The fine line between give up and keep going. A simulated diamond, or the real deal.
That task, friends, is my “once more into the breach,” routine at the new year, on the cusp of 2015, i.e., try yet again for my big book and little books to dazzle the right editor at the right time.
Take a look at say, three or four web homes of independent presses, and you’ll see what I mean. The bright lights, the greasepaint—the book covers, the big names, the new names, those newly lauded and forty years younger than I.
The proliferation of new presses, new mags, new online journals—stars twinkling and ascending, blazing a trail, crashing back into the oblivion darkness of their emergence.
At 66 I have certain achievements under my belt. An MFA and one small press and three chapbooks.
At a similar age, those with whom I began my literary journey are retiring from tenure-track jobs with the Pulitzer to their credit and God knows how many collections from the top presses.
As I said, it’s overwhelming, beyond difficult, to flog oneself into the mainstream, if it’s even do-able, or wise. And how many of those like me whose stars have risen took a twenty year break to raise twenty-five litters of gorgeous Golden Retrievers, to live the Western life?
It’s so obvious now that I need to stop thinking of this as a horse race and myself as the dark horse, the one who will make it on the stretch. This is the stretch; these are the last few years, themselves meteoric, of my life.
It is equally obvious that I will never make up the ground I lost when I left Minnesota as a writer’s paradise and came back to Colorado to take care of my parents, forfeiting my whole career because I thought I should.
At the end of the day, the work should speak. What one writes and how one has written it; whether it is luminous, brilliant, beautiful.
There is a certain continuum without dimension, time out of time, where brilliant work pulses and lingers waiting to be seen for what it is. This is where all of us should aspire to live, and all publishers looking for the best contemporary work should put their hearts and heads.
In this realm, the poetry who’s who doesn’t matter, the rubbing of shoulders and the schmoozing at AWP shouldn’t matter; the building of platforms and networking and the hunger to become an ever brighter star that outpaces the others. Something like the ten rings I bought for myself at Christmas when I became newly fascinated with gemstones and other bling.
Seven of these, straight to me by China Post from Beijing and costing next to nothing, will I’m sure be relegated to costume jewelry status and the others, to those I will feel beautified by once on my ring finger. As in the Rose of France lilac amethyst ring that is even more beautiful than my diamond engagement ring, and which perhaps should trade places with it.
Gemology. The need to publish, to be lauded, to be sung the praises of, thereto, by and with and for whom. To be enshrined in the 24k gold setting of the avant garde publisher. The torment of syntax, the need for some opiate to blunt the edges of angst and dread and despair, the solace of diamonds.
The only question that matters is this one: Do I believe in my work? Do I believe that it is brilliant and beautiful?
If the answer is “yes,” then the path is clear. I should send my book to the top presses and prizes, and get over my issue with entry fees and other red herrings. Am I willing to spend $25.00, perhaps five or six times over, on a chance?
Do I believe that And Now, the Road, is a worthy book, and that the glowering and dark self-victimized One in me telling me that it’s all over and of no use should shut the fuck up?
More to the point: how am I doing with my belief in Jen/Jenne’, she for whom I must go to bat every waking moment, to cultivate self-acceptance and self-tenderness. It’s been a rough holiday with so many emotional storms and fallings-back into the past–fears of not sleeping begetting more insomnia–loving, being loved and yet not feeling lovable.
There is still someone in me who is dark inside, lonely and sad. The little girl, with her lost dreams? Who can say? I only know that it’s my job to make her feel better.
And so, as noted, once again into the breach. It is 2015– Happy and Productive New Year to all my wonderful family and friends–my beautiful husband Jack, my brother and cousins, my sisters in poetry in Italy and especially in Sicily, Napoli, Calabria. May we bloom.