The Lure of Poetry Journals. necessity has taken a ginormous bite out of my book budget, but one of the best ways to keep up, and still support the poetry community, is through subscriptions.  They’re inexpensive, and give me yet another reason to love my mail carrier.  For less than your monthly phone bill you can subscribe to at least 4 literary journals.  My subscriptions consist of all poetry journals, because, and I apologize to my fiction-writing friends — I will buy any issue you appear in, I promise! — I don’t read much short fiction, however optimistically I begin.  And I hate waste.  Hence my meager funds are devoted to my heart’s insatiable desire for poems:

To that list I will periodically add more journals, including American Poetry Journal, which just accepted 2 poems, hooray!  Any recommendations?


As I mentally gird up for NaPoWriMo, I’ve been resisting poem prompts: gathering them, the idea of using them. But if I’m being realistic, I’m going to run out of ideas awfully fast in the course of writing a poem a day — I’ll need some help.

I don’t know why I’m reluctant to use prompts. My very first poem was an in-class assignment in 10th grade. And my teacher called me the Emily Dickinson of the class. The poem was rubbish, of course, but I like to think that he was complimenting me on my seriousness of intent.

That was the catalyst, what launched me from a reader to a writer. Without Mr. Miele, I would never have attempted it, thought it presumptuous of me to even dream of it. Little does he know what he unleashed!

I began submitting poems when I was 19. It seems shocking now. Need I even bother telling you that my very first rejection was from the New Yorker? Callow youth, yes, but I also wanted my very first to be a memorable one.

Then, my first acceptance came 5 years later. Looking back now, that poem is rubbish, too, but better than the earlier rubbish, rubbish for different reasons. I see growth. And I still have great affection for that poem, not only because it was my first published poem, but because of the nature of the poem itself — a passionate response to a passionate work of art.

So, in a departure from the norm here, and in the spirit of preparation for a month of shitty rough drafts (thank you, Anne Lamott), I’m going to share with you that first published poem of mine. I don’t plan to ever reprint it anywhere, ever, or even revise it. It stands as is, a small flawed monument to my young ambition, killed by its sincerity and immaturity, among other things. I’m okay with that…more or less.  You have to start somewhere.

To Emily

How moors I have never seen
call to me now, purple heather cruelly
lashed by bitter moaning winds
and the explosions of a darkened sky.
The storm, its force and passion,
is welcome.
The lightning, the tumult, the thundering air,
all are Heathcliff
all are Cathy.
Wet drops cool my skin, feverish
with the devouring wildness I have pulsed

within for days, seconds, centuries
intertwined, welded together
by impossible fire in a heartbeat.

Are we all, in our deepest being,
capable of such apocalyptic, beautiful love,
absolute oneness?
As we wrench from our mothers,
bloody ourselves in the effort to be,
are we delivered of the potential
to dwell in flame?
We would perish in the attempt.
But when I feel the howling
wind quicken in my veins,
I can’t help but long to exist
in all I’ve never known outside
the living pages of a book.

When I sleep, the land surrounds me,
the endless moors you wanted to escape,
and I fly up and over the cascading hills,
wildflowers undulating like whitecaps in the sea,
and only stop once reaching a chained garden gate,
and climbing over it, rush towards the shuttered
house beyond, the shuttered house that seems
to recoil from my gaze.
My arms flail at a window closed to me,
despair screaming, “Let me in!
I’ve come home!”
Black eyes stare through the glass,
and I see, as I must,
he does not know me.

But even though my entrance is
forever barred, not just forbidden,
but an impossible fire,
I would rather stand staring
into the blackness on the other side,
evidence of my futile will,
wildflowers grazing at my legs,
vengeful air pummeling my intrusion,
than ever leave.
Let its force suffocate me,
burn me to equal blackness–
I know I have no right–
but I would never leave.

(published in The Iconoclast, issue 42 — Thank you!)

Ode to Rejection.

Thanks everyone for all your good wishes. Any prize in any year is a tremendous event to me, but this prize, this year, well, let’s just say the timing is impeccable.


