My Blue Muse Writing Life

September 28, 2004

Mail Time

The envelopeís telltale tri-fold crease facedown. From my stairs, I can tell if itís thick or thin. Thin is badóso thin you can see the carpet through it. Slim hope thereís a bit of blue ink, some hint of promising words that I should try again. And if there is, then how long to wait until I send work to them again. 6 months sounds about right, but will they remember me then. So I suppose ďwhat the hellĒ and send more work out much sooner. Thick tells you less. Yeah, itís most likely your poems coming back, but once in awhile itís a sign of good news. Very Pavlovian. Just a few acceptances and every thick envelope holds promise.

In any case, itís better to get mail than not. Submissions get older and colder and at what point do you write them off. This is why I prefer sim subs. Then you can have your poems working double, treble, or whatever time for you. My three oldest submissions are from December 2003. Theyíre all online mags that donít take sim subs. Well, they do now. Itís simply too long to ask me to wait. Iíve sent them follow up emails with no responses. I sent them strong work, because they were mags I wanted to see my work in at that time. But these poems need to be working. Now they are. I tell myself editors are human. They can be quick with judgments, flaky or not very good, rushed for deadlines, reading for particular issues, etc. I donít blame them, but this is just my reasoning for only sending out sim subs, at this point. (Comment: When I say sim subs I mean subs sent to lit mags that ACCEPT them. I do not sim sub to mags that do NOT accept them.)

But all I can do when another rejection comes in is to send a new one out. Itís as simple as that. Then begins the waiting once again for any mail, bad mail, good mail. Thick and it could be paperwork or just my poems coming back with a ďsad slipĒ but kind words are always appreciated.

Posted by mybluemuse at 10:27 AM

September 22, 2004

What's The Rush?

I want to address a posting on Alsop Reviewís Gazebo Poetry Board by Suzanne Friskhorn, a poet I admire. Hereís her posting titled ďWhatís the Rush?Ē:

"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 ďrushĒ meant exactly, to humorous, to acknowledgement, to age being a factor. I didnít respond there, but Iíd like to respond here as this topic comes up every so often on this and other poetry boards.

First off, regarding the ďrushĒ itís pretty subjective. Whatís 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 dayís workóhardly a rush. I accept that ĺ of what I write a day is staying where it is, in my journal. But once in awhile Iíll like what I write and work it until, to my ear, it sings, and then Iíll send it out and get it to work. If a single poem can be rejected 10 times or MORE, then thereís 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 itís pretty much ďcookedĒ for the time being. This isnít how it has always been. In this sense the poems do part of their ďcookingĒ in my head, before I write them down. And then typing them up takes place in another few days. This doesnít seem to me to be rushing, but I can see how it might to others. But this doesnít mean that my current level of output, one or two poems per week, is normal. Itís 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 readerís hands. And I find that it is those poems I am most ďunsureĒ about that are often the ones selected for publication, so go figure. This is something I notice and question, but it doesnít make me any less proud of the poems that arenít 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 ďworthy.Ē I think theyíre more likely waiting for a time to be ďbornĒ 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 donít 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, Iím 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, Iíll 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 ďpublishesĒ his photos on his website once or twice a week. He takes hundreds of photographs and only a few which heís most proud of end up on his website. He gives into this urge to ďpromoteĒ 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 ďshareĒ our work publicly? Interesting to think about. HmmmÖand does this apply to readings. Weíll get into that later.

Posted by mybluemuse at 9:38 PM

September 17, 2004

Going to Dodge

So, the schedule is out for the Dodge Poetry Festival and now Iím getting really excited! To not only hear, but to be able to learn from poets I respect and greatly admire like Olds, Collins, Dove, Levine, Hirsch, Cisneros, Hirshfield, Kinnell, Oates, etc. is going to be so fantastic! Iím such a geek-Iíve already made a schedule on Excel. I only wish I had a map to plot out my route to the tents! And my husband is such a prince to join me. Heíll be there with his camera taking pictures of everything. I think heíll have a good time.

Students are back at San Francisco State, and itís very inspiring. As I do each time classes convene, I contemplate getting my MFA. Low res? High res? I feel so old to be going back to school. Would I have the gumption to make and meet deadlines? Do I remember how to write a critical thinking paper? I have trouble finishing our bookgroup book half the time.

Speaking of, weíre reading ďReading Lolita in TehranĒ and neither my husband nor I could get into it. Iíve heard several people say this. I know itís supposed to be a great book; itís just so dense and opens really slow. I flipped ahead to see if I could pick up later in the story, but itís one of those books that builds up so slowly. Anyway, Iím committed to finishing it, just not by next Tuesday.

