As Thanksgiving approaches, my husband and I came to St. Augustine Beach as we do every year. It’s an environment conducive to reflection, and today I felt the need to do a little looking back to regain a bit of perspective.
Last month marked one year since I learned that my first poetry collection, The Heart Contracts, had been accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press. This week marks five months since I received my author copies in the mail and three months since I read from that body of work, surrounded by friends and family, at a book-launch party hosted by Paddiwhack Gallery in Gainesville.
I’ve said many times that this recent period in my life has been unique and meaningful in ways that are difficult to express. There’ve been senses of gratitude and fulfillment; I have felt things like, “such a long time coming” or “I’ve worked hard, I deserve this” and “It’s OK to be ecstatic; this isn’t a moment I’ll ever have again.”
I’ve often said, but it bears repeating here, that highlights of the year included reconnecting with two of my former creative writing professors, David Kirby and Van Brock, both of whom are internationally acclaimed poets, mentors and now dear friends, who were nice enough to write blurbs for the book.
It was also a shot in the arm to share my thoughts about writing, process, and publishing a book for the first time on a couple of blogs (first was William Woolfitt’s “Speaking of Marvels”, followed by Tamara Lush’s “Sexy Stories for Smart Women”.) Being asked to participate in these forums was a refreshing opportunity to articulate aspects of my experience for the first time, and quite empowering. So was reading my work publicly for the first time in many years at Paddiwhack.
The motivational push I’ve experienced has resulted in a few more placements in literary journals and is a direct reflection of more intense writing, revising and editing and more focused circulation efforts.
As we say in the South, “Good on me,” right? Well, sort of (pats self on back) but today it’s important to me to write these things down, as I’ve been in a relatively dry cycle recently with respect to GPN (as one of my favorite poets, Maggie Smith, calls it; it’s her short code for “good poetry news”.)
A reminder/overview of the big picture makes it easier to accept the periods during which other things must take precedence over creative pursuits. It’s definitely been such a period in my life the past few months, which have included a couple of major initiatives at work, a death in the family, major disorder on the home front as the result of remodeling and more recently, post-election blues. Consequently, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about time and how much I have of it, specifically how much I have left of it to say the things I still want to say.
It’s always frustrating, no matter how much one tries to put creative efforts in context, to face the fact that those of us who are goal-driven are all working against the existential clock to accomplish whatever it is that matters most to us. If I am ever fortunate enough to publish another body of work, I’ll be ecstatic all over again. Still, I can’t imagine any feeling quite like having one’s first book appear in published form, or having those first printed author copies arrive in a big box at the doorstep, or fingering that finished book for the very first time and feeling its satiny sheen.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
The process of placing individual poems in literary journals is one that can take years, if one is lucky enough to place them at all. I personally will not circulate a body of work until I have enough placements listed on an acknowledgements page to provide me, at least (many editors read blind, so it doesn’t matter) with the confidence that the work was “vetted” in some sense and strong enough to deserve consideration.
I do have another body of work in circulation now, but rather than worry about whether it will ever see the light of day, I’m trying to keep my focus on doing what it takes to stay creative. For me, that means writing down ideas and associative thoughts, new or interesting words, collecting “scraps” of experience and so forth until the right opportunity presents itself to make use of them.
It also means taking a breath and accepting the fact that some months are “dry” months just as some years are “dry” years. If I keep the lights on internally, at least the creative joints will stay lubricated and (hopefully) the good work will eventually flow forth.
Just a few minutes ago, I took a break to check e-mail and found “BPN” in the form of yet another rejection from a journal I’ve been sending to unsuccessfully for years. (Can you hear me moaning, “ … but that was GOOD work!”)
So I’ll sulk a little in the “now” and that’s OK. In the grand, even not-so-grand-and-frequently-messy scheme of things, I have much to be grateful for. This is a fact and a truth I understand at a deep level. I will continue to acknowledge and give voice to my blessings when I have the opportunity, and am going to try even harder in the coming year to do a better job of cultivating not only the mental environment to produce more GPN, but also an attitude of gratitude in all my pursuits.
May your cornucopia of life be full this week and every week!