Delivery o' Gratitude

Writers love the mail. Not email; old school, wait-by-the mailbox mail. For many of us still focused on print and/or freelance the mail brings our news, our wages, the physical evidence of our labors. So we keep an eye on the latest stamp series, shiver at the thought of suspending Saturday delivery, and curse when a new neighborhood turns out to have a late or lazy mailman (I once had one so bad he'd just skip days).

Here is a quartet of ways the last week's mail has reminded me of all I can be grateful for in this writing life. 

Out of nowhere, a noted European poet named Ron Winkler contacted me to ask if he could translate some of my poems into German. I said yes, and he jumped through all the hoops--securing permission from W. W. Norton and New Issues, working with Hochroth Press to release a chapbook, and going on to circulate individual poems to editors. So Lo and Behold, I get this gorgeous big glossy magazine in the mail...

In it, four poems:"Unit of Measure," "Theories of Falling," "The Field," and a somewhat obscure poem of mine, "She Falls Asleep in Strange Places," that never made it into a book. 

Seeing your work in another language (one you do not speak) is surreal and wonderful.

Also, they capitalized "Capybara" every gosh darn time, which made me laugh.

Then came the arrival of The Oxford American's annual music issue, this year dedicated to...Mississippi. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I keep a little piece of my heart there at all times. When the editors asked me if I'd take part by writing about one of the tracks for their sampler CD, I was beyond thrilled. (To give you a sense of the company I got to keep, David Kirby wrote about Bo Diddley; Yuzef Komunyakaa wrote about Howlin' Wolf). If you don't know about the OA, which calls itself "The Southern Magazine of Good Writing,"you should check it out. I've been reading it for a decade, long before I ever fathomed that one day my name could be on the cover. I picked up my first copy at the Olsson's that used to be south of Dupont Circle. 

I write about Mattie Delaney, a haunting 1920s/30s Delta songwriter and guitarist about whom we know very little--she recorded just two songs. The OA crew did such a gorgeous job laying this piece out (look at that art) I could cry. These music issues aren't magazines that feel dated after a month; they are rich, nuanced, highly collectible portraits of American music themed one state at a time. Anthology + CD for $10.95? It's a steal. It's not too late to go back and get ones from previous years as gifts--I can testify that the Arkansas one is a favorite, filled with excellent driving music. Excellent driving music was key to surviving 2011, in which I put 30,000 miles on my car. 

Freelancers have to be hustle forward as they look back. So I'm working toward sending out poems and essays. I just had a poem picked up by POETRY. (!) (!!!) In 2012 I have a travel piece coming out in the Washington Post Magazine. Postage-paid Point of Gratitude #3: there are still editors out there who send you pencil-marked hard copy. David Rowell is my editor. Years ago, just out of the MFA at American University, I submitted and he replied with a phone call and suggestions for edits--even though he was not taking it, but wanting to encourage a young writer. Just a really classy guy, and it means so much to work with him now. (Ahem. This photo is sideways to discourage you from trying to read it.)
All of these things to celebrate mean nothing without people I care about to celebrate them with. This week, every day has brought a card from a friend who is also a fellow writer. Every day. I've arrayed them in the decorative bramble-thing that sits by my fireplace; it's no sparkling and tinsled Christmas tree (for that I'll be going to my parents' house), but each time I look at it I smile. Thank you, guys. And thank you, United States Postal Service.