boon of self-publication, building audience for your own work, online gravitas, online publishing
I recently “shared” a new poem on Facebook, where one of the “apps” is that you can write a so-called note (paste in a post in a text window), and then save and tag it with the names of people you’d especially like to read it among your extended FB clan.
This happens to me all the time. Fellow writers post a recent poem/piece and tag me, i.e., select my name among their “friends” as someone they hope reads their offering. I do have settings tweaked so that I can choose what appears on my timeline/home page– else it would not amount to a portrait of my interests and passions in real time, but everyone else’s.
But I love the reciprocity of reading each other this way and I had no fewer than twenty writers of substantial gravitas compliment me on the posted poem. The little window that pops up when you see who gave you a thumbs-up reads like a who’s who of current literati.
Such is the happy coincidence of life in cyberspace, where a writer can be read and responded to so spontaneously and casually, but so very meaningfully.
I don’t see this as something to do very often; everyone these days—every writer– is more than busy. But I doubt that had this poem appeared traditionally– in a print journal or low profile online journal— it or I would have been consumed as we all wish for our sensibilities and our work to be consumed.
When I wrote this poem the other day, a medium-length free verse piece called “Cartography,” which Robert Wilkinson has now selected for reprinting in the next issue of beautiful and new The Passionate Transitory with two others, I was ambivalent about it. It seemed to come together; it seemed reasonably good.
But good enough to elicit a response from poets sprinkled all over the world, some in Canada, some in the UK, some in OZ, even one or two in Italy? How amazing that a few compressed lines of validation can buoy one up for hours/ days, restoring a working writer’s often equivocal faith in her muse and herself.
This business of sharing one’s work online, i.e. sharing oneself, is still frowned upon by those fortunate enough to have won the allegiance of some of the best quarterlies or The New Yorker or Harper’s or Poetry or Paris.
Why give away your work, some have said. Send it out!
As someone whose early career involved appearing in numerous journals, some extant, some not, I understand. And I do send a few ms. out a year, still.
But I would not have met or reconnected with anyone in the aforementioned list, which isn’t complete, if I hadn’t found my way to them or they to me, online.
And aren’t these things a blessing? Isn’t it as valid to be read in this way as opposed to traditional means? To self-publish quality work which is then blessed/vetted by others this way, so that it can be fast-tracked into the collection one hopes against hope to place, as opposed to other ways?
I think it is. I think it’s perfectly all right to write something and then send the ship out to connect in the night with other nomadic souls on the virtual ocean–call it your network, call it what you will.
If push comes to shove, I’m thinking I will self-publish a collection, and I will have a host of wonderful people who just might read it.
Finally, for some of us, there is a further mandate to live virtually. It will be six years this August since my calamitous fall from a horse, the fracture of my right leg and six month stay in a nursing home, when my world became smaller than small: bed and wheelchair.
Because I had a traumatic regression to a time of incapacitation as a child, when I was in a body cast and emerged with absolutely no trust in my body and an immense fear of re-injury, it took a long time for me to liberate myself first from the nursing home, then from my companion and our animals and our house and land, to my own apartment.
Now, because I am largely housebound, my virtual relationships are very nearly my only relationships. Unlike many of my colleagues, I do not have a family, nor do I live with my partner. I seldom go anywhere, and seldom after a day of work, have the appetite for more than taking care of my home, grabbing a shower, making something to have on hand to eat on the run.
In fact, for the three and a half years I’ve lived in East Old Town, Fort Collins, I haven’t gone down to the nucleus of Old Town, not even to my old haunt Starbuck’s. I haven’t engaged with more than a handful of people, other than my friend Jack, simply because there isn’t world enough and time.
But day by day, year on year, I’ve come to this moment, wherein I am the proud mother of a ton of recent work: two novels, a memoir, as many as six unpublished collections of poetry and over three hundred essays on this blog. I am extricating my MFA degree after twenty-five years of giving up on it and on me. I’ve accidentally started a little business online in addition to blogging, writing, and the rest.
I am currently reading the dear, eminent and immensely accomplished Margaret Randall’s latest brilliant collection, Ruins, preparatory to a review, and have been further blessed in beginning to correspond with this remarkable and accomplished woman. Masterful poets Helene Cardona and Tess Kincaid have asked me to review their latest– what an honor, in both cases.
Robert Wilkinson, editor of The Passionate Transitory, (I have three in the winter issue) accepted three poems today, and I am thrilled. He found his way to me through another poet, who was kind enough to mention my work to him.
Even so, we need flesh and blood connections; we are of the flesh. The flesh needs its inhabitant to care about it. And the granules of time rush headlong through the glass, whether we’ve stored the glass on the closet shelf or not.
Ergo, I lift my cup to all of you, virtually speaking, and long for a face to face meeting and/or reunion before the days’ race has been run.