Friday, July 9, 2010

Hitting the Poetry Wall

For much of my adult life I have pondered what it means to be American. I've traveled outside the country and tried to see myself through other eyes, but I still have big blocks of confusion. The Fourth felt good, but we must be more than hot dogs and fireworks. As a friend said at dinner on the holiday, our country is too big to understand. Theory just won't do. I want specifics. And, as always, I add books to my search. I've been wandering through Margaret Atwood's essays, taking note of her sense of being Canadian, knowing, it seems, what that means. I admire her clarity. Yesterday I read her review of Studs Terkel's final book and something in me snapped.

I closed Atwood's review, grabbed the car keys and went to the library. Checked out two of Terkel's books and put two more on request. My intention is to read his interviews till I cannot stand them anymore. Let the poems do whatever they want. Those in the notebooks can stay; the ones slinking around in my head can just bite their nails until I decide to deal with them. I'll be busy for a while reading and reading Terkel's first-person stories of other Americans to see what's going on here. See, a friend had challenged me to write a poem a day, and I've tried to keep up. The exercise has given my poetry biceps definition, but for now I am on leave from daily poetry writing. I've been faithful a long, long time, and I'm off to have an affair with a dead man.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Never Quite Finished

The latest poetry ms, Zero Gravity, is in the mail, twice. Once as a querry and once as a full-length submission. I've had two initial readers, and I've gone over the text with what I thought was an eagle eye, only to find out after I dropped them in the mail that I still have too many apostrophes. So what? you ask. The what is any excuse to reject one of too many contenders. Oh, well, I did say it was a multiple submission, so I'll clip out the offensive punctuation and send the whole thing off to my next option. Good to have options. Good to have wild hope that the poems will overcome the rejection process and some good soul will say, hey, these are so good that we'll overlook the minor mistake. Like that's going to happen! This is all part of the work, the constant grooming and hoping against the odds. But, hey, I've published before, so I'm not totally out of my mind to think that some knowledgeable stranger will fall in love with this work.Tomorrow the sun may come up purple and our cherry tomatoes grow to the size of basketballs. The dog and I may both learn to speak fluent French, and I'll win the Powerball. Right?