Friday, October 06, 2006

Prodigal

When I first started this project, I intended to write an entry each day for a year. When I described my aims to a friend, he suggested that it seemed destined to be an "interesting failure". Now, months later, his prediction has come to fruition. Yet, I do not regret a single moment, nor do intend to stop writing here just yet. After all, in writing, sometimes your failures will teach you more than any success ever could.

As with anything, the business of life—fixing furnaces, ferrying tiny dogs to the vet, driving across the state for football games, driving around Cincinnati in search of restaurants, and earning a dollar or two through business—has stood in the way.

More, over the past month, I've focused more and more of my waking time to Ward 6 Review, while working more on other business. Consequently, although I'm hesitant to admit it, my writing life has begun to resemble the life of a low-level bureaucrat in a Kafka novel. Mainly, I move papers about—except there is no paper.

***

Now, it's autumn. Splotches of amber and burnt orange have tumbled from the sweet gum tree to flutter in a chill wind across back yard's still green grass. While driving through the Western Hills or out to the Mount Airy forest, I've been struck by occasional bursts of color: a single tree standing against the yellow-green of surrounding shrubbery, looking as if it had caught fire.

Inside, it's chilly. I'm anxious to turn on the heater—even though the air conditioner has only recently stopped its constant humming.

Baseball's last hurrah is the afternoon's background noise. Archie, the Italian Greyhound, is curled asleep near my abdomen as Dixie wanders in surprisingly warm sunshine that's bathing the back yard.

Soon enough, neither dog will want to go outside.

***

Since starting Ward 6 with my wife, I've thought more about my own poems and how they might appear to an editor of an online journal or little magazine. I've invested the time to research a few markets properly and sent out the contents of both manuscripts. Thirty days of waiting has been punctuated by excellent news from Tar River Poetry and Word Riot, as well as four rejections and a deeply annoying email from editors who had opted not to accept electronic submissions, despite what their guidelines had said.

Thus far, the waiting has gone well. With each rejection (and acceptance), I've immediately sent the poems that were not taken to another market.

Persistence.

***

My wife is due to return from work soon. Looking back at what I've written, I know that I can do better. The lyricism and insight that I longed to chisel into this little vignette appears only as the slightest flicker of shadow—here and there.

But how could it be otherwise? Writing, more often than not, is about failure and fortitude. Countless talented students of writing will find happiness elsewhere. Countless young poets will send off their poems, expecting—as I once did—instantaneous praise. Few poets deserve such praise. Rather, success is built upon failures: the failures of ambition, the failures of luck, the failures of timing, and the failures of placement.

For me, I've learned from those failures, and more, I've learned that, in truth, a rejection isn't a failure. It's just a rejection.

***

Now it's autumn. The air outside is crisp. Crimson sweet gum leaves dot the lawn. My wife is home—I think about lighting a fire and warming some apple cider on the stove, but I won't. The dogs are sleeping now. Dixie, our Jack Russell is cuddled in her crate. Archie, with his ears pricked up, is burrowed half-under a blanket, nuzzling my leg.

I'm glad to have returned.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Karen said...

I think it's pretty lyrical! And insightful.

I had a poetry prof at GWU in a summer course back in 1976, David McAleavey, who wrote a book called The Forty Days. (I just checked, out of curiosity, to see if it's still around, and it's available on Amazon).

I remember being interested, but not quite knowing what to make of it, when he told us he woke up one morning and realized with certainty that he was going to write a poem a day for the next forty days.

With the same number of lines, stanzas each day.

And (obviously, since the book exists) -- he did.

It's what came to my mind, reminded me of your deciding to write an entry every day -- but poetry every day, as a device for a book, seems more doable than a blog commitment because of the fitting-into-one's-life nature of blogs, as you say.

To me it's bloggily nice to know the bloggers I read have days where they fix the furnace instead of blogging! - it kind of gives human spacing --did your work on the furnace, by the way, relate to the gas smell you'd blogged about a while back?!

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Karen said...

I feel so glad you returned, prodigal brooder.

I won't be adding comments very often if at all on future posts, I've gotten too much into posting on blogs and neglecting my reallife! - but will be reading --

-- and learning. I, still, feel so incredibly grateful having been introduced to Birches here; suddenly it introduced me to all of Frost's poetry, in a sense... a sudden slant of clarity on how he reveals meaning, his very understated technique, that I had not grasped in other poems of his -- not sure how I missed it before.

I'm still amazed by that, and how you patiently posted back and forth through my discovery

always thanks, k

4:46 AM  
Blogger Les said...

Karen:

I'm glad you're enjoying the site. More posts soon--I've been focusing on jumpstarting my writing career (such as it is) lately.

4:02 PM  

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