Thursday, May 27, 2021

notes on writing summer

It might be the slow roll in of warm weather that makes me a little nostalgic for my own writing days of yore. Once, I was 19 and deciding that I had poems I wanted someone to see (I admittedly had poems before that, but little desire to share them.) The summer between my first and second year of undergrad, I would carry around an envelope box with those issues of Writer's Digest I mentioned last post and drafts of slender, shortish, poems banged out on the electric typewriter I'd scored with my high school graduation funds. I still have some in my folders--that almost translucent paper corrected with globs of white-out. I had just started submitting, mostly to the places mentioned in WD calling for poems. They were dubious in the way all things are found in the backs of magazines. When I was a teenage, my mother loved True Story and its ilk, where the back was littered with adds calling for people to submit songs or draw a turtle. These had a similar feel. 

But I made it my task, free of work or school, to devote my daylight and some evenings to being a poet, or trying to become a poet.  I would clean the house for some extra money even then--which I would spend on paperbacks and magazines,  but sometimes stamps to send all those SASE's. Within a year, I would be writing less and not submitting at all, my attention drifting back into the academic year and later theater productions that ate a lot of time, but a couple years later, after a rousing poetry workshop (well, rousing for me if not everyone else.) I was back at it. By then--same typewriter, different paper, but now I was reading P&W and looking for bigger whales.  The next year would bring a couple rewards--a couple poetry prizes and college lit zine publications. This was the summer I set about recording poems on cassette tape with a small boombox to guage the feel of them read aloud.  I'd stopped the terrible Dickinesque rhyming, but I still had a ways to go. 

While my academic years during that rime left less room for writing, summers were my jam, filled with a lot of hours to devote to words, which may be why I'm nostalgic for it when I don't have that much free time to focus as an adult. When I was 21, free of classes, of course I had the luxury of sleeping late and then dragging my little envelope box, my typewriter and my boombox out to the dining room table near the A/C or out onto the deck, where I'd spend the day drinking lemonade and eating peanut butter sandwiches and writing. Or the luxury of staying up all night, cross legged in front of the couch, elbows and journal propped on the coffee table, alternately writing and watching all-night television after my parents had gone to bed drinking endless cups of coffee before stumbling to bed at dawn.  It was a different life, and surely one I was lucky to have with a roof over my head and groceries I didn't have to pay for.   No real-life things getting in the way.  My next big bout of writing was my final year of my MA when suddenly I was writing better and more and seeing the spoils thereof, but by then, my anxiety about what would happen after graduation already had its hooks in me. I was taking classes and studying for my comp exams, but it still felt like a time with a lot more freedom--something I would lose in the next year as I started working full time and really, never get back, except for the in-betweens--the weekends and the occasional days off that I can spend --not with a janky typewriter and buckets of whiteout, but with a stack of pages and my laptop, which is still something. 

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