Saturday, March 07, 2009

Almost Random Notes, Part 20

1. On Progress: I spent the latter part of the week revising bits and pieces of Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds, then added a longish poem I've been working on to the final third of the manuscript. I had not previously been happy with the ending, now I am. I know I have said several times, "Now, it is finished," but Yes, now it actually does feel finished. I sent the mansuscript out again this morning to a contest. I think that the changes I made were helpful and I have some faith in what I put in the mail.

It strikes me as a legitimate question--at one point does one retire from the contest business and settle upon (or resolve to seek out) a long-term relationship with a publisher?

Rhetorical Question: Do long-term relationships with publishers actually exist in the poetry world?

Perhaps for the Smart Set, but not for me.

Not yet.

Answer to the Actual Question: I suppose I will stop submitting to contests when (if ever) the poetry community discovers (i) that I exist, (ii) that I am not going away, and (iii) that my work is worth reading and makes a valuable contribution. So far, that level of acceptance hasn't happened, at least not in the sense––or to the extent--I would like. Until then, you'll see me standing, along with everyone else, in the welfare line, waiting for my handout of cheese.

And until then--and what the Hell, ever after--as that famous band sang, "Why can't we be friends?, why can't we be friends? Why can't..."

Yes, I am also working on Project X.

2. Bad Reviews: Perhaps the only review I've read recently that was worse than Jason Guriel's attack on Jane Mead's The Usable Field (Alice James Books, 2008) and Steven Schroeder's I-hate-this-guy take on Tryfon Tolides' An Almost Pure Empty Walking ( Penguin, 2006) was Michael Schiavo's hatchet job on Matthew Dickman's All-American Poem (Copper Canyon Press, 2008). Now, I don't know Tolides and I don't know either one of the Dickman twins, nor am I familiar with any of their work. Based upon what I read in the reviews, however, I have trouble believing that Tolides and Matt are two of the four donkey-boys of the poetry apocalypse. Even with twin bro' Michael Dickman riding scraggly burro No. 3.

They don't need my defense, in any event.

I will say that Jane Mead is a different matter. I know and love her work and (full disclosure) had the pleasure of meeting her personally about ten years ago. No, I haven't read her new book, but I intend to do so, and anticipate making a response to Guriel, based upon my (okay; as yet, not fully informed) sense that Guriel has treated her unfairly.

I am not opposed to negative reviews per se, but must say that I "like" them only when they are directed at poets I dislike personally and whose work I find execrable. I am afraid that is not a very principled position--in fact, I will concede that it is the essence of unprincipled, but there you have it.

Who are the poets I dislike and whose work I find execrable? Oh, Constant Reader, you tempt me so.

3. Cheap Shots: The Cheap Shot of the Week Award goes to David Wojahn in the most current American Poetry Review.* In an otherwise informative essay on capaciousness in poetry, Wojahn suddenly turns on Joe Wenderoth, variously––and to no particular point––calling one of Wenderoth's poems "listless," "muddled," "maladroit," "...parody, as something sampled from one of the more cheesy moments of a Presidential address. But we can't quite be sure. Wenderoth, like many younger poets, is a highly accomplished ironist. But here that very skill may have underscored his other limitations."


C'mon. Why can't we be friends?

The runner-up for Cheap Shot of the Week is Jim Holt, who, while reviewing Alexander Waugh's The House of Wittgenstein in last Sunday's New York Times Book Review, pointed out (in the last paragraph of the review--and again, to no particular purpose) that Alexander Waugh's grandfather, Evelyn, had an incestuous relationship with Alexander's aunt.**

Double ouch.

4. Final Notes: In the same issue of APR, C. Dale Young has four terrific poems, and that guy Michael Dickman has two.



* "'Though I Would Have Saved Them if I Could': On Capaciousness" by David Wojahn, The American Poetry Review, March / April 2009, pp. 11-17.

** "Suicide Squad: A History of the Morbid, Musical, Quarrelsome, Brilliant Wittgensteins" by Jim Holt, reviewing The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War, New York Times Book Review, March 1, 2009, pp. 8-9.


Blogger Collin Kelley said...

There's a lot of anger and bitterness in the air these days in the poetry world. Egos and envy run amok. It's just more po'biz bullshit. And poets wonder why poetry has been marginalized...the poets do a fine job of trying to shut out anyone who doesn't know the secret handshake.

5:24 PM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...

Yes, Collin and I don't understand why.

Unless everyone is terrified of the economy.

5:29 PM  
Blogger Lyle Daggett said...

It's weird too, inasmuch as there's just as much (if not vastly more) ego-and-envy amok-running in media that are far less marginalized than poetry -- as much of a feeding frenzy as AWP can be (just for example), it's nothing compared with the Golden Globes or Oscars.

Maybe it's because even for the "lucky" ones who claw their way to the top of the heap, the potential rewards are so meager relative to those reaped by the biggest stars in the movie or music industries.

Oh well (shrugging my shoulders).

Part of the reason I've commented here, apart from moderate interest in the subject, is that word verification is (not making this up) "guestrat".

I mean, who could pass that up?

11:18 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

There's never a time to decide you should send to a publisher. Just send away.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Happyflower said...

HI Greg,

I would love to read a poem you are working on before it goes "poof". How about sharing something? :-)

8:35 AM  
Blogger Matthew Thorburn said...

Hi Greg,
On #1, I think we can stop sending to contests once we publish a book with a press that's interested in publishing the book we write after that. That's my hope, anyway -- that it's that simple.

(Though "simple" seems like the wrong word to describe any aspect of getting a book of poems published...)

On the other hand, if you can get yourself a twin brother and appear in a Hollywood movie, that may also help!

8:42 AM  
Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

Hi Greg:

I don't know him at all personally, so I don't hate him. I assuredly hate the unethical backscratching ethos he represents, and I'm quite comfortable that his poetry is lousy. Do negative reviews offend you?


9:32 PM  
Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

Sorry, missed the explanation re:negative reviews in your post...

12:48 AM  

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