Wednesday, October 19, 2011

House Cleaning

You know I usually count myself among the slow kids when it comes to picking up new concepts, but I am even slower than that when it comes to learning how to organize my life as a poet and deal with the mechanics of the poetry business.  It is with this in mind that I announce my discovery of putting various poems I write into distinct and separate folders which are named for various projects I have decided to begin.  Note how I said begin, and not finish

I came to this idea t his morning after conceiving of yet another writing project.  What amazes me is how easily I can come up with new projects all the while I am still struggling to complete two projects I think has some real momentum.  Of course the second project of the two is itself, already a demonstration of my procrastination as a poet.

I have my Springville book to return to, for which I only have about 10 pages solid writing to account for, and now I have my 'other voice' book manuscript, which has about 35 poems and more than 50 pages of solid writing behind it.  And though that is a distraction, I have come up with a third manuscript idea to distract me from my first two.  Hence my new system of poem organization, which many of you probably tried to tell me about on many occasions.

As such, I have made a command decision to simply write poems for a few months.  Write poems or fragments of poems as they come.  When I have finished a poem, I will put it in the appropriate folder and leave it alone.  Every few months I will revisit each of my book projects and see where I stand with each.

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

* * *

I told Sandy Longhorn I was going to try and talk about this next subject because I have been trying for the past week or so to put my thoughts into order and a context which would be both honest and meaningful.  It is the subject of finding value in my own work as a poet.

One of my biggest flaws as a poet is that I have a difficult time charging money for my books and services as a poet.  I feel guilty about charging people for my books and I need to stop doing that.  I certainly don't expect a lot of you to understand this, but I have a difficult time looking at my own work and putting a monetary value on it.  I can put a value on the work and labor Foothills Press puts into creating my books because they have and I try to encourage people to buy books from them at full price to help them out as much as possible, but I balk as soon as the money comes to me. 

This isn't a virtue.  It isn't as simple as saying I am an artist and I believe in the free exchange of art.  I strongly believe in being paid for my work and efforts but I have an even more difficult time coming to terms with my own sense of worth as a poet.  I guess there is a part of me which still thinks I am on the outside, even though I have had quite a bit of success, and certainly have been met with a good amount of friendship within the poetry community.

Lately, this is what consumes my writer's block.  I am writing poetry in drips and drabs (two and a half poems in the past two weeks, plus the haiku/senryu in a previous post) but it is my fear of not meeting the standards of those friends and their work which has paralyzed most of my abilities.  Suddenly I am afraid that someone or even I will try to make a comparison of worth because of this contest or that fellowship. or which press is publishing whose book---things for which I am not even competing.  And all along the way---every step of this long journey---is the very simple and very real fear that I will never be the poet I should be, that I will never be good enough.

What makes this all so frustrating is that while I am in the depths of writer's block, I begin to believe those things about myself and the whole reason I am blocked is because I am no longer a good enough writer to write poetry on the level I want to write it.

* * *

Even with all of this, I have been doing well in the submission department.  I have quite a few out, and I have several different packets of poems out in the world.  My usual, as I have explained is to only have four or five poems out at a time, but to have them all over the place.  Now, I must have 12-15 poems out in the world to 15-16 places.  I was really pleased with a response from Quarterly West, who responded only a week after I sent them work.  I was rejected but encouraged to send work again in the future.  Even without the encouragement I was pleased because they responded quite fast.  Of course that's what all poets like.

Other places have been taking their time.  I sent off a request for an update since one press asked for a nudge if they took too long.  I was happy to learn they are still considering my work.  I am still in love with submishmash as a poet, but I do not share that affinity as an editor.  Well, not for a little one horse publication like HCR.


  1. Thanks for your thoughts on the value issue Justin.

    You mention "the very simple and very real fear that I will never be the poet I should be, that I will never be good enough."

    Ditto on that!!

  2. Thank you for saying so. Sometimes I get worried that I am the only one who ever thinks what I think.