30 December 2020

Some new poetry drafts, and a flurry of rejection letters this week.

During this dead space of time between Christmas and New Year's Day, I usually take a break from the computer and from anything to do with my job--it's one of two vacations I get per year, and it's the only one during which I actually feel comfortable turning off the work email for a while. The other vacation is the first two weeks of September, before fall term begins, and it's usually full of my working on syllabus and course updates, so it's not quite the restful break that my winter vacation offers. 

However, I decided to start writing morning pages during this break--I'm reading The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron, and she advocates for three pages of handwriting every morning. I did this for three days in a row, but I've not done so yesterday or today--I'm finding that handwriting is hurting; my arthritis in my right index finger has been acting up. I ordered some pencil grips today, to see if those might help.

Despite that minor setback, I've been busy the last two days. I'm almost at the end of one of my current Moleskine cahiers, so I spent Monday morning going through the whole thing, page by page, typing up every single scrap of poetry verse that's not yet found its way into a viable poem. It took me most of the day, but I ended up with 11 pages worth of stanzas and lines that have potential. I printed them out, cut them down into long strips (my poem verses/lines are only 2" to 4" long), and I'm using them as a set of crib sheets. I can flip through, use what works, then mark it out/indicate which poems it's been used for. It is a weird activity that I've not ever tried before, but I am finding common themes and recurring images throughout that writing that's making it a bit easier to thread together something longer, something of more substance. 

Sidenote: Part of the reason I've decided to try this is due to Robert Hass's book A Little Book on Form. In it, he explains how difficult it is to write a good line--that it's much harder to write a good line than it is to write a good poem. I often overlook a great little verse or line because I don't have anything else to say about it at that time. What I don't do is hold that verse or line with some reverence, and see its eventual value. This activity that I've undertaken is helping me to do that.

So, yesterday and today, I've spent a lot of hours poring over those pages of "loose" lines and stanzas and verses . . . and I have pulled several new poem drafts from them! As of this morning, I have seven new poems in draft form. SEVEN! For a week that's usually a vacation, I feel a real sense of personal, creative accomplishment. I haven't gotten many chores or projects completed during this winter holiday, but I feel a profound sense of satisfaction at having created something new. 

Starting from those eleven pages, I have eight and a half pages left to mine for treasure at a later point. Right now, I'm tickled to spend a bit of time this week tinkering on these new poems to get them to a point where I can send them out for publication. 

Another development in this dead week between holidays . . . editors are definitiely winnowing their slush piles and making difficult decisions. I've received several rejection letters this week. One was encouraging--the editors at SAND Journal would like to see more from me again, and when I looked, the submission I sent to them had some withdrawn work, so they were left considering only two poems, and those two were really the weaker in that set. Two other journals were dealing with the same thing--I'd sent them work as a simultaneous submission, and had to withdraw part of the submission when it was accepted elsewhere. I have been trying since October to send editors the maximum number of poems they'll consider in a single submission, so that if anything is withdrawn, they still have a fair number of poems to consider. Kenyon Review still has my work, at this point, too, which is encouraging.

Regardless, I'm trying to keep things sent out; I'm happy with the momentum that I've been able to build in 2020. I hope that new work will present new opportunities to me, too. 

I should take a shower and wash my hair--it's a rainy, cold day, and I think I might like to curl up and read. Lately, I'm much more likely to turn on the television and watch something unnecessary, so I'd like to get myself pulled together, clean and shiny and cozy, to drink some tea, and cuddle cats, and read a book or two.

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