If wishes were sunny days

"When we say, bath, we mean foot bath. And when we say, foot bath, we mean in mud. Capisce?"

The clean-up on that little adventure was an absolute beast. Oh the screams! As if soap was acid. Good times.

Writing poems is akin to taking mudbaths — you have to be willing to immerse yourself in the muck, revel in the muck, save the worries about clean-up for later — but as a metaphor it’s a trifle watered-down, and I have some mucking about to do of my own, and, as usual, time is short.

For more intelligent and not-even-a-little academic discussions on poetry, these are a couple stops to make:

*This Poetry Daily prose feature from the winter. Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review began a new feature with its winter issue called 4×4, in which four contributors answer four questions. One of the respondents for this piece is Lawrence Raab, who read as part of the Collected Poets Series (CPS) in April, and was an utter delight. This 4×4 was a great read —  another journal to add to my subscription list.

*Many of you already regularly haunt the How a Poem Happens blog, but in case not, this interview with Nickole Brown (who is going to read on June 3 for CPS! Can’t wait!), in which she discusses the genesis and process of her poem, “Footling,” is not to be missed.

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    Rainy Day Bliss

    Vincent van Gauthier

    Aidan discovering blue looks better than it tastes.

    Ask and you shall receive — only one rainy day, and it flew by, but what a lovely day it was. I didn’t actually accomplish any writing — too much else backed up at the station — but I sent out a clutch of new submissions on the heels of a rejection and two acceptances, which always leaves me feeling virtuous and happy. Sending out submissions, I mean. Some writers don’t enjoy that part of the process, but it’s exciting to me, all the possibilities. It’s the waiting that crazes, the interminable silence.

    Now it’s 75º and Aidan is attempting to put on every single piece of outerwear he can get his hands on. He’s quite independent that way. And hot.

    Children are all about imaginary time…

    …as in, any time not spent with them is strictly imaginary and illusory, or, in fact, altogether nonexistent.

    These warm sunny days, while energizing & welcome, make the perennial juggling of daily life an even harder challenge. When it’s cold, wet, and dark, it’s nice to stay indoors, easier to interest the boys in pseudo-crafty projects (I say “pseudo” because I am not even a little crafty. But the boys are too young to have made that determination for themselves, and are happy to be allowed to make big messes in the service of “art.”), baking — dough-kneading was a big success this winter — and thus easier for me to simultaneously work on my various projects.

    Now, though, they want to be out out out. They zip around the apartment like mice hopped up on crack until a collision with some stationary object ignites a firestorm of tears. Hysteria, sniffle, repeat.

    Or, Vincent says he does not want to be out, and proceeds to systematically destroy his room in a fit of stir-craziness.  This is not hyperbole. I, who am shameless when it comes to poor-housekeeping, would be mortified to show a snapshot of the current state of Vincent’s room, accomplished in five minutes this morning.

    If we had a yard with a fence this would not be an issue, but as it stands, when we go out, I have to abandon any hopes of multi-tasking and spend all my time keeping the boys from clubbing each other with rocks or dashing into traffic.

    (“Vincent, when you sit on Aidan’s head/push Aidan down/ poke Aidan in the eye/ stab Aidan with a pin Hey! Where’d you get that pin? Give that here right now!, it hurts him. That’s bad. Why would you do that?”

    “Well, Mommy,” he replies, hands out as he explains in his most thoughtful, reasoned manner, “bad things always seem like a good idea to me.” Oy.)

    Not that I haven’t written at all since the fair weather began, but I spend more time muttering lines to myself in an effort to remember them when I’m again near writing implements than I do actually writing. It’s frustrating — we’d had a nice workable rhythm to our winter days. Makes me long for nothing so much as a string of cold rainy days…

    Thanks for the memories, Rejection Edition.

    One of the other things I neglect in order to focus on poems is this blog, and blogs in general. Sorry about that. On the up side, however, I wrote a new poem. I have one more small edit to make — which I’ve been thinking about since last night when Lance read it & pointed out that a line was confusing — and, okay, there’s an image near the end that I’m not entirely happy with yet & is acting as more of a placeholder until I come up the right-er one. But it’s pretty close to done, and I’m pretty close to happy with it. Which makes for a pretty perfect sort of day.

    *

    Literary Rejections on Display today is highlighting the new book, Other People’s Rejections by interviewing its author, Bill Shapiro. It’s an interesting interview, and he closes with this piece of advice:

    Risk rejection… and save your rejection letters. No, no—not for me. For you! Not every writer will have the story about the 30 publishers who rejected them before landing on the best-seller list. That’s not what this is about. You’ll look back on the letters years down the line and see them as markers of your passion, your bravery.

    Now I don’t know from bravery, but I’ve saved all my rejections since I began submitting too long ago.  I do think of them as “markers of [my] passion,” indicators of the seriousness I take my writing. As unsettling as the idea is that my poems are actually getting out into the world & being read by strangers, I consider finding an audience for my poems part of the work of being a poet.