I admire this poem to no end. Haven’t we all lived this, in some fashion? And doesn’t it just capture how absurd the process can be? I found it in Jack Myers’ The Portable Poetry Workshop; the poem is by Philip Dacey, from How I Escaped from the Labyrinth and Other Poems (Carnegie Mellon, 1977):

(There are some indented lines that WordPress refuses to accommodate — sorry!)

Form Rejection Letter

We are sorry we cannot use the enclosed.
We are returning it to you.
We do not mean to imply anything by this.
We would prefer not to be pinned down about this matter.
But we are not keeping — cannot, will not keep —
what you have sent us.
We did receive it, though, and our returning it to you
is a sign of that.
It was not that we minded your sending it to us
That is happening all the time, they
come when we least expect them,
when we forget we have needed or might yet need them,
and we send them back
It is not that we minded.
At another time, there is no telling,
But this time, it does not suit our present needs.

We wish to make it clear it was not easy receiving it.
It came so encumbered.
And we are busy here.
We did not feel
we could take it on.
We know it would not have ended there.
It would have led to this, and that.
We know about these things.
It is why we are here.
We wait for it. We recognize it when it comes.
Regretfully, this form letter does not allow us to
elaborate why we send it back.
It is not that we minded.

We hope this does not discourage you. But we would
not want to encourage you falsely.
It requires delicate handling, at this end.
If we had offered it to you,
perhaps you would understand.
But, of course, we did not.
You cannot know what your offering it meant to us.
And we cannot tell you:
There is a form we must adhere to.
It is better for everyone that we use this form.

As to what you do in the future,
we hope we have given you signs,
that you have read them,
that you have not misread them.
We wish we could be more helpful.
But we are busy.
We are busy returning so much.
We cannot keep it.
It all comes so encumbered.
And there is no one here to help.
Our enterprise is a small one.
We are thinking of expanding.
We hope you will send something.

— Philip Dacey

Good days are very, very good.

The happy counterpoint of a few posts back... sweet Aidan.
The happy counterpoint to a few posts back... sweet Aidan.

And a sweet week it is! Not only are my mum and sister visiting, and not only did I bake a splendiferous second cake today, but great poetry news abounds:

  • I’m one of the lucky recipients of a 2008 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize! This is a wonderfully generous fund, and I’m in great company — other winners this year include Rhett Iseman Trull (editor of Cave Wall, see below), Brian Brodeur, Ann Hudson, and Alison Pelegrin.
  • Existere has accepted a poem for their spring issue, hooray!
  • You can now get your subscriptions to Cave Wall through their website! I mention this now because not only is it a great journal, but I have 2 poems in the Winter/Spring 2009 issue, coming soon.

“Sleep” is still on my list of Unfulfilled Dreams, but you won’t hear me complaining…

Chocolate Cake, Take 2
Chocolate Cake, Take 2

Good Times.

My little Mr. Magoo.
My little Mr. Magoo.

Emma commented below something to the effect that she doesn’t know how I do it all.  And my reply is, I don’t.  The lion’s share of my time right now is spent taking care of Aidan and Vincent.  I’ve taken notes for poems, actually read some books of poems, but I haven’t even picked up the novel I began reading while I was in the hospital.  I try to keep the apartment neat, for my own sanity, but actual cleaning, well, housekeeping was never my strong suit.  I don’t answer the phone — that’s what voicemail is for.  It’s frigidly cold, so we hardly go out but for necessities.  Simply put, if there’s something you tend to do on a daily basis, I probably don’t.

And all that is just fine, exactly as it should be, because these early baby days are fleeting, and Vincent is growing by leaps and bounds, and all too soon these boys who give me barely a second’s rest won’t want me around, will roll their eyes at me and mutter, “Whatever.”  I may be bleary-eyed and irritable, but that doesn’t keep me from smothering those little heads with kisses while I can.

In preparation for the poetry-writing-drought that was inevitable after Aidan’s birth, I sent out many submissions, or what I consider many, a few months ago.  If I’m not writing, I at least want a bunch of my poems out there!  Last week was particularly trying on the home front, but I’m happy to say that  poetry-wise I’ve had a string of good luck.  So I’m not complaining.  But more on that later.

