Chimera Song Mosaic
Sunday, April 25, 2004
Free Radicals: American Poets Before Their First Books (Jordan)
Catherine Meng’s chapbook
Jim Berhle’s (Purple) Notebook of the Lake (Braincase Press)
Shanna Compton’s Down Spooky
Jordan Davis’s Million Poems Journal
Smokers Die Younger (Stephanie)
These I can figure out how to get, but many I cannot or have forgotten the reference. If anyone is willing to send me an “If you liked The Little Door Slides Back, try ____________!” note, I would deeply appreciate it since this list is nowhere near complete.
Also, any issues of Court Green or any likeminded new journal that I have been hearing about, since I can’t figure out how to get them online and have no access to an independent bookstore.
Also, if any of the minds behind these creations would take pity on me and send them to me, perhaps free of charge, I would be most honored, grateful—and such texts would be sure to take first place in the things-I-should-read-as-soon-as-the-f-ing-semester-is-over section of my bookcase. And it’s so wrong to try to get away with not paying. So even if such text is sent with a brief, handwritten note—perhaps, “You still owe me 5 bucks, bee-ATCH!” I would still be grateful and would still read it.
I know that I should just be able to follow the instructions, hidden as they are, somewhere on someone’s weblog (some of them are easier to locate, thank you for that). However, I am so over-loaded with essays to be graded right now that I simply feel that taking the time to stop and write the necessary check with the necessary address with the necessary return postage would be too much to manage. And if I wait, such things will be gone, or else I’ll never be able to trace these things back to their source again. It’s not like there’s a Wish List, a la Amazon. Hence my own (woefully skimpy) wishlist above.
And part of me, too, thinks that it’s ridiculous to have to pay for the privilege of keeping up with other people’s lives and work—work that I would love to read—people who I suspect would be my peers, were I only more closely related to them, geographically. Don’t underestimate the happy convenience of seeing someone (at a reading, an organic grocer, a second-hand clothes store, a non-Starbucks coffeeshop) and saying, “Oh, yeah! I’ve been wanting to read your chapbook, etc.” and that person remembering you, having the benefit of an image as well as a solid memory, and that person then doing half the work involved in getting his or her work read.
Perhaps people live in the poetic hotspots (San Francisco, New York, Boston—I only suspect these are the hotspots from the blogs I read) for that reason—so they don’t miss out on anything. Perhaps that is what is so frustrating and, for someone with my head-in-the-clouds disposition, makes it so utterly impossible for me to keep up.
The bloggers I feel closest to, geographically speaking, are Chris Murry in North Texas, because she also seems somewhat isolated, although it’s clear that she has deep and substantial poetic roots and connections, probably because of her own impressive effort and probably also partially because of her job. She also seems fabulous and intelligent and nice. The obvious analogy is with Texas. The second blogger is Heriberto Yepez, who is living in a border town, too, but not the same one as I am, not even on the same side of the border. He fascinates me, reminds me of myself, and also intimidates me, probably because of the language thing, also because I am almost sure I have reached out to him (in a pathetic, challenging, mentioning-him-on-my-blog kind of way), and he has not responded, which makes me feel, of course, rejected, which leads me to the only obvious conclusion: he hates me.
Am I Emily Dickinson? I seem to think so. Although I have often been critical of her foolish paranoia and delusions, as they were, of grandeur (although in her case, perhaps delusions is not the correct assessment of her confidence in her writing). But it should be noted that the bloggers I have mentioned above are at least 10 hours or 1,300+ miles distant from me. I’m not sure I have much of a chance. Maybe that is what Dickinson was doing--not giving herself a chance. Limiting what comes into her house, what goes out. (As Claudia Rankin once said to me (about why she doesn't send out submissions), I don't want that kind of noise disrupting my life.) It's so much easier if no one is bothering you. It's so much easier to control. Maybe that is what I want: control of the situation. Instead of being energized by the cool stuff that other people are doing (like I should be), I am freaked out, humbled, silenced. I often wish people would just stop making chapbooks, finding new journals, changing their blogsites, linking to new blogs. Don't we already have enough to read? And so I freeze. Keats ran away from other poets becuase he was worried that he would be too influenced by them (paraphrase). I suspect his motives. Perhaps, instead, it's cowardice. Perhaps it is an unwillingness to compete. I was very overwhelmed in graduate school by the plethora of readings, the scenes, ubiquitous. I resented them somewhat. How much worse would it be for me in New York? So I move to a place, albeit somewhat against my will, that has almost zero readings. Hmm. I suspect my own motives.
