Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Satisfaction in Ink: why I like being published in journals

Last night I took the 7 back from a poetry reading in Queens--a borough I rarely visit, though I rarely visit any borough other than Manhattan. My swift passage and descent into Grand Central Terminal's earthy core on this return home was not unaccompanied. I was with my friend Jane, a good poet who bills herself as a performance poet.

"So do you have any readings coming up?" she asked. Jane, whose financial circumstances are different from mine, flies to the west coast and abroad to give readings. She also runs a series in Manhattan (her entrepreneurial circumstances are different from mine too; she is an entrepreneur; I'm not, at least not so far).

The only readings I could come up with were at a memorial service this Saturday and a featured reading in March 2010. There will be a few readings I am part of, and at least one radio interview. My dance card is not as empty as a widow's bed. How empty is a widow's bed, anyway. It could well be a'bursting. But I don't exactly need a speakers bureau to broker my public appearances.

Our conversation got me thinking--and not defensively. Knowing I'm sensitive and umbragey I monitored myself so I could figure out what I really thought and wanted without my ego or fear of being considered less than getting in the way.

And I realized I love being in literary journals. I adore the thought that one or two or three poems of mine are at a party with one, two, three or more poems of from ten to fifty poets, are bound and on a bookshelf, are in someone's hands and working their way to that very special someone's imagination. Or that my poems are online, a venue more available than grocery stores and laundromats in L.A.—and they are open later than in New York.

My life in poetry felt difficult, unsatisfying, half-lived before I had a book published, but now that The Future Is Happy is out there, I am still quite excited about the thrill of individual poems being accepted and displayed. Displayed because poems are now online and available, therefore, 24/7 to billions of readers, at least theoretically.

Submitting poems to journals requires bookkeeping--I keep two sets of records, one in a black leather book my niece gave me a few years ago, and one in a table on Word. It's tedious being things straight and remembering to notify editor H when editor Q has selected poems sent to both. Assembling the packages of five or so poems requires thought and time. It takes time to submit my work; odds are that 5-7% of my submissions will be accepted. I found those percentages in an article.

I like the game, however. I write to be read. I won't deny the spark of pride when I get Bingo--my poems (or stories) are selected and presented. Yes, I absolutely love to read in public. I'm a strong reader, not always perfectly confident, but I present well. Or well enough. What's all this about? Poetry. It's not just line breaks, my friends. Sure, Rilke published early but by the end, when he was producing his better work, circulated his poems among friends and ignored the public. I love Rilke. Probably more than I love Whitman who gave his poems to anyone who would accept them. Like God, I am who I am. A poet. Oh hear me read. Oh read me.


  1. I am a great fan of Rilke as well. I had my hands on the new translations by Snow of his work. It is a gorgeous hard cover book published by Norton - but I couldn't cough up the $50. It's waiting for the pb edition for me.

  2. Thanks for visiting.

    A few years ago the Rilke would have cost $30 (still steep, but . . .)

    It's lovely how one person (R..) attracts so many followers by staying true to himself.