Gifts

Yesterday was a day of gifts—I ran into a couple friends I’d missed, got some kind and thoughtful emails, was mentioned on a couple blogs, and received some wonderful mail—though it didn’t start out that way.

I spent the early morning hours working on the next issue of Grist: The Journal for Writers, a labor (though enjoyable) that amounted to more or less writing and sending close to 75 emails. (Not the most favorite part of my job.) Then, I revised a few letters of recommendation and prepped them to send, and afterward did the home banking, made a grocery list, and sat idly by the front room window reading Deborah Digges's latest and waiting for the mail.

But, as the day went on, and after the mail failed to arrive at its regularly scheduled hour, the slight buzz of manuscript anxiety that lodged itself in the base of my skull last September just after I sent out my manuscript and which I could, for the most part, ignore, for the first time got ratcheted up from handsaw to circulating-saw levels.

While I still have yet to hear back on any submissions, I cannot afford to waste time and energy worrying about when. I'm not sure I ate yesterday, and apparently I left the milk out all day, and E. told me when she got home that I "smelled like an old person." I am writing this blog entry now as a way of reminding myself that the percentage of this whole process within my control is exactly zero. And all of my efforts to find control only compound my anxiety. And while I look for ways to control the anxiety, I neglect to both actually live my life and I fail to work well on the poems. These are reasons why the internet and the Google are bad for people like me. Google is an enabler and its search results for contest announcements are a plague on my day-to-day life.

So, anyway, as a way of combating my manuscript anxiety, I set about revising the work I’d written the previous day keeping in mind one of my 2011 Poetry Goals is to produce at least one draft every three weeks. For the most part all I did was tinker. I moved stanzas around, tried to find the proper measure, cut here and there. Productive, but not inspired, and really nothing new. Luckily, the mail truck arrived as I was frustratedly putting my notebook away. I flew down the driveway to the mailbox and opened the mailbox with all the hope and joy of an expectant boy on Christmas morning only to find a Restoration Hardware catalog and the proverbial credit card application. NO contest notifications. Bummer. And then, as I was closing the mailbox, I happened to glance something else that had slid to the back of the mailbox: an envelope from Sandy Longhorn!

Desk with Card
Inside the envelope was this beautiful poetry collage and inspiration card. It's perfect, and it came at such the right time, too. The card is gorgeous. And so fitting: the birds, images of lift and flight, the bright colors on the black matte background, odd imagistic juxtapositions, the text. Later today when I return to the draft, I will have this thoughtful gift as a guide and source of inspiration.

I've positioned it on my desk for easy observance and safe keeping, as you can see. Thank you, Sandy!


Sandy Longhorn - Blood Almanac
Sandy is also the author of Blood Almanac, winner of the 2005 Anhinga Prize for Poetry. Her second manuscript, In a World Made of Such Weather as ThisI think that's still the title—is currently out in the world seeking a publisher. Sandy's been blogging lately about this process of submitting to contests, revising, writing new poems, and waiting for word. If you don't know Sandy's blog, Myself the only Kangaroo among the Beauty, click the link and start reading.

Here are two scans of the card:



Also, thanks to Eduardo C. Corral and Luke Johnson for their kind words and recent posts linking to my blog.

The online poetry communal pool, which I’ve been somewhat apprehensive to wade into, has been much more manageable because there are such good people out there providing the necessary raft (not to mix my metaphors too much)—flotation device? water wings? kick board? life vest?—especially during the recent contest/open submissions waiting game. AWP is really starting to feel more like a pool party more than it is a chum-filled water swim with sharks.