Summer drives

I spent a long weekend at my mum’s with the boys, where they played with their cousins and created an aura of general pandemonium. Driving home last night the two and a half hours was actually wonderful: the day had been beautiful, weather-wise, breezy and dry, and as we drove down the highway towards the setting sun, Aidan slept a carefree sleep and Vincent sang along to this song. Over and over. Which is how he likes it. Whilst wearing his blue goggles against the solar glare. (Try listening to him say the word “goggles” sometime and not have a good day remembering. Just try.)

Submission Fees: A Manifesto of Sorts

C. Dale Young has a poll going on at his blog asking what, if anything, we various and varied poets would be willing to pay to submit poems to a journal electronically. The comment stream is long and full of thought-out and reasoned opinions. Based on the results of the poll, an overwhelming majority would be unwilling to pay any fee at all. I lean that way myself, and I’m trying to organize my thoughts to explain why.

  1. One argument for fees is that $3 is what you would pay for a postal submission anyway, why not put that money toward supporting a journal? To which I say, Wha?! Maybe in your spendthrift universe, but not here!  I just bought two reams of paper for a penny per, and I’ll make them last, too. Toner was more, but still purchased at a bargain.
  2. And if you want to argue that time is money, it’s actually quicker to print up a hard copy submission than it is to copy & paste different poems into a single new document to upload to a submission manager or attach to an email. I do it because it saves me money in postage.
  3. And what makes submitting online so free, anyway? I’m paying a goodly amount per month for my internet connection, more than I ever spent on stamps. I do so because it makes my job and home office possible, and endlessly enriches my poetry community. It’s a necessity these days. But it’s sure not free.
  4. The idea of paying a fee for the honor of a form rejection rankles. A lot.
  5. Would this mean that journals would start paying for poems in cash money instead of comp copies? Somehow I doubt it. I’ve never minded receiving comps as payment for my poems — I’m a fan of the journals that publish my poems. To my mind, it’s a deal we’ve struck: I won’t charge you for printing my poems, and you don’t charge me for reading them. Without submissions, a journal would have little to print.
  6. Subscriptions and donations are how a journal should raise money. Reading fees are coerced donations and feel predatory. And punitive.
  7. And for those of you who say, But $1-3 isn’t too much to ask to support a journal you like, $1-3 adds up! How lovely for you if you can afford to spend money on air, but when I send a journal a check, I like to receive an issue in return. For those of you who have that marvelous, ephemeral thing known as “discretionary” or “disposable” income, I’ll put that $1-3 in perspective for you: my 18 month old’s primary food group is yogurt, he eats two 6 oz. containers a day. On a sale day I can find his favorite for 49¢. For $1 I could put him in yogurt for a day, for $3, three days. That’s not nothing to me.

I love literary journals. Anyone who’s been a reader here for a while knows I subscribe to many. But I won’t submit to a journal that raises money on the backs of writers who make little or nothing for their work as it is. I probably wouldn’t subscribe to one either. If you need to raise money, get creative: print up some broadsides from poems you’ve printed, have the poets sign them, &  sell them on your website. Hold subscription salon parties. There are many journals making a go of it without university support, and they do it with great heart and without taxing would-be contributors.  I suggest the folks at hard-up journals have  good long conversations with those editors if they want to keep on keeping on.

We’re all on the side of the angels here. What happens next could change everything.

All Hail the Public Library!

Though I was mistaken, ours is not air-conditioned. It was still cooler than the apartment, and I came home with a stack of books. I don’t know why. We live four houses away from our library, it’s open Mondays & Wednesdays 1-8pm and Saturdays 11am-3pm, so I don’t need to stock up so drastically. Especially considering the size of the books I brought home:

  • The Passage, by Justin Cronin — I’ve already begun this, and I’m totally absorbed. I read The Summer Guest, and he’s a fine writer. I have noted, however, that he’s fond of the word “thrum.”
  • Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger — The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my favorite novels, this has been on my to-read list since before it was published.
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard — Her writing, its exquisite details, is simply necessary to me. I like to imagine reading this on the porch of a cabin with a lakeside view.
  • Not here yet, but I’ve also requested The More I Owe You, the novel about Elizabeth Bishop’s time in Brazil by Michael Sledge.

My husband came home from the library with a surprise of his own. Not having ever read her himself, he thought the DVDs of Catherine Cookson’s novels something akin to the PBS Masterpiece Theater movies we used to watch when we had TV, something we could watch together and enjoy during these hot nights.

And they were enjoyable, and addictive in their soap opera quality. Deciphering the dialogue through the thick accents was fun, too, a delight to the ears.

Not to slight Ms. Cookson in any way, but I would describe her books as Jane Eyre Lite. Class friction and romance, the plight of the poor. You know which man will be rewarded with the love of the woman & a happy ending by whether he’s been disfigured, à la Rochester, by the movie’s end. Seriously. Out of four movies, three featured male protagonists who were disfigured. One in a fire.

Not a bad way to while away some summer hours, by any means.

Sweet Tea & Cold Showers

That’s the only way to get through. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have AC. Here, however, it was already 88º when I got up this morning.  Inside.

The heat has made me — and the boys — so sloth-like that I was able to read two novels over the long weekend. Can you imagine? I almost felt young again.

Anyway, the novels I read were The Last Time They Met, by Anita Shreve, and Sue Miller’s latest, The Lake Shore Limited. Both really well-written, compelling reads, but I’m so glad I read the Shreve one first. It begins as two poets, old lovers, meet after 24 years at a conference. The story then proceeds backwards, the middle part the second time they met, the third & final part the first time they met, as seniors in high school. I finished it about midnight Saturday, and its ending is a stunner, kept me sleepless for an hour more in outrage and awe.

After that, I really needed another great book to knock my mind from its little hamster wheel of obsession. The new Sue Miller was just the ticket. Flawed, fully-realized, sympathetic characters, dealing with 9/11 (gracefully, delicately, powerfully), grief, ambivalence, the fine balance between art & life, this is a novel that feels lived, alive. Great stuff.

So there you are. If this heat streak keeps up I might actually catch up on all the novels I’ve been wanting to read. Off to the library — and its delectable AC — as soon as it opens — sadly, a few hours away. Halleluiah for electricity and fans, ice and sweet tea.

Happy Fourth!

Reason enough to celebrate: I have conquered at least  half of my computer challenges, hurrah, I’m back — Freedom! — Happy Fourth of July!

We went to the Greenfield fireworks last night — what a thing! We were completely bowled over — Vincent “Wow!”-ed and “Oh my gosh!”-ed with popping eyes — Aidan, while he refrained from getting hysterical, huddled and whimpered in my arms until he passed out. At which point I checked his pulse. Just to be sure.

I’m a thrifty person, by nature and necessity, and deeply resist spending money on non-essentials (books do not fall under that rubric even a little), so I wondered a little bit about the expense of such an awesome display during these times when towns are struggling with their budgets.

Looking at Vincent’s face all lit up, how enthralled he was — not to mention the thousands of others hooting in delight (it took a very long time to get home) — I think it was worth it.

I hope you’re having a marvelous weekend!