Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Passing Through

A Happy Landing in Long Beach

So here I am in sunny California. Jet lag still has me up early and the mornings are gorgeous out my second floor windows. Yesterday, I even vacuumed the wood blinds, something I usually don't do until just before I leave again. Next stop: The kitchen!

Besides housework, I've been doing a lot of reading in the week since I arrived. I received two chapbooks in the mail while I was away--winners of the contests I lost last year. One is VERY good--Bar Napkin Sonnets by Moira Egan who lives in Italy and is a FAR more accomplished poet than I. It's published by The Ledge Press and you should probably buy it.

I also read two short story collections and am working my way through (the poetry, for starters) Pushcart Prize XXXIV, because, well I HAVE BEEN NOMINATED FOR A PUSHCART PRIZE! Yes. It's true. And I'm just sorta reveling in the old cliché that it's an honor just to be nominated, because by the looks of things, I won't be getting in there any time soon ;) and April will come soon enough and all of my secret hopes will be dashed to the rocks. But it IS an honor just to be nominated.

Funny thing is, the poem that was nominated--by Cider Press Review, btw--was one of the easiest poems I've ever written. It was my last semester of grad school. My thesis had been turned in and the last of my student loans had been spent. We had just finished reading James Tate's Memoir of the Hawk with Suzanne Greenberg in our Directed Reading seminar. I wasn't even sure I liked it, but SO under the influence was I that I wrote a little response, more off-the-cuff than anything I had ever been willing to call finished. I read it in class.

Truth is, I never thought much of it after that... Not even when Cecilia Woloch picked it out of my manuscript last summer--along with a couple others--and told me she thought they would like it at Cider Press... Not really even when it got accepted and published in their volume 10 earlier this year.

It's called "Free Refills," and while I can remember certain influences for the poem's subject matter, I have never felt that this poem was my own. I was channeling James Tate, much the way I was channeling Alan Ginsberg when I wrote "Wail"--the one anthologized in Not a Muse from Haven Books. It looks like I'll be reading a lot more again.

So I skimmed through Memoir of the Hawk... just to be sure that I hadn't ripped anything off or done some slant discredit to his good name, and I noticed some similarities and some differences. Nothing alarming. Just enough to help me reclaim the poem, which got me to thinking: What the heck is this poem about? As I wrote it, it felt so automatic. The language is plain. One thought led to the next without complications or contemplation. I let my imagination play in the surreal fashion that I had just read in Tate's little scenarios.

But it wasn't until just this morning, not until I started writing this blog entry, that I realized what this poem is about. What this blog is about. What, quite possibly, my whole life is about. Passing through. We are always all just passing through. Life takes such strange twists and turns that we never know when a state of being will be over, irreversibly over. Birth control fails. Friendships fail. Uncles and grandmas and nephews die. Jobs dry up and we move away, some of us farther and further than others. New homes. New loves. New visions of life. And then a blue seahorse rides off into the desert with an old woman on its back. Or maybe it isn't the desert after all. In any case, nothing is the same.

I may have just found the title of my new chapbook manuscript... and the confidence to try, try again ;)

Thanks for reading. And thanks to Caron Andregg, Ruth Foley, and Robert Wynne at Cider Press Review, and Cecilia Woloch... and James Tate and Suzanne Greenberg. I hear an acceptance speech in the makings!


Moira said...

Thanks for the kind shout-out, Suzanne, and congratulations on the Pushcart nomination!

Suzanne said...

Wow! Moira! Thanks for stopping by. The mention and the read were my pleasure. Nice to be in the literary and cyber company of genius!

Moira said...

Suzanne, thank you *again* for the kind words. I posted your Goodreads review on the FB page for the Bar Napkin Sonnets. All best --