Jonathan Mayhew said on April 20th, “Why apologize for being a poet? None of the rest of you do...” Except me. I do apologize for being a poet. I do so because that is what people ask of me. The people I am around—people I love (husband, fiction writers, close friends, friends from high school)—ask that of me, demand that of me, because I must pay for asking them, inviting them to listen to my poetry, if only for a few minutes. “Why is it so obscure?” they ask. (It isn’t.) “Why do you use words that I have to look up in a dictionary—or that sometimes I look up in a dictionary and cannot find in the dictionary?” (“The" dictionary, note.) Well, I do have an answer for this, one that I finally, verbally articulated yesterday, one that I will maybe someday, somehow articulate in words and post here. But for now, it is enough to note that I constantly apologize for being a poet, seem to think, perversely, that there is nothing wrong with doing so. This to help further explain my situation.
If my ridiculous and self-serving pitiful plea has moved you, please send me an email, I’ll send you my address, and you can send me your stuff or recommended stuff from others. Like I said, you can bill me later, or I can hopefully send you the money right away. If it’s readers you want, I am a reader for your work, and I will read it. Then maybe I’ll even get some time this summer to write about it on my blog since I like to do that kind of thing.
Or I could just save up my money, save up money that is not mine, and go to AWP next year. I do love Vancouver. I like to think about the Victorian horror of the dead kids in Stanley Park. I like the beach. I like thinking I will recognize locations from The x-Files. I Like Canadians. I love LUSH. I like Japanese and Ukrainian food. I like Grouse Mountain. I like Au Bon Pain. I like those Delaney’s coffee shops, Delaney’s on Denman and Delaney’s in the Village (I have, too, (2) giant mugs from these places expressing such sentiment that I bought while visiting Vancouver while living in Montana while attending graduate school at the University of Montana in a desperate attempt to buy up any representation of culture or coolness or art or like-mindedness, much like buying bushels of books at AWP, which I did in March 2002 in New Orleans, in a desperate attempt to stave off the feeling of sinking further and further into obscurity, of essentially not existing at all on the poetic radar. . .) . . . I like Death by Chocolate, an all-dessert store, featuring chocolate.
I am getting really excited about this!
Of course I should go to Vancouver, even if it means keeping the heinous job that forces me to comment extensively on other people’s writing and therefore neglect my own writing, which is assumed (by me) to be my life’s work, in order to afford it! Of course! That’s the answer! I don’t need to write poetry; I can just go to AWP! (At this point my genuine enthusiasm is, regrettably, squashed by my hard-won cynicism.)
I was going to hold out for AWP until it convened in Hawaii. But there’s no time like the present (or like 11 months from now). If anyone is doing a panel on the Impossible Situation of Living Far from the Place You Should be Living and Having a Job that is Far from the Job that You Should be Having (in Order to be a Poet—or, let’s say, a Writer) and You Know about It, and Despite Knowing this You Continue to Exist in this State of Frustration, to Put it Mildly, and Do Not Do Anything to Help Your Situation, Despite the Nagging Feeling that You Might Be Purposely Setting Yourself Up for Failure, so that After Failing, You Can Always Say that It Wasn’t Your Fault, that You Tried, that If Only You Had Lived in a Poetic Hotspot, This Wouldn’t Be Happening . . .
Heriberto Yepez, join my panel; Chris Murry, join my panel; Nicole Cordrey, join my panel; Jonathan Mayhew, join my panel; David Hess, join my panel; Kathy Acker, join my panel; who else should join my panel? I know I must be missing someone (and it’s not deliberate at all, only a function of time lack and disorganization, just as the editors claim). Join my panel because I need someone to chair it; it probably shouldn’t be me. Join my panel so that it does not erupt into a narcissistic pity session, the kind that everyone avoids like poison so as not to be infected by that thing that breaks all poets: defeat.
Join my panel; we only have 6 days left to apply!
Join my panel, or else do not join my panel, but set me straight; tell me whatever it is I need to hear so that such a panel never needs to exist (although I believe this panel does exist and always must exist because for every insider, there are five or so outsiders; for every winner, there are 600 or so losers. I see germs of this mentally in the existence of the anthology of Free Radicals: American Poets Before Their First Books. I am not the only one who feels this way. I can’t be; it wouldn’t be logical). Isn’t this a cry for help? Aren’t I asking for a lifeline—an intervention—a bone?
I am now so ashamed that I must turn my head away from the computer screen and cover my face with half a hand. Which of course means that I should post this. What else should I post? I realize that I am socially punished for not updating my links, just as others are socially punished for not linking to such and such a blogger and such and such a blog. I don’t think poets should do this to each other. I think we should have better things to do, like write poetry. Secondarily, we should try to ensure that we and others read the poetry that others write, including their blogs. These are the two most important things we should do, in this order.