Monday, January 18, 2021

writing toward

Sometimes I am a bit envious of other poets--maybe not for the things you'd expect. There is probably some good humored envy in seeing other poets get awesome things like money and prizes and coveted baubles. And maybe always far too much of the comparisons of self to others  that make the poetry world, with it's scarcity--tiny things that seems so important when inside (the journals, the fellowships, the accolades)--all things inconsequential when you're not swimming in it,  And of course the envy of talent--the poets that can swim circles in their poems around me in their talent and maybe I love them, but probably hate them just a little

But in this case, I am mostly envious of poets who can write one perfect poem about something--an experience, a subject matter, whathaveyou and be done with it. One perfect utterance that says all it needs to say in the moment. Many poets work like this, and when you read their work, you're like yes, this poem is wholly perfect, like a shiny apple. A perfect pear.  It's all it needs to be and it's wonderful. I was thinking this morning how different my writing is from this.  I do not have a shiny piece of fruit, but maybe things are messier.  You have a sliver of apple on the plate, but there is also a scattering of seeds, a core, possibly something that is maybe a worm, maybe a leaf. Or maybe not even of apple origins at all. A doll's arm.  A tiny mechanical car.  Together, on the plate, the form a whole that makes sense, but each part is not completely readable on it's own--whether it's a prose fragment, a visual element, a couple stanza's of verse.  And yet, as poems, they fulfill their function.  I always try to come to some sort of ending, some sort of logic to each piece that forms the greater whole. But really, they are strongest when placed alongside the others.

It makes it tricky when submitting work to journals.  Do I send things from different projects to give a wider swathe of selections? Does three pieces from a longer series out of context work? For the editors? For the average reader who will not be able to see the rest of the project most likely in that moment? I always try to explain the greater series in the cover letter, but I think I usually fail to be able to sum it it up distinctly without going on way too long. In many cases recently, whether I've managed to place some pieces on their own, I've been issuing things as zines and e-zines for the full effect, but these usually come later.  

And really, you need the whole series to form the entire apple. I think this was true even before I became a predominantly project oriented writer. Themes and speakers and situations that appear and reappear in earlier work, almost as if each poem is an attempt at something.  A reaching toward. Most certainly the sisters in the first section of the fever almanac are the same, or at least close siblings, to the sisters in girl show.  There are perhaps poems I've been writing for years, the same poem, just in a different form--a different angle or approach. Characters and voices that are echoed in other characters, in other stories that work a similar web of themes. I mentioned before that I more intentionally started doing this as I worked visually in sets and series..collages and paintings, each one that striving toward a whole--not in a single painting or poem, but in a variety of approaches. 

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