Sunday, January 03, 2010

K'ang Keaw Wayn Gai

Today I read this sentence in a poem and it struck me funny: I can be had.

“Had” used in this way for me implied “purchased,” as in “the gigolo can be had for $60.” But “being had” also means “was able to be fooled,” as in the revelatory buyer’s remorse epitaph “We’ve been had!”

I think the weird part about this usage is the having seems transitory, like you’re “had” and then you’re let go, mostly because the “had” seems so past tense. But in fact it’s the perfect participle, the equivalent of “you’ve been eaten,” “it has snown,” “the oats were chewn.” You know.

I think one of the stupidest set phrases I know is “Fun was had by all,” or as the British say, "Fun has been had by all."

And so 2009 was also had. Fun was had, anger was had, gladness, regret, the gigolo, the flu and item #43 on the menu at the Thai restaurant with dishes I can't otherwise pronounce.

And, while on the subject of stuff had and abandoned, on New Year’s eve we went to a party where folks re-gifted their unwanted Christmas presents. I took along a pair of duplicate pajamas. (I’d gotten the same ones last year.) And I received a super anonymous soccer trophy! Miles got a huge paper-maché purple rabbit. Carlo got a black plastic desktop pencil organizer and Luisa got junk sunglasses.

The year that was. I think my accomplishment of 2009 was I finally had a poem accepted that had been rejected by 33 different publications. Most sane people would give up, and I’ve given up and put poems aside before in the face of lesser humiliations. But I really like this particular poem and had some trouble understanding why it needed counseling. What I finally did was change the title, and believe it or not I think that was the hitch.


Toni Clark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Toni Clark said...

A "had" poem (second one down, "The Woman Who Picked Me Up"):

Yikes, what got rejected 33 times? Care to share the two titles? Maybe I'll revisit titles of my rejects! :)

NE said...

You could always go the Emily Dickinson route and call all of your poems "Untitled" (or, better yet, by the first line).

Still, the very thought that changing the title made a difference is a sad statement about poetry editors (only ONE of which I've fooled so far).

Kass said...

I love this analyzation of the word 'had.' I wonder if you could have helped Bill Clinton out with 'is.'

SarahJane said...

For fear of prejudicing the public against my poem, I cannot reveal the title here, at least not until the poem has been actually published and gone on to win the Nobel Prize for poemdom.
But I will send it to you in an email, along with the list of hostile publications.

NE - I often think "untitled" is apt. ee cummings did the same thing, and I never had the feeling he was bastardizing his children. But many people 'hate' when poems are not named.

Kass- poor Bill. He should have fessed up at the outset. Luckily he seems to have come through though.

Dick said...

I rather like 'fun was had by all'. But then I'm a Brit and we came up with the phrase!

Well done for persistence with the poem. But 33 mags! How long did its journey take?

SarahJane said...

Years, I'm sure.
It's always surprising how things go with acceptances. I've had some poems accepted by the first place I've submitted while others get sent back, and sent back, and sent back. My poem "Humidity" was accepted by the first and only place I sent it, and then nominated for a pushcart. My poem "Folk Art" probably also went to 8-9 places until I finally tried at the fledgling publication 'Warbler,' and it ended up on Verse Daily, which I was really pleased about.
It can be so hard to judge your own work. I think good poetry by no names will eventually get published, just like bad poetry by big names will also get published.

kanishk said...

I cannot reveal the title here, at least not until the poem has been actually published and gone on to win the Nobel Prize for poemdom.
kobe beef

Anonymous said...

I thought, seeing you holding the globe of a soccer ball, that you'd finally been recognized with a cast trophy. I was had by my own quick evaluation of the situation.

Part of what brings me back here is your love of words and ideas. the persistence of 33 submissions is a laudable journey.

You had me at, "K'ang."

Robert Mc said...

Huzzah for persistence! Many of my publications have been with poems a decade old or more. If I like 'em, I just keep sending them out, like a mom who puts the kids in the same Halloween costume year after year. Sometimes a title change helps. Sometimes the poem suddenly wants to remove its last stanza. Other times you just have to hope for the right editor to come to the door and say, "Earl, come out here and look how this poem's dressed up, it's adorable." And then you get the extra treat of seeing the witch or clown or fairy princess published. (How's that for a wonky metaphor?)


SarahJane said...

love the wonky metaphor.

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