On Jeannine Hall Gailey's blog, she announces that Steel Toe Books has announced an open reading period, and they're looking for manuscripts with a spiritual theme.
And I have a book length manuscript that has a spiritual theme. I had planned to revise that manuscript (because I have since written some poems that might be better than some of the poems that I included) during my November trip to Mepkin Abbey (where in November 2009, I first assembled the manuscript), but since end of the reading period at Steel Toe Books is Oct. 31, I shall step that process up a bit.
I have always written a variety of poems, but I've always felt the most fretful about my poems that have a religious theme. When I write a work related poem, I don't worry about all the people who might be turned off. When I write a poem that's a riff on a fairy tale or a myth, I know that some people might wrinkle their noses in distaste, but I also know there's a centuries long, rich tradition of people writing just that kind of poetry.
But a poem with a religious theme risks so much. There are traditionalists who might get offended at the notion of Jesus moving around in our modern world, doing things like bowling or going to spin class or helping clean up after a hurricane or playing softball or cleaning a toilet. There are non-religious folks who won't even give religious poems a chance. There are plenty of people, religious and not, who won't understand the allusions.
I've always been amazed when people like my religious poems best. When I first started writing them, I didn't send them out for years. They felt strange and subversive to me, and I imagined hate mail from more literal minded believers. But then I realized that most of the poetry I loved best had a strange and subversive streak. I love poems that crack my brain wide open and offer me a completely new way of seeing thee world.
So, I sent them out, and they've been the ones that generate the most fan mail, the ones that people tell me they love best. Hmm.
Now, here's an interesting question. I'm almost sure that I sent this manuscript to Steel Toe Books for their last reading period, which was an open reading period, probably 9 months ago. My poetry submission notebook is at the office, so I'll doublecheck later. Am I stupid to send it again? Will the Steel Toe folks even remember that they've seen it before? How much would I have to change, before it's not what they would remember seeing before?
What I love about their process is that they don't charge a reading fee or have a contest, but they do require everyone who submits to buy a book. I'm happy to support a press that way.
So, you know how I'll be spending my October: looking at all the poems that aren't typed into the computer yet, looking at my manuscript, revising . . . and praying for the wisdom and vision and hope that this process requires.
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