Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Trickles Away

My shoulder has been giving me trouble this week. I know it is a symptom of stress, and I have to take care of it (and myself) before it gets worse and I fall apart. So even though I have a lot of things I'd like to do, I have to remember to prioritize and do the things that mean the most. March seems like it has zoomed by, though I'm happy to see the sun more, have more days above freezing, and to see daffodils popping up in our yard (even though the dog likes to dig them up and eat the bulbs).

I got 4 packets of poems out today, which brings me current to having everything out. I'm not sure if the individual poems were the best matches to the magazines I sent them to, but I don't usually have luck when I'm trying to match well, so I'm hoping for some serendipity. A certain big-name magazine frustrated me, though. Their web page said nothing about being closed for submissions, but their online submit form would only take submissions for their book contest. I'm not sure if they were just too lazy to update their submissions page saying that they were only reading one thing at a time, or if it was an oversight and they didn't know they only gave people one option. Either way, there is no way to contact them to clarify, so I sent my poems elsewhere.

I have not finished either of the books I planned to read for March. I am a little disappointed about it, though I know it was because I have been focused on getting some library books read before they're due back tomorrow. I hope I can tackle them this weekend. Even though they will not be read in March, I don't want to have a bunch of them pile up to be read. Truthfully, I'd like to take a week off work and read some of the books of poetry I've bought and haven't gotten to yet.

Also thinking about trying out Kelli Russell Agodon's 30 prompts for National Poetry Month 2011. Poetry prompts are difficult for me, because even though I might sit down and not feel inspired, I feel like what comes out of prompts is dry and useless. These look pretty good, though, and I want to give them a try! I have to remind myself that April starts tomorrow, though!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Searching for Success Amid Work

Got a poem accepted for publication in Main Street Rag. I'm happy not just for the publishing credit but because I like the magazine. The poem they took is one I like, but it is noticeably different from what I was writing at the time, as well as from what I have written since. I sometimes think that I should drift in that direction, even though that is not my first impulse when I write.

I still have on my plate the project of putting together a book, and unfortunately I am still not sure what direction I will go in. I have had very little downtime at work lately, mostly because I have been sent to a project management class with a big project as homework. Plus another big procurement has come up with very quick deadline, so I've put a lot of energy into that. This weekend should be a chance to work on some things. Next week should be quiet, but probably it will mostly be a chance to catch up, not work on new things.

I also received a rejection slip with a nice note from Alaska Quarterly. I should send them another packet within the next few days. I have been thinking about the discussion going around that women are more likely than men not to send another submission to a magazine that has declined but asked to see more, or more likely to wait a long time before they do. Personally, I usually try to get another packet out to them quickly, though I admit that if I have gotten the request for more two or more times, I begin to wonder if it is genuine and I might not send more. Is that bad?

Monday, March 7, 2011

February, Belatedly

I know we're well into March by now, but I feel like I have to post at least something on my February book selections.

For the 2011 TBR Pile Challenge, I finally read Songs and Stories of the Kojiki by Yoko Danno, which deserves far better than the length of time I put off reading it. The book is a retelling of Japanese myths and legends. I found that enough of the names were familiar (the sun goddess Amaterasu, Susanowo, etc.) it made it easier to hook into the stories. The author gives us literal translations of the names, too, which provide some insight into the cultural symbols in the stories. While myths are generally not known for having well-developed characters, many of the images and events (particularly the frequent tragic or self-sacrificing deaths) have stuck with me for the past few days, making me think about things I might do with them.

The poetry collection I read for Poetry x 12 was Radi Os by Ronald Johnson. Absolutely, an interesting project, and after reading it I am made more aware of the how silence can function in a manuscript. I would call it completely lyric, as it has no characters or storyline of its own, save for 2 things: first, the storyline and characters of Milton's Paradise Lost, from which its words are excised, and second, the movement of the words' music, which is admittedly lovely. As an idea of a project, it is fascinating, and I think much can be learned from reading it. However, it doesn't give me back enough for me to say it can stand on its own.

My March Poetry x 12 selection is Pablo Neruda's Residence on Earth, for a collection of poetry written by a poet who has been featured in a movie. Il Postino is a lovely movie, one of those that I immediately get sucked into when I watch any of it. That book is a reread for me, and I have been thinking a lot lately about what we gain from a second or even a third read and beyond. While there is a lot to be said for reading widely and taking in many books, we should not ignore the idea of reading deeply as well, reading a variety of books from one author, as well as rereading some books to get more out of them on a second read.

I've tagged Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffengger as my 2011 TBR Pile Challenge choice. Honestly, I'm in the mood to read trashy SF or fantasy, and I picked that one as being the closest option. I'm reading a couple books for fun in between, though I need to make myself get through these before March 31, or I'll continue to run a month behind.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I Have an Editing Problem

I have been in many, many workshops over the years, and while I am quite comfortable editing my own poems and deciding where I need more and where I need less, the whole concept of editing a book is very difficult for me. Mind you, I have put together two books of poetry in the past, one for my thesis for my MFA and the other for my dissertation for my PhD. Also, I edited down the former to a chapbook I am fairly confident is good and whole. But when I look at the pile of poems I've written in the past 14 or so years, I don't see how they come together into a project that is whole.

One of the weaknesses of book from a thesis or a dissertation is that it tends to be a collection of everything one wrote while enrolled in the program. In putting together a book now, I don't have the luxury of making a book that is like raking up a pile of leaves. The poems sitting next to each other in the book need to have some kind of relationship to one another, need to come from a similar worldview or at least have a similar style and voice. And if I am looking at my work honestly, I don't know if I even like the style that many of the poems from my diss were written in. I certainly am not writing in that style now.

Yesterday I went through the poems I had and tried to categorize them. For the most part, my poems fell into one of three categories: communication, family history, and dream imagery. The communication poems were mostly the ones from my diss, and it's hard for me to decide what to do with them. I do see poems like them in magazines, though I don't often like them.

I have about 50 poems and fragments from the last couple years that land in the family history pile, so that is clearly what I am writing the most of these days. While I am attracted to the voice and humor in these, I think individually they are some of the weakest, or perhaps need the most work. In this category are the postcard poems, so many are very short, and I don't know if they fill out the world enough.

The poems with dream images are the ones I like the most, I think. They are closest to the poems I like that I see in magazines, though I'm not sure how marketable they are. They are also closest to the poems in the chapbook I put together, though I am not sure if publishing poems in a chapbook means they cannot go in a full book. I don't know if perhaps I should not worry about that at all, and pile all of these dream sequences in a single book. Or maybe I should continue to set aside the chapbook, and gather up the dream poems from scratch.

My lack of organization of everything I've written in the past worries me. I've lost poems that I've written and liked, just because I haven't organized or backed things up the way I should. I am torn between setting aside everything I've done in the past and not wanting to lose pieces I like that seem fairly strong. Whichever way I go, I am certain I need a focal poem, and I don't know that I've found it yet. I think my strategy going forward should be to write about ten new poems and see how they fit in with everything else. Maybe they won't fit in with everything and they will be the start of something new.

As a tack-on, I do need to write a post soon about my February writing challenge books. I read and enjoyed Radi Os by Ronald Johnson, though it deserves more than a single sentence here. I'm still working through Songs and Stories of the Kojiki by Yoko Danno. I blame February's only having 28 days for my not having finished it yet.