits

"But I’m always and only a visitor, an invited (by author or by publisher) and privileged guest to a manuscript.

And I do believe that editing is itself an art."

May 31, 2001 copyedits - title page (92_21)_redacted.jpg

Letter from copyeditor David Caligiuri to Li-Young Lee about Book of my Nights edits.

Copyeditor David Caligiuri was an out-of-state freelancer that worked from November 1997 to November 2001 on about 26 titles for BOA. For Book of My Nights, he reported to managing editor Steve Huff, and he only communicated briefly with Lee. Below are excerpts of some of Caligiuiri's notes — he elegantly picks apart the breaks in rules and consistency in Lee's writing, providing that last layer of edits before Book of My Nights was published later that fall. 

The same correspondence is in "Buried Heart." While Lee does ask for clarification on "Earth" versus "earth", a more notable interaction occurs below: Caligiuri asks Lee if a semicolon would work best in a particular position with Lee subsequently agreeing. A third party — probably Thom Ward — does not agree, though, believing a comma is better in that position.

In exchanging emails with Caligiuiri, his words resonate in this situation:

"Writers are always at liberty to decline my suggestions – that’s what I try to convey in cover letters, in which I’ll say some permutation of “Please write stet beside what you disagree with.” I’ve learned that whether a writer, a poet, responds proactively to questions and accepts proposed changes, they are nevertheless grateful for my close reading. Frequently, word gets back to me, often directly from the author, that my thoughts helped them see their work in a fresh light. Usually, I won’t know what is stet-ed or accepted; it isn’t a matter of my 'being right' (or prevailing in a disagreement) – rather, I strive to assist the book to be more fully itself."

As for whether or not Caliguiri believes there is a difference between editing poetry and prose, he says this:

"I’ve always approached poetry as I would any writing. It’s the case that some poetry books – the style they are written in – don’t demand grammatical scrutiny, in fact pointedly don’t want that, and I adjust my copyediting lens accordingly.

So no, editing poetry isn’t, for me, unique in comparison to other genres of writing. Any uniqueness inheres in the book itself."

Much thanks to David Caligiuiri for responding to my emails and speaking briefly about his many years of experience.