Thursday, November 12, 2009

Writer's Journal

No more.

The poems I’ve published (almost all) are of another time and place, another mind. Not mine. Not anymore. Same with the stories. Even were there truth to the legend (I’ve seen no evidence to support it) of publication credits opening the way (to who knows what)… I’ve lost my desire to become a member of those clubs I’d likely be invited to join on their merit.

Several things going on. There’s the psychological drain. No, I don’t mean rejection. It’s in the asking… the begging (how—with the scam contests, chapbooks where they ask you to PAY them, not to publish them, like an honest vanity press, but to look at them! Pay them to have 20 something undergrads sort through the slush pile tossing keepers to the right, rejects to the left... there’s more pride holding out a can on a street corner. Compared to the begging, rejections come to feel like confirmation.

Then there’s the insider-outsider thing that’s inseparable from what it means to ‘belong,’ to 'break in,' or 'through' (anywhere but out)… whether by merit or trading on connections, no getting around it: what you’re getting in to is the whole conservative corporate military-industrial-prison complex, that what you’re begging for is to be a very small humble, useless-but-tolerated-tool-of-the-Empire, existing (if you can call it that) entirely by the grace of your corporate masters.

It’s a retroactive decision that I’ve been making piecemeal for the last few years. In 2007 I sent out 122 submissions, both poetry and fiction, three publishers for each story or set of poems, repeated on rejection. By the end of June this year, I’d sent out nine. Twenty-two years ago when I made the decision to work on my writing, to make a serious effort to turn out a body of work before I croaked, the submissions and occasional publications were important to me—a reminder that this was something more than a hobby. I don’t have to be reminded now. I want no less to find readers, but not like that… and probably not those readers.

I say, this is a process that’s been underway for some time, a change driven—or at least preceded by--changes in what and how I want to write, a process, I suppose, as much about defining (or un-defining) myself as it is about the writing.

The Barking Dog has both pushed me forward—and held me back. I’m still trying to understand what its purpose is; I have feelings about it, but no answers. The rich, vibrant grassroots poetry (scene? community? … I’m not intimate enough with it—or it with me--to be comfortable calling it, as CAConrad does, ‘family’ …not yet)… but the reality: the readings, the poetry, the openness of heart and mind of those I’ve met in the last few years--most, many years, decades... younger… this too, has played its part.

I want to forge forward, in part, by drawing back. When I post poems on the Barking Dog (usually works in progress that I continue to edit and change after they're posted) I do so, having decided that I won’t be submitting this now. It’s semi-published. Semi-public. Whether there will be anyone to read it or not, I don’t know. That isn’t the purpose. I don’t think a blog is a good place to find readers of either poems or fiction. There is this feeling of exposure—a standing-naked-in-front-of-a-window sort of exposure—that wakes me up. Heightens my critical senses. For work that holds up, passes the test in my own mind—there may be readings, other ways to share, and in the future, other opportunities to get them in print. Better not to waste emotional energy thinking about it. Be open to what happens. Do the work. Stand on my own ground.

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