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."
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.
In little words, Caligiuri is short yet thorough when providing edits and reasonings for such. In "The Hammock," his underlines signify italicizing the text, and he specifically asks Lee whether a colon would make sense in that context. Below, readers can see that Lee responds with questions for further clarification — the text obviously went back and forth between editor and writer a couple of times.
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."
The edits in "Black Petal" are a great example of trust between an editor and author. Lee's humility shines through as he asks for Caligiuiri for help — an editor with whom he rarely works, and has never met in person. Lee actively wants to engage in dialogue to understand and resolve his work as best as possible, a learning experience for him as well.
Note that Caligiuiri does not just leave detailed edits within the work, he also takes time to dissect every part of the manuscript. The Acknowledgements feature some of the more extensive edits within the bunch; indeed, words will always be words, and there will always be something that can be fixed! An editor's attention to detail is also key as Caligiuiri points out the title of Water-Stone being written as Water and Stone. He includes his research: "You are in the Fall '98 issue... at least that one."
Not included here, Caligiuiri — like many editors — includes a style sheet at the end of his edits: a navigational and tracking sheet of errors, mistakes, or edits that a copyeditor may have noticed. It is usually up to the writer's discretion whether it's used as reference.
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.