Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Six Degrees

What a tangled, spangled web of poets and other people I know! Think for a minute (anymore than this will make you dizzy) about how many people you have met in your lifetime--friends, colleagues, relatives both close and distant, the pizza delivery person, the plumber, banker, auto mechanic, vet, etc. We each have a city's worth of people in our lives, even if we consider ourselves as mundane, run-of-the-mill folks, not celebrities like Susan Doyle or Michelle Obama. I am amazed. And pleased, because most of those I know are pleasant, helpful, interesting, and/or talented. My dog-groomer friend is a resource and a hard-working inspiration. My daughter is both imaginative and funny. Even my dog--especially my dog--adds to my connections in the world. One of my good friends I met because she admired my dog.

We all know the theory of six degrees of separation, right? I'd like to revise that to six degrees of connection. We cannot escape connections, nor should we want to do so. My connections to other poets create more poems. For instance, listening to Bill Roberts say that he writes five poems a week moved me to try it, and for some time now I have revised my process and make a good attempt at a poem every morning. Amazingly, it works once I tell myself to trust the language and the associative process that is poetry making. And then, there's Carolyn Jennings who leads journaling seminars, who encouraged me in one of her programs to step outside of my usual throat-clearing every morning and dig a little for something meaningful. My journal pages no longer bore me, but inform me, even inspire me to connect with the poems that lurk like mice in the corners of my mind. Or maybe they are hawks, eagles, something more substantial than rodents. I'd like to thinks so, because now that I acknowledge how many people might hear my work, I want to keep those connections, not put people off by giving them lukewarm, leftover verbiage, wilted as yesterday's salad. Nope, it's fresh greens for all my friends. And there are many. Good morning!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Getting Close to Publication Day

Yesterday the nice man in the big brown truck brought me the one and only copy of my new poetry book, The Great Hunger, the proof copy, proof for me that it's going to be here soon, proof that no matter how many times you read a manuscript, things slip by your eyes. I found three spelling errors and decided we need a different spine on the book. Poetry books are often thin and shelving a book with no visible title or author is a bad idea. We have enough trouble getting noticed without being invisible on our own shelf. But the good news is that I still like the work. After months of waiting, I had at least fleeting thoughts that when I saw the finished product, I'd be tired of it all or disconnected from those poems, some of them written many years ago and collected for this book. It's reassuring to me that they seem fresh. Since they are mostly about food, fresh is good.

Now I can plan a party, look forward to the AWP convention next spring, read these poems without shuffling papers. A book is a wonderful thing. I think. But publication also means it's time to offer the work to the world, to--gulp--reviewers, critics, axe murderers, and Ponzi scheme creeps. So much danger in the world for a thin book of poems. Okay, I'm squaring my shoulders, taking a few deep breaths, and putting my trust in the work. It's the best I had to offer when I submitted it, and it leaped that huge editorial hurdle. Pretty soon those little glitches will be fixed and the nice brown truck will drop a box of books at my front door. In the meantime, I have more writing to do. One book is never enough. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

Time Flies

Whether you're having fun, or moving, time gets away, just sneaks off and when you look around, it's weeks since the last blog entry. Not that I haven't thought about it, just haven't made the time to sit here and type. But I'm back. And what I want to write about today is the responsibility I feel to the opportunity to write. Knowing that people in other parts of the world don't have the freedom or the luxury to say what they mean is something we should all recognize and honor. Do our best with the chances we have. For me, that means not frittering away the time to arrange words on the page and say something! 

Yesterday I attended a writers' meeting in which a very accomplished poet talked about his own processes for writing and for publishing. We laughed a lot, learned a lot, and finally boiled his message down to "Write the d----d poem!" Bill Roberts writes a poem a day. Granted, as he says, he's retired from his previous responsible job and can take all the time he wants to write. But he wrote while he was fully employed, and still sets a good example for the rest of us. I tried to follow his advice this morning. I opened the mystery novel I'm reading, picked a random word and got to work. Amazingly, my morning pages yielded a poem that I like, lots. I miss the sort of throat clearing I often do first thing in the morning, but it felt very good to find words that will mean something to someone else. I know this won't happen every morning, but at the very least, I can try to use my hard-won skills creatively, honestly, not falling into the sloppy ego-centered stuff that often dribbles from my pen. Hereby resolved, to behave more like a writer and less like a wimp.