Saturday, January 12, 2008

24-hour Virus

It seems as though you're always dealing with that good news/bad news thing in the course of trying to publish poetry; that is, you get rejected (or "declined" as some now say), but you get an encouraging note, or you were a semi-finalist, or some such thing. Lots of that lately.

My husband, who was at one incarnation of his work life a freelance writer, still thinks my publication ratio per inquiry/submission is still pretty good, so I'll take it. I can't complain, really. No one out there really knows me or my work, and poems are getting taken here and there, as well as making it to the final stages of the cut rounds for good journals. As an adviser once said, just keep writing another poem, don't keep going over the same ground over and over.

Sometimes I wonder whether I should start using my first two initials, rather than my first name, when I submit things. Sometimes I wonder whether the visual of a female first name with a poem that enters emotional territory (my big thing lately is toying with emotional valence in poetry, which, these days, is a little like passing your finger through a flame and hoping not to get burned)--whether the linkage of 'obviously female writer' and 'poem with emotional content' simply plays into that negative stereotype so evident this campaign season in which women who show emotion are hysterical, while men who show emotion are simply moving and eloquent. Did I mention that I heard David Gergen actually use the phrase "sometimes shrill" to describe Hillary Clinton? Really--the networks out to draw up a list of stereotypical phrases used to describe women and tell their commentators to avoid them at all costs.

After not submitting poems much at all while I was in the MFA program, though, I do have a back-log of what do seem, by all accounts, to be publishable poems (which does not mean all or any of them will find an audience). Limited time means constantly deciding whether to go ahead and send something that got good marks but no sale one place to another place versus buckling down and writing new stuff.

I do feel a mild sense of triumph though in realizing that rejections now feel like 24-48 hour viruses: I feel like crap for a day, maybe two, and then I feel just fine.

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