Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Self-Congratulatory Morning, or, My Name in Ink, Motherfucker!

After a few emails traded and a lot of inquiry, the Spectrum Anthology arrived this weekend. At long last I get to see my poems in print, although both poems have since undergone a lot of revision and don’t really resemble the printed matter anymore. Still, looking at the earlier drafts, I almost prefer them to the hatchet job grad school has done to the meager little works.

Well, maybe not. After writing the preceding paragraph, I reread the poems in Spectrum and I have to say that I think the second one in the collection is especially better now that it has undergone revisions. It’s longer and has more energy, though the original finishes with a nice bit I wanted to pull off and never was able to. Both printed works are less specific and speak to my interest in writing coded poems with personal messages, which I’ve already moved away from. My teachers have gotten me to reach out a bit more and try for clarity, which I think I have done effectively, though I am the worst judge of what I’ve written. Still, there they are for all to see in the U of Cali Santa Barbara community. And I am sure I lost the earlier drafts anyway, so it’s nice to have them preserved in a anthology printed on heavy stock paper and pressed between short stories and poems and pictures, pressed, now, between some other books on my shelf. I can look back when I’m an old(er) man and remember this day and laugh between mouthfuls of oxygen.

My first printed works… well, that is if you don’t count the many reviews for Night Times, the result of my editor and friend, Julia, having this odd interest in what I have to say about works of art. And then there was the bad, un-edited version of an old poem that popped up on Flask and Pen (also recently resurrected and heavily revised and in much better shape then it was upon publication), and a book review on A Gathering of the Tribes. And, of course, my interview with Jeanette Winterson for Rain Taxi. So, all things considered, I have achieved what I always wanted to achieve, seeing my bullshit in print. But largely this has been digital, and while I see little difference between digital and paper publishing, it is pretty exciting to see your words in actual, tangible print that will (hopefully) survive long after cyber terrorists unleash a virus that erodes the entire world wide web and we all have to go back to talking to people face-to-face (sigh).

All things being less than equal, I like what I’m seeing in Spectrum. Really, there seems to be some pretty good work in there. The visual art is good and a few of the poems look interesting (in the best sense of the word), so it feels even better to see my poems alongside work I might actually want to read. I have been rejected so many times (part and parcel of this wacky game) and it never really bothers me. It’s all part of the process. But the worst is when you see an issue of some journal come out and the work that got accepted over yours is so bad that you really start to wonder if you have any reason being a part of this so-called community. I mean, it’s one thing to know that you got passed over because someone else wrote a poem impossible to ignore, but reading the heavily crafted and incredibly dross work that often gets published can make you wonder exactly what the hell people are looking for in this day and age. Poetry, like most things, is susceptible to trends, and those who know how to emulate and exploit those trends usually get a nod. My problem is that I am emulating the wrong people. Oh well.

Enough sour grapes. I’m going to just sit back and enjoy this moment, thank you very much. I’ll keep you posted when the next poem gets printed, which should be sometime between the rapture and the eleventh hour of our time here on planet E.

Ride ‘em, cowboy.