Home. Every day. Small nuggets.

Yesterday, Vincent & I went downstairs to check the mail, and he, because he’s fun that way, locked the door behind us.  Hence I discovered how ludicrously easy it is to pick the lock of our apartment.  Good thing we own nothing worth stealing.


Being home so much is very odd, but now we’re both sick I haven’t had much of an opportunity to use this time well.  I’m measuring my days in balled-up tissues and cold cups of tea.


It does, however, give me far too much time to dwell on all my overdue submissions, and where the heck are they, and why won’t anyone respond to my emails.  Not altogether helpful, but I don’t currently have the brain capacity to actually write, as evidenced by this feeble post, so I’m giving myself permission to obsess.


For those of you who care & are keeping track of such things, I’m now 38 weeks, and the baby has dropped.  So there’s progress, at least!

Pleasures of the Quotidian.

After what has been a time of submission silence, and week of personal strangeness, this evening I received a clutch of emails from journals, and not an actual rejection among them.

  • One acknowledged receiving my submission (sent 44 days ago), and assured me I’d hear from them again with 4-8 weeks.
  • One apologized for the delay in responding to my submission, and assured me that I’d hear from them again soon.
  • One apologized that I never heard from them last spring (I learned they rejected me from an emailed response in June to an emailed query I’d sent in May — their records indicated mailing my SASE o’ rejection in March. I never got it.). And although I was still rejected, they would love to see more of my work.

And each of these emails was sent utterly without provocation — I promise I’ve been patient, and have done no prodding & poking of editors. Curious, these sudden displays of courtesy!

All in all, an apt bookend to my week — the holding pattern holds.


In other news, today I received my copy of Anne Haines‘ new chapbook, Breach, from Finishing Line Press — very elegant! Into the queue it goes — I can’t wait to spend some time with it.


…news. One of the presses to which I’d submitted my chapbook for a contest (which I did not win or even place as a finalist) has accepted it for publication. I didn’t even know it was still under consideration, it’s been a number of months. And I’ve since revised the chapbook, retitled it, and submitted it to a handful of other contests. Bird in the hand…?

Cave Wall Redux.

I might be spending every day with my hands in the guts of the computers at work as thunderstorms continue to wreak havoc on our network, but otherwise I’m having a great week!

I received notification today that Cave Wall has accepted 2 poems for issue 5, Winter/Spring 2009 — hurrah! I love this poetry journal, so while any acceptance is cause for a gleeful (temporary) ego-trip, this is especially thrilling for me — hurrah! hurrah!

The editor, Rhett Iseman Trull, is also a wonderful poet, and was selected this year to be in the anthology Best New Poets 2008.

Support Cave Wall — subscribe today!

Poem & LSU Press.

I feel very fatigued this week (or, as Bugs Bunny would say, “fa-ti-gewd”), but I think I’ve finished the revisions on my new poem. I think. I’m going to live with it a little while longer without touching it, and then see how I feel.

In the meantime, because I don’t have enough brainpower or energy to actually write anything, I’ll tell you about the great poetry list Louisiana State University Press has coming up in the fall. LSU can always be counted on to publish a solid poetry list — it’s actually all I order from their catalog for the store. This fall, their list includes:

  • Figure Studies, by Claudia Emerson, whose last book, Late Wife, won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
  • Whirl is King: Poems from a Life List, by Brendan Galvin, “gathers forty-three of his bird poems about herons, owls, shorebirds, warblers, raptors, wrens, and other exotic visitors blown in by wind and storm.”
  • Myself Painting, by Clarence Major.
  • The Snow’s Music, by Floyd Skloot.
  • Time and the Tilting Earth, by Miller Williams.

But I must say, it’s a good thing I’m already familiar with these poets, because the excerpts of poems LSU included in the catalog were not exactly impressive. The books themselves look to be excellently designed, however.


My general malaise probably also has to do with the kind of stasis a bunch of my submissions are currently suffering through. All this waiting can be exhausting.