. . . another frustrated poet. I’ve written a lot of poetry. I did an MFA and graduated in 1996. But alas, little of the world knows of my work. I am terribly underpublished. I have given publishing a serious try a couple of times, but not a truly dedicated try. I spoke to a well-published poet recently and said that I sent out about thirty submissions in the last few months and had one poem taken. He said that was a pretty good ratio.
I am taking seriously a couple of admonitions I’ve read recently. The first is David Biespiel’s essay “This Land Is Our Land” in the May 2010 issue of Poetry. At first I thought it just another one of the hundred or so essays I’ve read complaining that no one in America reads poetry, appreciates poetry, thinks poetry matters, etc., and doesn’t that suck for us suffering poets. (Opening sentence: “American poets have a minimal presence in American civic discourse and a minuscule public role in the life of American democracy.”) But I kept reading, because, well, it’s Poetry.
Instead of bashing the tastes of the masses, though, he focuses on civic discourse and blames both sides for the falling out. American poets have given up on civic discourse, and the public eye has rightfully turned away. He concludes the essay by saying “just as soon as the America poet actually speaks in public about civic concerns other than poetry, both America poetry and American democracy will be better off for it.”
The essay spoke to me, so I am going to take baby steps here in order to become more engaged in public life. Granted, a blog is a low-risk way to do it. But I need baby steps. The first step is to be more public. I have spent my years, as Biespeil describes it, “as a kind of cultural tinkerer, secluded in his rickety kiosk in the dead mall of American civic life.”
Another book I’ve been paging through again is Victoria Neslon’s Writer’s Block. I suffer from many of the problems she describes, the umbrella problem having been diagnosed as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I teach writing at Ferris State University, mostly business, technical, and research writing, but I gravitated toward the portfolio/process method of teaching because you dwell forever in possibility. I have trouble with grading the same reason I have trouble with submitting poems and publishing my work—it is much more pleasing to my brain think of what might be than to get down to business of doing.
In her chapter on “the myth of unlimited possibilities,” she writes
For the writer, involvement in life always means putting a word on a piece of paper to initiate the act of art, and then putting enough words down after that first one to produce a finished work–short, long, or medium-sized. Length is unimportant, completion is.
So here I go, writing complete works. Blog posts are mostly throwaway items, but they are done. I have trouble with “done.” I also have trouble following up on my announced intentions, but have to risk it here. I have no illusions about readership (this is one of almost 300,000 blogs on WordPress). But I feel nervous anyway. It’s the same sort of nervousness I had on Facebook at first, and now I am a full-fledged junkie. It really helped me come out of my shell.
Without any stunning concluding insights, this post is done!