Once I typed my poems into the computer soon after I wrote them, and sent them right out into the world. In those days, I sent a lot of poems out to journals, poems on paper, stuffed into envelopes. I used my with spit to seal the envelopes and affix the stamps. I needed a mass of poems, because I was sending out so many in a month, so I needed to have those poems typed and ready to go. I used to read the advice of more seasoned writers who said we should wait a season between writing and sending.
Sometimes I did. I never made substantial changes. For the most part, I continued to write a poem, wait a few days, make a few changes, type them into the computer, print a batch, and send them.
Now they hibernate in a drawer until I have time to type. Now I often return to them a year or more after I wrote them. It's good for the revision/editing process, although I confess I'm still not making substantial changes, but it means I'm sending less material out into the world.
This morning I was working with poems that I wrote back in March of 2014. I read one and started to weep. I'm going to say it's an effective poem.
I wonder if it works for a reader who might not catch the Ash Wednesday imagery, the hint of Easter, a reader who might not realize that Mardi Gras is more than a drinking holiday. But would readers who think of Mardi Gras as a drinking holiday be reading my poems? A girl can dream.
I read the poems and can see the thread of the lectionary readings that tinge my metaphors. Or is it just because those words are always lurking in my subconscious? Bones, breath, ash, beads, water, wine, flame, stars: some future grad student can weave a dissertation around these words. Or maybe it's time for a new batch of sestinas.
I'm also beginning to send poetry manuscripts out into the world again. As I was typing this morning's poems, I had a vision for a different chapbook, one that is more overtly spiritual/religious.
I remember meeting a friend for coffee in 2002 or 2003. At that time, my friend was the age that I am now. I told her of my plans for putting a manuscript together and sending it out into the world. I talked about how I would publicize the book. My friend marveled at my energy and my plans.
Now I look back at my younger self, and I, too, am in awe. But back then, I had a lot more unstructured time.
It would be interesting to know if I really did so much more in my younger years. I suspect the truth is closer to this: some years, I send out great amounts of material for possible publication, but other years I don't. Some years, I get manuscripts finished, but other years I don't. Some years I write a lot of poems and fiction, while I'm a more fallow field in other years.
Much of my life is cyclical in this way: I see the same cycle in my exercise. I'm always exercising, but some years it's more frequent and vigorous, and in other years, other priorities take over.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating--it's the returning to the process that will ultimately change the trajectory. My hope is that I can keep realizing when I'm not quite on track and return to my good practices more quickly. That's the consistency that will keep me constant.
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