Wednesday, June 12, 2024

summertime poeting

Summer always feels like it should be a time for writing things. When I was a freshman in college, freshly sprung from my semester at the community college and starting RC in the fall, I spent those days poring over issues of Writer's Digest checked out from the library. Typing my way though drafts of slender, terrible poems on paper thin typing paper rattled with correction fluid. Every afternoon would find me waiting til after lunch, when the mail delivery crept past, to run, usually shoeless and cutting though the grassy field, down to the boxes at the end of the driveway waiting for those thin or thick envelopes back in the day when many publications still returned your drafts to you with a polite no. The "no"s were plentiful, as they should have been. But occasional vanity-esque anthologies bit (the kind of places that published in the back of WD.) Paperback anthologies that would publish you, but you had to pay for your copies, which usually contained many poems jammed on a single page. 

I feel those anthologies were a necessary step, though they are often poo-pood by "legitimate" writers. They were terrible, good god, but they satisfied my baby poet desire to feel like a writer. One, called "Living Jewels" was technically my first such publication, and included a tiny poem about television static and political angst. Somewhere it's still on my shelf. A year or so later, I would place another poem in a college lit mag. Then more anthologies, then finally, in grad school, my first non-anthology journal. It was summer again, when working at the library, I started publishing pretty widely in internet journals at a time when "print" writers were still on high horses about them. I often wonder where those writers are publishing now that so many print journals and presses are gone. Probably the web. More likely, not at all.

There was the summer I spent before my final year of college, still typing poems on that typewriter and mailing them off. The summer I worked at my parent's dining table and recorded every new piece to get to a feel for the sound on a tiny boombox.  I was getting better, freed from my tendency to want to rhyme a year earlier, and on the verge of snagging a couple poetry prizes around graduation with the pieces written that summer. Other summers I spent, not writing maybe, but definitely reading and journaling in those Mead notebooks I kept at the time. 

Another summer, 2005,  I spent ripping my first book down to the bare bones after a two years of submitting a couple different versions of it here and there to contests. That summer found me often escaping the heat and distraction at home in the air conditioned interior of a Barnes & Noble cafe downtown, going poem by poem, page by page, and reconstructing the house. Other summertime projects over the years like the exquisite damage poems and overlook. Two summers ago when I took a deep dive into the Persephone series that makes up my latest book. Or the summer I spent a portion of wandering around the Field Museum, writing extinction event. 

There is always a renewed seriousness in the fall, with big projects and plans, but summer always feels like stolen time, particularly when I was entrenched in an academic calendar, which meant a lighter load of obligatory work June-August, and even still now. This morning I wrapped up the final piece in the series I was working on and am set to move onto something else, which I may choose tomorrow morning when I sit down to draft the first piece, there being a list of potential directions and paths. One of which I will just choose and start off into the woods.