Publishing and the Cruelty of the "Project"

Just received some good stuff from Caketrain (a chap and their latest issue). Enclosed, I found a very kind editor's note, explaining that I'd ordered the very last copy of Check-In by Elizabeth Skurnick, and the cover being a bit on the bendy side, they threw in another back issue as a freebie. I haven't purchased too much from small presses, but I have a feeling that this isn't an uncommon occurence, and I have to say I love it almost as much as I love receiving rejections!

I'm really loving this little 6-poem sequence Skurnick nestled in said chap - all titles starting with "My Husband is ____" (e.g., "My Husband is a State Trooper" or "My Husband is a Homosexual"). What a great idea! I thought to myself as I was reading on the train this morning, so, this is where all the sexy poems go! Underground, or, in any case, further so. What little poetry could be said to be above ground is of the sort about wet dogs, windswept plains, and undressing magazine advertisements. I mean, if Billy Collins could write a poem incorporating ALL of those things, I might read it, but no.

Which brings me to the idea of project in poetry. I'm finding it a pretty daunting challenge to realign my ms. for consumption as a finished package. It feels so...unfocused. I love that it meanders into nearly all of the bends and preoccupations of thought I experienced in grad school, but I sort of want it all to be something more than mimesis of thought patterns. It's finding the IT that all of the poems have in common. IT could be something very small, but I don't think IT is my previous idea of "the Reverend" or the idea of reverence (or lack thereof) as a focal point.

I think Crystal Williams hit IT on the head when she asked me what this "Reverend" is all about - why, why, why? I was hiding the why when I wrote, being subversive, not just of order, but of meaning. And now, I need to untangle that. I don't want a straight path by any means, nor do I want to abandon subversion (never!), but when I wrote my undergraduate project, my second reader told me that these were poems that often elude easy definition (this was a compliment, not a salve), they're learned, but not so as to make the reader feel that he is lacking necessary insight for the enjoyment of the poems. Perhaps I need to go back and read that dreadful ms. again and see what it had that I somehow don't have now.

There's a danger in revealing and reveling too much a personal subject. I've always been sort of a personalist in denial. That is, I would like to think that there's a bit of a crowbar separating my self from what I'm writing, that there's more critical, objective distance between them. It's the ever-daunting struggle betwixt local and global! Alas, it never does go away!


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