Sunday, March 29, 2009

Latest Poem Publications--and a Return to the Online Publication Question

Three of my poems are up at the online journal Clapboard House. Go here to read them.

This publication reminded me of the posting I wrote considering online journals vs. paper publications. When I went to Clapboard House, I gasped with delight. One of my poems references a statue on the South Carolina State House grounds, and the editors included a picture of that statue with my poems. At least, I think it's the same statue--it's been almost twenty years since I saw it. If nothing else, it's a picture of a statue that works very well with the poem.

A paper journal wouldn't have been able to do that. It would have been too expensive. Paper journals would save whatever art budget they might have for publishing original art, not for including pictures that add to the visual pleasure of a poem.

I love this online journal, which focuses on the American South (my Latin American students have a fit when I use this term, and they've helped sensitize me to the issue). Until we moved to South Florida in 1998, I spent all of my conscious life in the Southeastern states of the U.S., and those experiences still shape some of my creative work. The work that I've found in Clapboard House manages to avoid cliche and sentimentality, which is why I decided to submit.

And in case you're wondering about the poem "Progress," let me just give some background. Until 1989 or so, it was legal in South Carolina for a man to rape his wife. I was part of a campaign to change that law. I remember heading over to the State House after my graduate school classes at USC (an easy walk) and watching the proceedings. I didn't testify, since I wasn't married and had no horrifying stories, but I like to think that the fact that so many women jammed the meeting halls led to the change in that law.

"The Middle Passage of Marriage" is a poem that worries me a bit. I worry that the metaphor is a stretch. I worry that it doesn't pay enough respect to the horrific experiences of slaves being transported from Africa. But I also think that a poem that pulls together disparate images is one that might make people think, and so I didn't file it in my failed poems folder.

I wrote "Lessons of the Rocking Chair" after reading Jane Hirshfield's poem "The Button." The end of Hirshfield's poem has the button remembering a time before it was a button, when it was part of an animal tusk. I spent the whole day looking at objects, thinking about what they were before they were these objects. For example, my rocking chair was once a mighty pine tree. And this poem emerged.

I'm enjoying the work of other writers and artists in this journal. I hope that you will too.