Enough to break a poor mother’s heart.

It’s taken me a few days to process, deal, & forgive, but the story is this:

I came home from work on Sunday to find that my darling husband had given our precious son a haircut. And not just any haircut, but….a mullet!

He cut my precious baby boy’s soft blond curls & transformed him into a miniature 1980’s power balladeer. Marriages have foundered for less.

Clearly I could not let this stand, could not subject my boy to the ridicule & shame, so I was forced to take scissors in hand and cut his hair myself. The results are not bad, hair-wise, but oh, my baby is gone, and a little Christopher Robin-boy stands in his stead.

Only with better hair, I promise.

Is there a poem for this?

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It’s textbook rush season, so I don’t have the time to write it out, but I haven’t forgotten about my forthcoming-poetry-books round-up. I’m stockpiling catalogs, or ripping pages from otherwise uninteresting catalogs, and will start posting the ones that interest me most soon.

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And I forgot to mention–I learned that my chapbook manuscript was a semi-finalist in a contest–this on its very first foray out into the dark dark world! Hurrah!

Are there other breeds besides poets who can find encouragement in so little?

To Submit…

For some mysterious reason that has something to do with my browser, my old ibook, or combination thereof, I cannot comment on Word Press blogs from my home computer-no field shows up, nada. I say this to let all you fine fine people who comment know that I’ve read your comments with glee & will respond from my work computer (on a break, of course) as soon as I can.

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I once had a poet friend who did not send poems to journals because he found the entire process of “submitting” demoralizing and demeaning. He was only partly kidding.

By way of C. Dale Young’s blog, I found this post by Jackson Bliss. It’s a very funny rant. A couple excerpts:


if it takes you a year to reject me, you need to send me your home address with the rejection letter so i can drive to your stuffy apartment and smack you across the head for wasting my time and feeding my irrational dreamworld.

now i’m only gonna submit my stories to the best lit journals (defined in my own way), journals that accept online submissions, and journals that give me good rejections.

new yorker: what the hell is wrong with you? does it really take you over 6 months to send me this as a rejection email:

“dear author,

we haven’t read your story and we never will because we don’t know who you are and your name won’t attract readers, so why don’t you stop sending us stories until people know who you are.”

okay, they don’t say that but they might as well. . .

I rarely submit online, because of said computer and the fact that, as I expressed re: Subtropics, I can’t tell sometimes if my rejection is a form or personal, and it goes without saying that that matters, and, as a bricks and mortar bookseller, real physical paper matters to me, too, and real physical mail, and notes with ink on them, i.e., “good rejections.”

I enjoy the process of submitting, enjoy looking through journals and deciding which will be the lucky recipient of my “artful poems” next. You’re right, Emma, it is a hopeful thing.

But holy moses, what follows, the interminable waiting, well, I gotta go with Jackson on that one. I understand the whys and wherefores, and I do my best to do my share, subscribing to many journals & buying many more off the shelf at independent bookstores (though with the demise of De Boeur’s {sp?}, the distributor of the lion’s share of literary journals, I don’t know how often that will occur anymore), but months & months of an empty mailbox can wear a body down. I know the smart tack is to send ’em out & forget about ’em, get to work on other poems. But while I get to work, I can’t help keeping another eye out for the mail.

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The good news is that (I’m almost afraid to say it out loud) Vincent is honestly & truly well again. Knock wood. He’s a skinny little young ‘un, he can’t afford too much of this sort of thing!

More & Less.

I celebrated prematurely, we are not through yet, but–I can see a break in the clouds–Vincent’s not well, yet, but he’s less unwell than he was.

So that’s enough of that.

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An interesting thing about submitting to Subtropics is that they only respond via email, whether you submit electronically or post, so no SASEs are required. Today, after about a month, I received an email from them. Rejection–but nicely done!

Dear Marie,

Thank you for your submission to Subtropics. After careful consideration, we have decided that we cannot find a place for your artful poems in our upcoming issues. I wish you the best of luck in placing these poems elsewhere.

Sincerely,

etc…

Now, I’m pretty sure this is a form rejection, but that one word, “artful,” cushions the blow, makes it sound more personal than it probably is. Note that “probably.” I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Subtropics, even though they rejected me, because they called my poems “artful.” Isn’t that wily of them?

If you’ve been rejected by them, please, tell me, what did your email say?

Ode to Illness.

My shingles are improving, the rash receding, the pain lessening. But pale Vincent is still vomiting spectacularly whenever solid food hits his belly, so we’re trying to be nurturing and patient and insist on clear liquids though in between bouts he cries passionately to nurse. O it wrings our hearts.

So lacking time or brainwaves to post properly, I thought I’d share this poem by Jan Bailey, from her collection, “Midnight in the Guest Room,” published by

House of the Ill.

No rest for the weary. Poor Vincent has a yakking bug, and we must all be up at odd hours conducting clean-up and making soothing sounds. Nothing clenches my heart more than seeing his little frame doubled over and shuddering. But, to file under Amazing Resilience of Children: 3:35am, after copious display of stomach contents & ritual changing of pajamas, Boy runs about apartment whooping & chasing the much put-upon cat.

University Press Round-up 1.

