Friday, June 15, 2012
Turns out I'm writing about publishing a lot these days. Sorry, but I can't help it when my inbox in full of OPEN READING and CONTEST offers. "Send us your manuscript accompanied by a twenty five dollar fee!" Yeah, some of these are legit. That is, they're legit for me. But some of these reading period offers, or contest announcements are in fact a bit of ruse. You see, what they mean by "POETRY" is not what I mean when I think of "POETRY." My poetry family tree starts with Whitman, travels up to William Carlos Williams splits into Tomas Transtromer, Rilke, back to Simpson, Stafford, Gilbert, Kooser, Addonizio, some Olds, excetera...Their family tree starts with T.S. Elliot, then goes to, well, pretty much any new book of poems out today by any university press or major publishing label. There's a split somewhere. I don't know where it is, but it's there. I feel like saying that line from The Princess Bride when I read the word "poetry" on some of these publishing contest or reading period ads: "That word, I do not think it means what you think it means." That's why before shelling out thirty of my hard earned high school teacher dollars, I always check to see what kind of poets the place is publishing. If I check two or three, and they all sound like the same academic hogwash to me, then I don't send there. If I read even one poet on their site that even remotely sounds like what I like and what I like to write--then I roll the dice. Hey, it's better odds than the lottery, right? Well...I think.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
I'm convinced of a certain formula regarding poetry publishing endeavors. The longer it takes to choose a poetry manuscript the more obsessed the editors or judges of the contest or reading period. The more obsession the less likely you are to get a legitimate, intriguing and fun poet. In other words, the longer it takes the more likely the poet is being selected in a long drawn out committee type selection process. Poetry biz people should do some self-analysis and realize that the longer you sit with a decision the more insecure you become, and therefore the more likely you are to pick the safe bet. And if you walk into any bookstore and pick up a random poetry title you'll immediately realize the results of this unfortunate phenomenon afflicting American poetry circles. That being said, it probably won't hinder my submitting to these places. What are you gonna do?
Saturday, May 19, 2012
There's something that doesn't feel quite right about sending out poems as soon as they're composed. Forget about the chances of being published (Allen Ginsberg famously thought first thought best thought and it worked out for him), I mean there's this underlining feeling of I don't know what else to call it, betrayal. The poem has come for you. You like it and it's working. It feels well, alive. And you turn around and push it out into the world without so much as a second thought. It feels like bad parenting. So after many years of practicing the quick turn around, I've come to the decision that I'm going to first create a large backlog of poems before sending out. It feels strange. But it turns out that sending poetry out was a habit that somehow forged itself into my writing process. I worked on poems before sending them out of course, proofed them and such, but I didn't really work on them if you know what I mean. It was more like a cursory way of writing rather than the in depth form of writing and rewriting that one needs to do if they want to achieve any kind of serious recognition. In other words, submitting was a false step in my writing process. How do I know? Well, I've been practicing writing without that one step: the point where I look up a magazine, read their guidelines and either prepare a mailing or hit send after attaching what I thought was life's work, and I've happily discovered that I can still write without seeking to be published. How novel! I don't want to be sarcastic about this though. Bottom line is, if you're serious about writing and you know that it's the reason you were put on this earth, then don't just hit send or walk to the mailbox absentmindedly. Stop. Sit with your creations a little while. There will come a day when it will be time to let them go. But not yet, not yet.