Through the summer, when so many literary journals shut down, I feel that September will never arrive. And then it does, and I find myself where I am right now. I want to send manuscripts to some of my favorite presses and the May Swenson award, which sends me a copy of the winning book.
Today I will proof my manuscript one last time. By the end of the week-end, I will send it out.
And I need to get into the habit of sending out some poetry packets to journals each week. There are scraps of time that I could claim for this purpose.
What makes September tough? Most of my department was hired first for the fall quarter--which means that September is the month of preparing annual reviews that are due October 1. It's a lot of paperwork.
I am always in awe of what others do in terms of their writing life. I am tough on myself. I always, always feel that I should be doing more.
It's the voice of my inner guidance counselor telling me that I'm not doing enough. It's the voice of the critic, the historian, the ones who will write the literary histories, who will wonder why I didn't do more to follow the ambitions I had as an undergraduate.
These thoughts remind me of a poem that I wrote, in part to remind myself that I've set processes in motion, even when I don't feel/see them on a daily basis.
The Call of the Crows
My muse leaves me a trail
of breadcrumbs. Just to be safe,
she mixes in all my favorite
kinds: the sourdough of experience, the sweet
cinnamon bread of memory, the rye
of humor, the hearty grained passions.
Alas, poor muse! She doesn’t know
of these crows that guard
me always, the caws of callous
criticism always in my ear.
They see what my muse plots
and they pluck away the crumbs
as quickly as she can scatter them.
But my muse is a crafty girl, well-schooled
in mazes and cunning escapes. She selects
cords in many colors, velvet ribbons
and festive silks to help me find my way.
The crows use these to line their nests.
Luckily, my muse is not so easily deterred.
She forgoes the subtle approach, the seductive
ways of getting my attention. She plants
landmines in my gardens of guilt,
mails bombs cleverly disguised
as friendly letters, which scatter infectious
agents of creativity throughout my day.
She infuses me with bacteria that will infect
each cell, viruses that will root in my very soul,
recombining my DNA, transforming me in fevered
fires into a woman who no longer comprehends
the call of the crows.
And here's a poem I've posted before, a poem that imagines the Muse as Penelope. It was first published in Emrys.
The Muse to Her Poet
You worry that I am some Ulysses,
headed off to distant lands the moment you turn
your back, easily seduced by goddesses,
and ever needful of new adventures.
You are the one who sets sail
for the distant island of your novel, sidetracked
from your true vocation by thoughts of the fruits
of fame, the warmth of characters
to put through their paces.
You are the one who often strands
herself on the dry, dusty shores
of academic writing, pursuing the metaphors
and symbols of other poets
while neglecting your own.
I am your muse, your Penelope, waiting
ever, always patient. I weave
even when you’re unaware, distracted
by those undeterred suitors of easier pleasures than mine.
I pluck out the threads that don’t match,
keep the tapestries safe,
keep my faith in your return.
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