Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bird on Glass, 3.

I hope this is the last “bird on glass” entry, for the sake of the birds! (No birds were harmed in the writing of these blog entries: Bird on Glass, Bird on Glass, 2.) But it might not be.

In a comment on “Cool Snap,” Carol said that “it's always somehow surprising and informative for us novice poets to hear someone more established getting rejected as well,” and I was surprised to be considered “established,” since I don’t feel very established. Hence, that “outside looking in” feeling.

I joked back that I am not part of “the establishment” and am old enough not to trust it (my kids think their parents are hippies—I’m a weensy bit too young to be a true hippy, but I have a hippy spirit), all the while aware that a younger generation of poets is joyfully engaged in kicking an older generation of poets out of here 1) until they die, when it’s OK to revere them or 2) unless they were beloved mentors or teachers, and it’s wise and good to love and respect them. 

I hope my own joyful, joking tone is coming through, not just the cynical awareness. In me, most things are sifted, blended. Makes for very fine pancakes. Drenched with pure maple syrup, or Cary’s sugar free. And a few burnt ones.

Anyhoo, I get rejected along with the best/rest of us, yes. No string of past publications makes the next poem any more likely to get accepted. The poem must speak for itself and get itself accepted, and that will also be a matter of the tastes, preferences, judgment, and needs of the editor or publication to which I have sent it. I hope to have sent to the right place, by reading the publication or samples from it, and the guidelines, but I can’t know the literary journal’s individual needs at this moment. That understanding of the process (aided by years of being on the other side, the editors’ side) and that conviction that the poem is more important than the poet’s name or resume helps me move on from the momentary pang of rejection, which is as brief and routine (and annoying and necessary) as, I imagine, pricking the finger to check one’s blood sugar.

I have been so lucky to learn so much by working for a time with 3 publications: Poetry East (where I was associate editor in graduate school), RHINO (where I was with a group of editors for a decade), and Escape Into Life (where I get to read poets at large in the world and choose some to feature every couple of weeks, to share with online readers). Part of what I learned is that a jillion people are writing poems in this world, sharing their hearts, minds, and skills. I am amazed and full of respect for these poets. I like all kinds of poems. I am impressed most by those who take care, who respect the world and the poetic process (and the submission process), and who find a way to “tell it like it is” in their work. There are a jillion ways to do this.

But I remain alone and at large in the world myself, not connected to some group or cultural institution that supports me, morally or practically, not part of any establishment. And, as you well know if you are a poet, the world doesn’t tend to value or respect poets on a daily basis. American culture pushes us to the frivolous fringe; we are not contributing to the economy in important ways. Etc.

But we know our own value, yes?  “So,” to quote Emily Dickinson, “let us keep fast hold of hands, please, that, when the birds begin, none of us be missing.”


Molly said...

Oh, I just love that Emily D. quote. Might have to borrow it..... . Thanks for your lovely thoughts in all 3 bird on glass posts. I've thoroughly enjoyed them, and feel a kinship to you and other writers through them.

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Molly. I am glad of all this connection! That is what I truly value, too, along with the poetry itself!

Carol Berg said...

Hey Kathleen,
I very much enjoyed this post and your thinking about where you fit in, or don't, in this community. All of this is a learning process--and I'm learning it's a constant learning process for ALL of us, no matter where we are on the spectrum of writers.
Thanks again for your thoughtfulness.

Kathleen said...

Thank you, Carol, for reading, commenting, and helping me learning. I agree! We are all learning.

Holly from 300 Pounds Down said...

I stumbled upon your blog via blogess. I love it! I love poetry and you're right the process of rejection poets and writers must go through is daunting. But regardless it takes nothing away from the poetry itself. Keep writing!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Lovely post, Kathleen. Lots here to feed on and mull over. I especially like the part about not being a part of the establishment. I teach but am sooooooo very far outside that establishment. It's lovely to have finally found my connections here in the blogosphere. :)

Ruth said...

I've been surprised and encouraged by stories of "household name" poets and authors being rejected. I tell my advisees often how working on the publishing side helps to understand the process. Many of the creative writers in my English department go into publishing. I read a great article in The Writer's Chronicle by Steve Healey (who came to teach for us right after I read it) about how there are far more creative writers than there are readers. :| It's a sobering reality, but as you say, it is not reason enough to stop writing. Besides, the creative juices overflow to other aspects of life, and help us solve problems and be better thinkers.

Do I sound like I'm full of sound bites? :-)

Great posts on the birds on glass!

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Sandy and Ruth! It's good to feel connected to others by writing about feeling apart!

Oh, dear, the lack of reading is sad, indeed, so I keep encouraging reading every time I teach. I found myself wanting to say, "You don't deserve to be published if you are not reading the journals to which you send work, but that sounds so moralistic. So I hope I didn't say it, out loud...but I just said it here. Sigh...

A gentler way of getting at it is to say that great writers generally have been great readers since childhood.

Kathleen said...

And thanks, Holly! I love The Bloggess!