I wrote three poems yesterday, and Iím so relieved to have broken through this writerís block that Iíve been suffering from. Itís been really hard to not feel inspired to write. I took a bunch of poetry books with me and read and searched for inspiration and luckily I found it. Iím going to write again today, but, I know that productivity wonít remain a constant. Iíll just enjoy a nice, hot cup of coffee and read some poetry. Never a bad thing to be doing.

More laterÖ

Posted by mybluemuse at 9:40 AM

September 11, 2004

Practice, Practice, Practice

I've been reading Kelli's blog lately and am loving it. I'm getting some tips on the flow of an entry from her. She just writes about whatever's up with her, but there's usually a theme. In one of her entries she spoke about not being able to write, and I can really resonate with that lately. I write, it's just not coming out as clear poems. It's not the same gleam of inspiration and wrestling the poem to the ground from there. Then the fun begins. Once the draft is on paper, I type it into my computer and shape it and tinker with images and words until I like what I read out loud. Then I put it away for a few days, tinker some more, then get it out there in the world. I do this while still working on it, but it feels good to get it out there anyway. I figure an individual poem will get rejected anywhere from 10 to 15 times before getting accepted, so it doesn't hurt to put it to work.

Anyway, so Kelli had a response to this blog entry by someone who wrote, "What gets me going again is reading good poetry. Pojacking pieces that speak to me, or just reading poems with lines that make me go - oh! - and send my imagination off on a tangent." And it's so true. I've never heard of the term "pojacking" but that's exactly it. Just to get the creative juices flowing. My question is what happens if you like the outcome of your work. A different, but absolutely "pojacked" poem? Can you call it your own? I have deep reservations about this, so I suppose that is all the answer that I need. I'll pose this question to Kelli and anyone who reads this and see if anyone sends me any emails p.j.taylor AT I might just post and example.

Another idea I had was to show how an individual poem came to being, from first draft to final published poem, just in case anyone is curious about process. I have a couple good ideas. One being "To Jen, Who Died This Winter" and another being "Buzz of the Yellow Jacket" which was just accepted by Calyx. We'll see I'll have to dig up the first drafts. Once they're on the computer I keep all the drafts as separate words files Buzz 01.doc, etc., and each poem is kept in a different folder. This way it's very easy to go back and see the progression of a poem. Which reminds me of how you can sometimes lose your way and work a poem to literal "death." This has happened a few times, and rather than salvage it, I start from scratch on a blank page and rewrite it from memory. Miraculously, I find it's a better poem than the original. It's just so hard to let the dead rest.

I think that's enough for now. I thought I'd list five things I'm grateful for on this particular day:

1) my husband and pup

2) Kelli, my writing buddy

3) my best friend Susan

4) I'm going to Dodge Poetry Festival (Woo Hoo! Everything's all set: the reservations are made, the tix are purchased! Now that the decision has been made I'm getting very excited!!)

5) my blue muse (may she snap out of it and inspire me soon)


Posted by mybluemuse at 11:16 PM | Comments (1)

September 8, 2004

To Dodge or Not to Dodge

Iím seriously thinking about going to the Dodge Poetry Festival at the end of this month. My only drawback is finding at pet/house sitter for our dog and two cats. The cats will be fine, I know, but the dog is just over a year old, and because we hang out most days together weíre pretty attached to each other. I think itíd be a blast, and my husband would be joining me, so itíd be a bit like a vacation. I canít really think of any other reasons not to go. Duke Farms where itís being held this year sounds beautiful. Anyway, Iíve booked a hotel, booked a car, found out there will be festival parking. All thatís left is to book our flights and buy our festival tickets. I think Iíll go. I think Iíll go. I think Iíll go.

SF sometimes feels small. I answered a posting about a poet looking to start a group and havenít heard back. Makes me wonder about some burned bridge from long ago (did I mention Iím possibly a bit of a fire starter in that respect? HmmmÖ)

My friend Kelli just started her MFA and Iím positively green, but Iím also VERY happy for her. According to her, I can afford it and I know that money is not the only thing keeping me from applying; itís the deadlines and the dedication it will require. Do I have it in me? Iím not up for spending bucket loads of my husbandís money to find out. Or am I?

See how dull this is. Kelliís is much smoother and a damn good read. Maybe it just takes practice. So, then, this will be a practice post.

Posted by mybluemuse at 8:18 PM
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