    Some evenings I pull out the bulging file of rejection slips (while also noting with no small satisfaction that the acceptance file is gaining weight too), and, in an act my husband considers masochistic, I page through the papers. But I do this for two reasons. First, it reminds me how far I have progressed: the early days of peremptory slips have given ground to many more personal notes. Second, it reminds me of those encouraging notes, of journals I haven’t tried in a while that I need to send work to. I find that I tend to get in submission ruts, forgetting certain journals for periods of time. My rejection file is a great resource, an archive of journal contact history. I hope I always have it.

    *

    The First Annual NaPoMo Poetry Giveaway was very good to me, to my neverending surprise. My winnings:

    1. from Jennifer Gresham at Everyday Bright, a copy of her chapbook, Explaining Relativity to the Cat. This just arrived today — thank you, Jen!
    2. from Ron Mohring at Supple Amounts, a copy of Deb Burnham’s chapbook, Still.
    3. from Ronda Broatch at After Artist’s Way, copies of her chapbooks, Some Other Eden and Shedding Our Skins.

    It was great fun meeting so many new folks, though I’ve been so wrapped up in my own work since then that I haven’t explored the blogosphere much. Thanks again to everyone for making poetry month so much of a real celebration.

    Imaginary Time & Poets

    My husband has been watching a science program featuring Stephen Hawking on DVD. Funny how, as long as the scientists are speaking, the theories they’re explaining make perfect sense to me, but the second the tv goes silent my understanding evaporates. However, that doesn’t keep me from making free use, and profligate misuse, of them. Imaginary time, for example:

    …imaginary time is not imaginary in the sense that it is unreal or made-up — it simply runs in a direction different from the type of time we experience. In essence, imaginary time is a way of looking at the time dimension as if it were a dimension of space: you can move forward and backward along imaginary time, just like you can move right and left in space.

    Wikipedia

    Scientifically speaking, I don’t really get it, but something rouses when I read that in conjunction with A.E. Stallings’ post over at Harriet:

    I am somewhat mystified by correspondences with poets, perhaps fresh out of an MFA program, who have no job or children, and claim they need to come to Greece for a year, preferably on an island, to have “time to write.” Don’t they have the same twenty-four hour days where they live?

    Because really, I have no patience for the very nice but entirely mistaken writers who claim they have no time to write. It’s all a question of priorities, isn’t it? Making more creative use of your time in all its dimensions. Stallings talks about having a space, a room of your own etc, but I think space in a more metaphysical sense is paramount. Making the space in your own mind to be a writer, whatever it is you’re physically doing in the moment.

    No one can do that for you — are you serious about your writing or not? — but there are other, more pedestrian, ways to fit writing into your day, which I completely endorse. Stallings mentions some of the ways we waste time (Facebook, twitter, etc.), but what I’m talking about is even more basic:

    Showers: If you take a shower every single day, not only are you not a mother, but you’re losing time. As long as you brush your teeth and wash your face twice a day, you’re fine. I mean, really. And models will tell you, freshly washed hair is murder to style. Try every other day (which would still count as a ginormous luxury in my eyes) and watch how your time expands.

    Chores: Who are you, Martha Stewart? She’s got hired help. Me, my bank balance is in the realm of imaginary numbers. Decide: exactly what is  your chaos threshold? My bugbear is a neat kitchen. Neat, not clean. Because actual cleanliness would take real time. Dishes clean, clutter pseudo-organized, table crumb-free. Done. Some people can’t abide dirt on their floors, tumbleweeds of dust and cat hair. Get over it. (Unless, of course, you’ve been diagnosed with OCD by an actual doctor not yourself.) I’m not saying you have to live in filth. And, as Stallings says in her piece, chores can be good times to mull. (Before I had kids, I would play music & sing while washing dishes. Not anymore. Not only because this apparently disturbs the household  to ego-crushing lengths, but because I tend to use the chores I do do as time to think.) But know this: if you’re constantly putting the laundry/gardening/vacuuming/dusting (dusting? Really? I. don’t. dust.) ahead of your writing, you’re making a choice.

    Sleep: If you sleep more than 5 hours a night, you probably don’t have kids. If you are indeed a parent, then you’re probably a dad. Yes, I said it. Anyway, if you truly can’t find another minute in your day to squeeze writer-time in (and I qualify “writer-time” as time spent not only writing, but reading, because you can’t be a writer without also being a reader), then you need to lengthen your day. Some of us are too foggy-brained in the early morning (that would be me), while others find their brains too full & fatigued in the evening. Discover which one you are, and then stay up a little later or get up a little earlier to fit your writer-time in. You’ll be tired at first, because clearly you’ve been flagrantly self-indulgent with your sleep all these years, but if you keep at it, you’ll find your internal clock’s reset and your mind’s alert and even eager for that space you’ve at last given it.

    Because time is what you make of it.

    The Winners!

    Because, wow!, there ended up being so many entrants, my original plan of just putting names in a hat went right out the window. I took one of Kelli’s suggestions and used the True Random Number Generator over at Random.org.

    The first winner will receive my chapbook, the second Longing Distance by Sarah Hannah, and the last winner will receive a subscription to Cave Wall:

    1.  Sherry Chandler

    2.  Stephanie Goehring

    3.  Amanda Yskamp

    Congratulations to the winners, and thank you all for participating!