Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Curious on Myspace: How do I get published

A poet I am friends with on Myspace sent me this message:

I'm curious if you might share some professional insight....?
I have work (poems and stories) that I would like to be published. I have my book, and a few pieces out there, but I feel like I'm an awful judge when it comes to selecting a venue for a specific piece of mine.
Your work is great, and you're published often. Can you shed some light on your publishing process? What's a good way to find a match for your work? Often I feel like I "get it right" only to discover I haven't.
I'm curious to have your input.

While I am somewhat flattered another poet asks my advice, and note she wisely thought to compliment my work I wonder what she is really asking. She may not know. I checked and this poet has one book out which is all I have.

And even if that weren't the case, she must know I have nothing new to say on the subject, a chestnut in the world of literary journals, writing, submission. I suspect her underlying question is a statement: Help. I'm discouraged.

Discouragement I can respond to, because I know it well. Sit back and prepare for the litany. I'm discouraged I still haven't been able to publish my short story collection, although ten or so of the stories are in literary journals, with one forthcoming. I'm discouraged I still haven't found a publisher for my novel or newer work.

I am discouraged that because of the preceding nonevents of nonpublication I couldn't get a teaching job. I am discouraged by my older sisters' ability to so sufficiently demoralize me when when I was younger I function oddly. I am discouraged the whole lot of us with me as the drum major believe the b.s. we are fed about how we should live and act (fed by media, which is whoever has the attention of the folks round the camp fire for the past 5,0000 or 15,000 or 16 billion years).

I am discouraged so much clever and even highly skillful work gets lauded when it is no more than clever and even (sometimes) highly skillful.

I read poetry to find the answer. I read to get closer to the meaning. I'm looser on fiction. I get discouraged when I read work that means nothing to me though I sometimes know it's wonderful and that my approval is not the sole criteria for merit.

What small success I do have I have because I
ultimately didn't give up. After graduation school, and there is a direct correlation, my poetry was so clever and cynical (my M.F.A. is in fiction but I took some poetry classes) I was afraid I was taunting muses. I risked retribution, and love poetry too much for that. I knew what I was writing was wrong. A poet can only write what is close to her soul and mine was damaged.

Well, all souls are damaged, even Mother Teresa's, Paul Newman's, MLK's. Without damage there would be no clawing toward the light; art.

I stopped writing poetry. It wasn't simply my discouraging graduate school experience that made me cynical. I needed healing.

I worked on my soul. I repaired. Poetry came back.

And then I began submitting, on instinct, to this and that review. I did it a lot. I was given no favors. I have no connections. Simply, I would not let myself be discouraged.

And I enjoy the trip, the journey, the flow, the silliness. If I'm getting depressed, submitting can help me feel positive. It's my one-in-a-million chance lottery ticket. Why else do people buy those things but to buy hope. Depression can also mask a new poem awaiting birth. God loves a good depression.

We don't know who the one or two chosen poets will be, chosen to sing centuries from now. We just do it because singing in the present saves us. There's always Letters to a Young Poet, and I'm told Pater wrote similar. Love the flawed system, respect editors, know the system is fixed and against you, immoral and run by mere mortals, believe in whatever it is you need to believe in to submit your next packet of poems.

image from: http://www.eatonhand.com/hw/fibonacci1.jpg (a Fibonacci sequence)

1 comment:

  1. Wow, good one. Thanks.

    Sheesh, I'll be happy if I get my head screwed back on straight enough this year to finish my first novel, let alone find a publisher for it.

    An inspiring post.