These days, one receives so little real mail (as opposed to sales flyers and bills, which continue to flow, keeping the US Postal Service in bidness), that a lovely note, handwritten with a fine blue pen, draws one’s attention immediately:
“Tracy, your work shows real promise. Please keep us in mind in future.”
Which was, of course, a very nice way of saying, “Ummm, thanks, but no thanks.” I should point out that this was the second time I’d been rejected by this particular poetry publisher–but it was also the first time I got a handwritten note out of the deal. Count as progress?
It would be easy, as a sometime, wanna-be poet, to take the rejection personally. Poetry is very personal, of course, both in the writing and in the reading of it–and for sure in the submitting for publication. That’s my heart wriggling there on the page, can’t you see it? Please be careful with it.
Please love it.
So when the rejections come–as they inevitably do–it’s not just a rejection of the words. It’s rejection of me.
It is true that this past year, my words have seen some success in finding an audience, however small, and I recount them here partly as comfort, partly as a way of objectively gathering the evidence that I’m OK, I’m doing what I need to be doing.
(Funny how when the intensely personal gets tangled up and painful, I fall back on the objective habits I use in my working life. Sometimes they do come in handy.)
- “To Know a River” and “Hauling Hay” published February 2012 in First Lights II, publication of the Southeast Writers Group and Friends.
- “Hauling Hay” published simultaneously Spring 2012 in Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts and Letters.
- A collaborative work, a book of original poem-prayers in draft form, was presented for use during the 4th annual Pilgrimage of Peace at Stillpoint Retreat Center, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
- “Understory (Red in the Bud)” awarded 3rd Honorable Mention (Emerging Writers, poetry) in West Virginia Writers 2012 Writing Competition.
- “Understory (Red in the Bud)” published October 2012 in Still: The Journal; and named one of two Judge’s Selections for the journal’s 2012 Annual Literary Competition.
- “Hauling Hay” nominated by Assisi editors to Sundress Publications’ 2012 annual Best of the Net in poetry.
I have to say, I do like the idea that I am an emerging writer. Things that emerge are fascinating to me: blood-slick babies emerging astonished and gasping into the unexpected air; peony ruffles, their sweetness dazzling the ants, emerging fold by fold from the swollen bud into spring; the fragile, tentative antennae of snails emerging to taste and test the earth . . .
I am an emerging writer. At nearly 50, I confess impatience at not yet having arrived, but there is sweetness at the prospect of living into–emerging into--the “real promise” that may come. If I work hard. If I am as patient as the snail. If I let myself experience the world with the unschooled eyes and fragility of an infant. If I can trust that my real work is “to be astonished”, as Mary Oliver describes it. If I am as consistent and insistent as the peony bloom bursting its green cage every spring.
Then, perhaps, in time–it will come.