--I got an unexpected fan letter of sorts. I wrote a piece on ecumenism (simple definition: different religions working together instead of at cross purposes) which appeared in the January 2013 edition of The Lutheran. Today I got an e-mail that was sent to my church. A Lutheran missionary in Hong Kong wrote to me! Someone working in the front lines of ecumenism weighed in on my article.
--Here's the beginning of that e-mail: "I hope this email reaches you. I want to thank you for the recent article in The Lutheran. It was very encouraging, especially coming almost immediately after the 'Shrinking Church' article."
--I worried a bit about that article, since I was commissioned to write it, instead of my usual process, which is I pitch an article, I get the OK, and I write what I had in mind. This one was a different task, and I'm glad that at least one person (a missionary!) sees it as a success.
--Today I meet with 2 poets at work; we'll be showing each other our poems that we wrote after we read T. S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men" together. Mine will include these lines:
We are the hollow women,
the ones of perilous
journeys; the dash through deserts
of all sorts, across turbulent seas,
always moving from south to north.
--My poem will be three separate poems, related by theme, woven together with prose chunks who will find a home in the short story I'm writing.
--As I watched Richard Blanco read at the Inauguration, I kept track of how many pages he read. It was at least 3. Perhaps this will be the year of longer poems for me: a challenge! I don't usually write much longer than a page.
--My parents called to talk about the Inauguration. They expressed hope that some day I'll be the one up there reading a poem I've written and wondered why I wasn't chosen this year. Let me stress that they did not do this in a nasty way. It was truly a "Why that guy and not you, when your work is every bit as good as his." I have a great family.
--One thing I took away from the Inaugural reading is that one day you can be working on your poems, working in obscurity, and the next, you're plucked to read a poem at a huge national event. You just never know. Blanco wasn't the Poet Laureate, he wasn't chosen because he's the best-selling poet or because he works at an important university. I'm not sure why he was chosen, or why him and not countless others. There are plenty of worthy people--it's an abundance of poetry riches in our age.
--I do believe that we must continue to do our work even though we have no idea how it will all turn out. Some days I'm discouraged, don't get me wrong. I wonder if I'll ever have a book with a spine, especially when my book-length manuscript is rejected yet again. But at any moment, everything could change. And my task is to be ready.
--At some point, I need to return to my book-length manuscript. I first put it together 10 years ago, and I've done a few major revisions. Now, again, I have newer poems which would fit. Do I start a brand new manuscript? Do I re-weave the old manuscript?
--Once, I had the answer. I had in mind two or three book-length manuscripts. But then the subject matter of poems began to migrate. Now I have poems that would fit equally well in any of my book length collections.
--I'm sensing my answer. It's time to re-weave. I turn 48 this year. I may only have 1 or two books with spines at this rate.
--But this week, I'm focusing on individual poems, both today and at an intriguing event on Saturday. I'm thrilled to have such a jam-packed poetry week, and without travelling far from home!
--Non-writing gratitude: my spouse is one week out from surgery, and he's pain free. He still tires more easily than he once did, but his strength returns each day. At this point, it seems the surgery has done what it was supposed to do with no complications. Words cannot express how happy this makes me, how relieved.