Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bartleby, Ahab, or the Great White Whale?

In many ways, this has been a tough week for my writing.  From the outside, you probably wouldn't be able to tell.  After all, I've continued to write.  I've even written more poems than I usually do in a week.  But I've felt like the forces of my life have conspired to keep me from writing, that I've had to fight for every scrap of writing time.

I often realize that work intrudes when my dreams are set in the workplace, when I'm doing mundane tasks even in my dreams.  Yes, I've had that kind of week.

When I don't have as much creative time as I'd like, I often find that my e-mails at work become more creative.  Here's what I wrote to my full-time faculty on Thursday:

"If you don’t want to be part, it’s perfectly fine.  Please send me an e-mail that says, “I would prefer not to.”  I will smile at your reference to Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” whilst trying to avoid an existential crisis wondering if I really am a character in a Melvillian work—hopefully not Ahab!  Hopefully not Ishmael!  Will I alone survive to tell the tale?

Don’t read anything into that last question!  It’s a reference to the end of Moby Dick.  I think.  It’s been awhile since I read that tome."

And it's been a tough week because I got a rejection.  Copper Canyon Press said no to my book length collection of poems.

It was a lovely rejection e-mail, one that let me know that they really had read the book: 

"Thank you for submitting "Ash Wednesday at the Trinity Test Site" to Copper Canyon Press. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to consider it. The work strikes a compelling balance between apocalyptic fallouts and dishwasher clatter -- we enjoyed your exploration of what's at stake in the drama of the every day.

As you know, we publish a limited number of titles each year, and unfortunately we have not selected "Ash Wednesday at the Trinity Test Site" for publication; it's not the best fit for our list. However, we wish you the best of luck as you move forward with this and other creative projects. Thanks again."
I knew it was a long shot when I sent them the manuscript.  Sadly, every submission is a long shot.  There are so many great manuscripts out there and so little opportunities.

I'm also sad because I'm beginning to feel that should this manuscript ever find a home, it might be the only collection of poems I publish--at least at this rate.  I've been working on this manuscript for 10 years now.  It's a very different manuscript from 10 years ago.  For more on that idea, see this post from February.

But to end on a happier note:  when I was scrolling through my Feb. entries, looking for posts about that latest revision, I came across this post and the line "be the asteroid":  "I heard a scientist say that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs; this time, we're the asteroid.  What does it mean to be the asteroid?" 

I have just written a poem that delights me, a poem that repeats this line, a line I might never have remembered if not for that blog post.

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