Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This post got me thinking about publication. The why of it. I've always liked sending work out and seeking publication because, hey, that's what writers DO--all genres--seek an audience somehow. ideally, the biggest audience they can find. So that's what I did, at first in online journals that seemed more open to new writers, and which in the end probably garnered me more readership than print journals ever will. Now, I find myself submitting to print journals more frequently, and it bothers me a little. My ratio of online to print submissions is still about 50/50, but then I wonder why try getting into those print journals at all if audience is really my focus. So, I'm a hypocrite. Because I feel a need to be validated by Pleaides, or Triquarterly, or Agni, or wherever I'm trying to get in. Almost because if good poets appear in there, and so do I, that might mean I'm a good poet. Or something like that. But then I'm terribly insecure...

But publication in general..how can one NOT associate success with publication...of whatever kind? I've only seen this attitude with poets, mind you, rarely with fiction writers. Like poetry is pure, above all this rabble. Yes, there's a kind of success when you write a beautiful poem, but that's only half the equation. It needs a reader..ideally many readers...It has nothing to do with CV filler....and like any art or profession, one wants to make a name for oneself with good work, and to do that, it needs to get it out there. So unless you start writing poems on the side of city busses, journals are a necessary evil. And, yes, some are corrupt and incestuous, but some aren't.

Outside of trying to convince myself that I'm in league with other good writers (which is not ALWAYS the big big-name journals, but sometimes smaller, but well esteemed ones like diagram, or Cranky, or Melic Review where poets I love appear,) sometimes I submit places where I like the journal's name, or vibe, or website. I tend to do it all rather scattershot, not really with any grand organized plan. I have a list of places I want to submit to, that I think will be open to my work, and as things come back from other places, I send them back out elsewhere, sometimes with newer stuff. I don't really simulataneously submit, unless it's been like six-months and no word,then I'll send stuff out again. I have a tendency to fidget with poems over time, so there's rarely a finalized version of anything, even after it's been published. There's a poem called "Nebraska" that appeared in one version online, another in print, another in The Archaeologist's Daughter, and now, another revision in the fever almanac. People have seemed to respond equally well to all versions, it's just me and my neurosis at work...how I never leave well-enough alone (akin to my weird habit of re-arranging furniture and artwork in the middle of the night). But then there are those poems that haven't changed a letter since they were concieved. Usually these are those rare,rare moments of brilliance when I'm so ON, I scare myself. Most of the time I'm just trudging along. I DO tend to work on a poem by poem basis. Revise it until it's how I want it, or damn close enough and let it go. Files of unfinished poems set me ill at ease. This summer was the first ever mass revsion project on the book and it felt odd and chaotic to me.


Brandi said...

I know how you feel about "files of unfinished poems"... I wrote so much this semester that I don't know what to do with them all yet and it kinda freaks me out. Looking forward to a break after Christmas to wrap my head around them!!

hazelfaern said...

I found myself wondering, as I read this, if one of the perks of being published in real print is that you get to keep something tangible from the process of being published -- online journals are great, but there's something immediately gratifying in being able to open a phamplet, a magazine or a book and place your finger on the small measure of real estate you've been given the right to permanently occupy.

Nice peek into you writing rhythms. I find myself curious -- how often do you go back and re-edit your old work?

kristy bowen said...


I think I feel also that print seems more permanent somehow...that it can't be erased with a defunct website or inaccessible unless you have computer.

I usually tend to go back whenever I'm getting ready to do something with it. Send it out again, or work it into a manuscript...but then there are some pieces I tinker with every time I come across it again. The ones I can never seem to get right.