Friday, January 30, 2015

Thanks for not much

I have so not gotten on the gratefulness wagon I have to avoid certain settings, since my failure to chime in would surely draw a collective frown. It's not that I'm not grateful, it's just that I don't want to join the latest emotional directive. It's like when everyone is reading the same book, and it’s The Da Vinci Code.

I understand gratefulness is supposed to boost your happiness hormones and all that, but why make a project of it. Yesterday, for example, I went home really looking forward to the two hours of the day when I would not be working. I was so happy I even smiled. What I felt was gratefulness, but I didn't have time to craft a hallmark card about it.

Anyway, in the thankfulness department, my semiannual give-thanks-to-a-teacher anxiety came to a head this week when a couple FB friends posted about teachers who changed their lives by recognizing their talents or inclinations. Then a Slate editor published a memoirette about his relationship with his 10-grade English teacher, who advised him well after school ended not to pursue lawyerdom, along with delivering other life-enriching lessons.

To confess, I've always felt kind of grateful to my 10-grade English teacher, a former nun who presided over our class with dry detachment. She swayed like a stork in her 70s get-up, a short bob and bell-bottom slacks. She was a humorless sort, but she had the idea of giving students an extra point for each book they read. So if you had 86 points, a B or B+, you could kick it up to an A by reading 4 or more extra-curricular books each grading period. She passed out a list of acceptable titles that I kept until my house burned down 10 years later. I was already a reader, since my dad demanded I read 10 books every summer, but reading now had more rewards. I read everything. I read also to please my teacher, though she was about as interested in me as in dryer lint.

One day I got up the nerve to ask her if she'd recommend me to take honors English the following year. She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I didn't fit her picture of what honors English was. I knew who was in honors English and it's true I was not like them. Today they are housewives, realtors, or working payroll at a swimming pool chemicals company.

I was stung, it's true. As I said, I’ve always been kind of grateful to this teacher but lately I wonder what for. I’m grateful that she helped spark my interest in literature. But I am not grateful to her for anything else, not any later academic success, not my landing in journalism, not my poetry. I would like to thank her for taking an interest in me, but she didn't, and I managed anyway.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New year's misreadings

Lately instead of doing upper-body or lower-body I just do full-body stench workouts.

It’s a grueling procedure, so prepare for preposterous care at home.

The app makes photo mortgages of your face and much more.

The room had a sort of underwear light.

We are in the midst of disgusting an entire library.

It’s the thought that gonuts.

Perhaps when you ejaculate everything, you’ll see you’re wealthier than us.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Backward dog

Listened to: Be Brave from My Brightest Diamond
Reading: Dina’s Book by Herbjorg Wassmo, a Norwegian writer I’ve never read before

Laughed: SNL’s Lawrence Welk show with Will Ferrell
Learned: You can’t do anything well when trying to do four things simultaneously.

Failed: Poetry rejections.
Triumphed: First yoga class. Arrived dressed for class, on time, and pre-paid. 

Watched: Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
Observed: Most virtual interaction with America this week was negative. Obese people in too small clothes, right-wing weirdos, & selfie obsessives. 

Dreamed: I was Thatcheresque.
Received: A book of stamps!

Acquired: Jewelry
Did without: Jewelry

Cooked: Tomato sauce. Mine’s made with carrots rather than sugar, and rosemary rather than basil.
Drank: Fennel & Anise tea.

Word of the week: Cosmonaut
Pithiness of the week: "My father predicted everything when he said I would procrastinate until I died." Jane Bowles

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The I-Did-It list

Some writers I know put together year-end notes - some counted their submissions, some counted how many poems they wrote, others stood on their heads naked and recited from memory in French. 

No one was bragging; many were modest. Still when I counted up my rejections, and tried to reckon how many poems I'd written, I just didn't want to go there. I don't even know how to count how many poems I "wrote" last year. Should I count the stillborn, the lame, the aborted? What about those I’d begun years earlier and finally finished in 2014? In any case, it wasn't many. And those rejections, man, a deluge.

Truth is I sent almost twice as many submissions in 2014 compared with 2013 (74 vs 40) but still got just two more acceptances (11 vs 9). A bunch of those submitted remain outstanding so I could squeak out another acceptance or two, but I’m not expecting an effusion of yes

Of the acceptances, I had to pull the poem because I later realized it resembled - in idea if not in wording - a poem by another poet that I had read long ago. The editor understood and I was grateful, though sorry and a bit disturbed. 

So I liked the pep talk I got reading Lisa Romeo’s "I Did It" idea, which asks you to look back and acknowledge your accomplishments, big and small. Here are some of mine. 

For one, I didn’t regret any of my acceptances, i.e. wish I’d sent my poems to a ‘better’ publication. Acceptances were few, but wonderful, and I was particularly heartened to land my poem “Inksleep” in Beloit, and “Bloodshot Cartography” in Crab Creek.

Two editors corresponded with me about poems I'd submitted asking for minor changes. I was happy that the editors considered those poems worth the effort. 

I was especially fond of the video Nic Sebastian made of my poem "Ambien" from Poetry Storehouse
Marie Craven also made a dynamic, delightful video of "Dictionary Illustrations." It can only be viewed offline, unfortunately, which I have done many times, as have my husband, mother and children!
(These videos were not my accomplishments, of course.) 

I also got a Pushcart nom from Storm Cellar.
And Best of the Net noms from DMQ and Right Hand Pointing.
And Dancing Girl Press accepted my chapbook - “Heiress to a Small Ruin” - for publication later this year.
And DoubleBack press plans to reprint my first chapbook, “In The Voice Of A Minor Saint.”

So I feel good despite my crappy stats.
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