10.06.2005

I Have Needs, Too

One thing that's rough about the literary life is the amount of time between happy accidents, which, for me, includes publication. I get a lot of rejections, but I handle that okay to an extent.

But after a while, I start to get nervous.

Especially now with this older manuscript. I've been sending work out from it for about eight months, I guess. Only a few pieces have been taken. This is fine. I mean, I'm not dying to get in. But it starts to present a problem for my relationship to the work.



The further away I get from the experience of having written it, the more I see its flaws. Like after you've seen a movie a few times, suddenly you notice the boom mike dipping into the frame like a black baby carrot. I've noticed that getting poems published makes me feel like they're not my problem anymore. That, since somebody else likes them, I don't have to feel solely responsible for caring for them, tending to them, etc.

Is this normal? It seems worse now that I've finished writing the new ms. I feel very ambivalent about the other book, which is sad because I loved it for so long.

I know that another thing that helps me feel excited about my work again is reading it. I read in June and those old pieces were jolted back to life. But reading opportunities seem few and far between here in the sunny PHX. We need a good non-MFA/non-distinguished writer reading series here.

6 comments:

  1. Charlie,

    Yes, this is fairly normal. At least I have heard this very same thing from many poets. I know when I read poems from my first book now, I feel like someone else wrote those poems. And, like you, if I do a reading, they seem to come back to life. No idea why that is.

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  2. I'm left wondering: why not go back and revise some of those poems? Such was, until recently, a fairly common practice among poets (wasn't it?). Maybe it's worth considering, given that you're seeing 'flaws' in the work.

    But, if it's worth anything, I think Little Burning Edens is a big, fiery, and wholly [pun alert!] excellent collection. (Though I'm guessing that's not the collection you're referring to.) I can't wait to have a "real" copy, with an inscription inside that reads something like,

    'Dear A. J.,

    You owe me 15 dollars for this.


    Signed,

    C. Hotness Jensen'


    You're a fine poet, Charles. Stay strong!

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  3. "I've noticed that getting poems published makes me feel like they're not my problem anymore. That, since somebody else likes them, I don't have to feel solely responsible for caring for them, tending to them, etc."

    I feel almost exactly like this.

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  4. Readings make me feel excited about poetry, too.

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  5. Thanks, all. I'm glad I'm not the only one.

    And AJ, thanks for the vote of confidence. :)

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  6. I continually revise my poems. Even after they're published in mags or journals, I'll still tinker with them. When I sent off my chapbook manuscript, I noted in the acknowledgements that the poems had appeared in previous publications (and in slightly different forms). Most of the time I think a poem is never really finished.

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