My Blue Muse Writing Life

September 22, 2004

What's The Rush?

I want to address a posting on Alsop Review’s Gazebo Poetry Board by Suzanne Friskhorn, a poet I admire. Here’s her posting titled “What’s the Rush?”:

"I've been reading a lot of poetry blogs recently, threads here at the Gaz (and elsewhere), and apparently a lot of poets are anxious about getting their work out there--either in journals, or as books. Some of this I understand. I guess what puzzles me is the poets who have already broken in to the big journals, or have already published one, two and even three books feeling anxious about the next one, the next poem, the next acceptance. I happen to be a very slow writer, and the one year that I tried to write a poem a day a lot of those poems ended up in the trash can. I tend to get pretty exhausted after a typical creative period and I'm also wondering how anyone could keep up that kind of pace. Anyway, what's the rush? Any ideas?"

The answers she got ranged from questioning what “rush” meant exactly, to humorous, to acknowledgement, to age being a factor. I didn’t respond there, but I’d like to respond here as this topic comes up every so often on this and other poetry boards.

First off, regarding the “rush” it’s pretty subjective. What’s a rush to one may be molasses-slow to another. For myself, being a poet is what I do, all I do. So, for 8 hours a day to expect to draft a poem or two (even bad ones) and to get one submission out is hardly a full day’s work—hardly a rush. I accept that ¾ of what I write a day is staying where it is, in my journal. But once in awhile I’ll like what I write and work it until, to my ear, it sings, and then I’ll send it out and get it to work. If a single poem can be rejected 10 times or MORE, then there’s plenty of time to redraft again and again between submissions. Is that rushing?

I find that once I get the poem off the page and onto the computer screen I can then tinker to my hearts content with turns and fine-tuning word choice until it’s pretty much “cooked” for the time being. This isn’t how it has always been. In this sense the poems do part of their “cooking” in my head, before I write them down. And then typing them up takes place in another few days. This doesn’t seem to me to be rushing, but I can see how it might to others. But this doesn’t mean that my current level of output, one or two poems per week, is normal. It’s just an average based on a few weeks. As I said, most drafts are just rambling: bad attempts at good poetry, or good attempts at bad poetry.

Almost all of what I send out I am proud of and am glad to land in a reader’s hands. And I find that it is those poems I am most “unsure” about that are often the ones selected for publication, so go figure. This is something I notice and question, but it doesn’t make me any less proud of the poems that aren’t selected. And to date there is only one poem, which shall remain nameless, that I feel now needed more work.

I think having been working irregularly for three years that I can see growth in my writing. It takes less drafts to come up with a poem that I feel is “worthy.” I think they’re more likely waiting for a time to be “born” rather than pulling them out like teeth. Yes, they used to ooze from my pores, and I had to work them and workshop them and rework them. But I find I don’t need to do this so much anymore. Any good poem is going to find its audience or not, from reader to reader. It is all relative and the opinions that matters most are mine and the editors, or, of course, one of his or her readers.

Currently, I have close to 300 poems in my database (I know, I’m anal). A good number of which are DOA. Another bunch is marked Under Construction which most likely will eventually shift to DOA. The next group is Poems Not in Circulation. These are broken into groups of Strong Work and Other. (I know, it sounds complicated). Lastly, is the group Pending Submissions, poems that are currently out for submission. This number is around 50 or so. These are poems I wish someday to batch into a collection. I should add that 35 or so of the 300 have happily been published and most will be include in the collection.

Lastly, I’ll say a singer sings, a painter paints, a writer writes, and until one puts his or her creations out there then one cannot hope to be an artist, rather they can only hope to be hobbyists. My husband is an amateur photographer. He “publishes” his photos on his website once or twice a week. He takes hundreds of photographs and only a few which he’s most proud of end up on his website. He gives into this urge to “promote” his work and no one questions this as rushing or asks to know why he feels compelled to share his art at all or why he would feel compelled to publish a collection or have a gallery showing one day and once he did, why would he want to do it again? So why do we as poets bare this prejudice because we want to “share” our work publicly? Interesting to think about. Hmmm…and does this apply to readings. We’ll get into that later.

Posted by mybluemuse at September 22, 2004 9:38 PM
This site Copyright 2008. All content is wholly owned by P. J. Taylor. No content may be copied or reproduced without the expressed, written permission of the owner.