I have another sales rep meeting before the textbook rush begins, and so have been flipping through various university press catalogs.  Some highlights:

Texas Tech UP

  • Wild Flight, by Christine Rhein, Winner of the Walt McDonald First-Book Competition in Poetry.  March.  Hardcover, $21.50.  I think printing in hardcover only is a mistake.  Too bad, because I really like the excerpt printed in the catalog.  And the design is great.

Louisiana State UP

  • They have a pretty vibrant poetry list, with new books coming out from Reginald Gibbons, Betty Adcock, and David Huddle, among others.
  • It was a terrible cloud at twilight, by Alessandra Lynch.  Winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize.  April, paperback, $16.95.  Excerpt:  “Fireflies faltered, lit into/his bony lattice, the fretted ribs, mating/between collarbone and pelvis…” 

Fordham UP

  • Corinna, A-Maying the Apocalypse, by Darcie Dennigan.  February, paperback, $18.95I don’t know this poet, and the catalog only has a couple lines excerpted, not a poem, but she’s got blurbs from Mark Jarman, Alice Fulton, Matthea Harvey, and Tony Hoagland, so I guess that’s deemed sufficient.

McGill-Queen’s UP 

  • Palilalia, by Jeffery Donaldson.  April, paperback, $14.95.  Catalog copy: “According to the Oxford English Dictionary, palilalia is ‘disordered speech–an involuntary repetition of words, phrases, or sentences.’  Listening to someone with palilalia, you might think he is emphasizing his point, pleading with you to hear him.  But then you realize that he is talking to himself, quietly drifting away at thought’s end.”  Excerpt: “Don’t you know/that mine too was the ventriloquist’s thrown voice,/and that what I spoke was a stirred echo?”

That’s it for now–but the Pitt Poetry Series has some good stuff coming this spring, too, not to mention the slew of great poetry books coming from the many small presses.  More to come.

No New York Times for You!

It was one of those odd days when there was not a single New York Times to be found in Western Massachusetts. The Friday crossword puzzle is too difficult for me; we just figure out a clue or two and declare victory. But the Friday edition always has a nice fat arts section, so we’re feeling unmoored without it.

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The University of Michigan Press has a new book of essays coming out, Poet’s Work, Poet’s Play,edited by Daniel Tobin and Pimone Triplett, a follow-up to UMP’s Poets Teaching Poets, which is a staple on my bookshelf. The new book is supposed to include essays by Carl Dennis, Eleanor Wilner, and Tony Hoagland (whose Real Sofistikashun was one of the most entertaining & surprisingly cogent book of essays I read last year). But I don’t know when it’s coming out. Originally slated for this past November, it’s still not out, and the website merely says, “Forthcoming.” It may be a collection of reprints of essays I’ve seen here & there in various journals already, I don’t know–I still want it. If anyone knows any inside scoop, please, feel free to share…

Birthing a poem, take 2, his perspective.

Whether I’m actually better is hard to say, as I have narcotics to mask my symptoms, but let’s be happy while we can. Which could be a while, I have a high pain threshold, so I’m carefully doling these little pills out–I want the suckers to last! Plus, my doc looked rather doleful when she prescribed them, so I don’t want to end up addicted and on her conscience.

Speaking of pain, my friend fast approaches labor, so I thought a second poem, from the father’s perspective, might be instructive. It’s not as graphic or violent as the other, but it wouldn’t be, would it? This is by Greg Pape, from his collection, Sunflower Facing the Sun.

In the Birthing Room

You can say anything, but there are things
that can’t be told. They’ve worked out a method
of breathing to help you through, to ease the pain,
but the pain is deeper than breath goes.
I’ll never know. Here, for me, things
are as simplified as a traffic light,
the quickly passing yellow of choice
between two commands. Here’s my hand.
Nothing can drive me away.
I am like a stud in the wall
that makes this room possible.
You are like a sunflower facing the sun.
For better or worse, here for the duration.
Let the knees buckle, the hernia bulge,
the sweat swim along the lines of the skin.
Let the discs of the spine fuse
with cold fire, let the feet flatten,
and the small vessels in the eyes burst
and redden. Listen to the voice of the will,
egged on by the heart, setting out
on this journey through the mountains,
deserts, and swamps of the body.
I’ll hold your hand, and fan and fan
for as many hours as it takes.
This is December tenth and January twenty-eighth.
This is the day within the days
we’ve been moving toward.
Nurse says don’t push, resist the urge
to push. Doctor says push.
I say breathe, breathe.
You open your mouth, release another mottled
sparrow of pain. You can say anything.

I have mixed feelings about this poem, because even though I like the images, it’s a little too “I’m here for you even if you turn into Sasquatch.” It begins nicely: “I’ll never know.” But then, it happens: “for me.” And: “I am like the stud in the wall/that makes this room possible.” Huh? While we can all agree that yes, there would be no baby without the man, the scene is the labor room, so couldn’t the mother have center stage for a little while? And don’t think titling the book after the mother/sunflower simile makes it okay.

So yes, I’m ambivalent. But the last two lines are why I decided to type it up anyway. The tone has shifted–that second “You can say anything” is so tender. I love these lines. They redeem the poem, for me.