Drafting poems #10-16 & Rejections

This next round of draft processes has been a muddled mess. Since I’m journaling regularly in the morning, sometimes I’ve written these drafts out in longhand; other times, on the computer. I’m also behind one day, so I need to write two one day this month in order to make sure I’m getting 30 in 30 (because I’ve also made this official. I’m going to try to get over my commitment-phobic issues and just commit to 30 poems in 30 days).

Journaling every morning has left me feeling like a raw nerve this whole week. Lots of insecurities and self-doubt have risen to the surface, and on top of that, I’ve received the largest number of rejections in a short amount of time in my entire submitting career. Since January 3rd, I’ve received 16. One form for my poetry manuscript. One form for a fiction story. Three form for a creative nonfiction essay. Four form and seven personalized for poetry. So, if anything, I’m learning perseverance and working through discomfort and the importance of positive action (journaling, writing, & submitting, in spite oself-doubt).

Here are processes for each of these. While several of my other drafts seemed to be building toward a story, these are going in very different directions.

Draft Ten (“White Breath”): Molly Spencer talks about collecting “scraps,” and one thing I frequently try to do is when I’m struck by a word, a line, or an image is to write it down. The important thing is to come back to these to see what comes out of them. The scraps for this particular poem were “hoarfrost,” “skylark,” and “Katherine.” Since I’m usually writing these poems on a time-constraint, I really try to throw whatever comes into my mind onto the page, so few of these make sense at this stage. An example: “The frost on her hair, the ice shed of her fingers, the skylarks, the skylarks…”

Draft Eleven (“This is a poem”): “Metapoetry” is when someone specifically states in the poem that it’s a poem. Poems like these immediately repel me: I don’t want you to tell me it’s a poem; I’m not dumb! I know what I’m reading! But, like the typical hypocrite, I wrote my own metapoem because that’s the poem that needed to be told. “Innocents are in this poem. Ones who build a fort, ash their cigarette into a potted plant.”

Draft Twelve (“Fingerprint”): A while ago, a poet-friend of mine gave me the idea of writing “opposite” poems, taking a poem you’ve already written or someone else’s and changing every word to its opposite while still trying to make logical sense. It’s a hard exercise, and not something I’ve used very often, but it became a good exercise for me to use when figuring out how to incite  a new draft. I took this lovely poem up on LineBreak and started trying to shape it into its opposite. For example, I started with the first line, “I robbed the ceramicist of his clay” and changed it to “We shouldered the mortician from her laboratory.” While that’s not particularly lovely, it did give me enough of a springboard to begin writing about a couple and also pull in some words in from the original, like “electrified” and “fingerprint.”

Draft Thirteen (“Darling”): A poet-friend of mine (who will one day get a blog so I can start linking to him regularly) wrote some poems I liked that were all about sexy dancing. I don’t write about sexy dancing. My poems are in no way sexy (people dying or hurting other people is not sexy) or dancing to begin with, but I wanted to write about dancing for this draft, and I was hoping maybe it could be sexy dancing. I tried. This one needs some tucking and pinching and prodding, but it was an admirable first attempt at some sexiness when my writing-sexiness is…nil.

Draft Fourteen (“This Cave”): This poem started out as an idea, “Two bodies form an echoing chamber,” that turned into a sort of mess of images. The image was so clear and solid in my head, but once I got it on paper, it sort of fell apart. I couldn’t figure out how to piece it together, and it just wasn’t coming together. This might be one of those poems that becomes scraps for future poems, but I’m hopeful the idea will come together at some point.

Draft Fifteen (Two Step””): Another attempt at a sexy dancing poem. This one was better. The images are a little clearer. The language felt a little fresher. I had a clearer idea in my head that translated better to the page. “Her ribs against his palms, blood in her cheeks.” I don’t think this one’s any closer to being for-real-sexy, but maybe one day I’ll be able to do?

Draft Sixteen (“Apologies”): This one made all of the other fifteen poems worth it. If I needed to write fifteen bad poems to get one good one, I’m okay with that. This one was even fun to write(!). It didn’t feel like a chore, didn’t feel like “I need to get this over with to say that I did it.” It felt like a real, “I’m inspired! Words on the page! I love them! Ooo! Those words are cool together! Let’s do that again! And again!” This returned to another couple. A line I like: “Kiss me and lick splinters from your lips.”

12 thoughts on “Drafting poems #10-16 & Rejections

  1. The rejections seem to come in batches. Journals like to spend the Xmas break clearing out their backlogs because, you know, there’s not a whole lot going on over Xmas, nobody’s submitting anything, etc. etc. So if you get a lot of rejections right after the first of the year, that’s probably why. It’s just how the game is played.

    Anyway, am I genuinely reading this right? You’re going to draft a poem a day for the year? That’ll give you enough raw material for four, maybe five collections by the end of the year.

    1. My experience working for a literary journal, especially one that’s run by grad students, is they usually push through in early December /before/ the break. It’s weird for me to get so many /after/ the break.

      And God no, 30 poems in 30 days! 365 poems in 365 would be…just wow. I don’t even want to fathom it.

  2. that is a lot at once, ugh. it always is disheartening when they come in batches. i got a rejection for my book, and six poetry rejection letters this month. so maybe our batches of acceptances are coming next month, right? 😉

  3. I’ve also been weathering a deluge of rejections, over the past two weeks. So hopefully we’re chalking up some serious submission karma that we can cash in, soon.

    But like Sandy pointed out, your draft notes are proof that you are on to something.

  4. But WOW – think how many submissions you sent out! Which is impressive all by itself. And all these drafts you’re working on — also impressive! Keep on keepin’ on, poet. You’re doing the work and the tide must turn.

  5. Tara Mae,

    What kind of journal do you keep? The “raw nerves” comment made me think you’re writing about personal stuff.

    I’ve recently started keeping a journal again, but it’s much different from the type of journal I kept years ago. I’m recording things that can be used in poetry or prose at a later date, and pondering questions, like “do decisions really matter” etc.

    It’s a fun approach that gets me writing, but I’m not delving into personal feelings as much. I’m not sure how useful it’s going to be. I know a lot of writers keep journals where they record things they see or hear, but my question is how do you remember when you wrote it? I guess if you write in Word, you can do a search. Otherwise, that’s a lot of flipping through pages to find a quote, etc.

    I’m reading a textbook right now (3rd edition Imaginative Writing) that says you should use something physical for a journal. Hmm. I did the whole physical journal thing throughout high school and college and I hate looking at them now. In fact, I want to burn them. The horrid, rushed handwriting!

    By the way, you’ve been busy! I haven’t written my first poem of 2013 yet. Got to change that soon.

    1. Hey Peggy,

      I was actually doing The Artist’s Way (http://www.amazon.com/Artists-Way-Spiritual-Creativity-Anniversary/dp/1585421464) at this time, which requires you to journal for three pages a day on whatever. More often than not, I used it to process things going on in my life, but I did also occasionally use it for creative writing. One morning, I wrote a three page poem. Another one, I wrote a couple of pages of part of an essay.

      I had to take a break from writing because I hurt my hand, but I’m hoping to get back to it soon!

      Are you still keeping up your journaling?

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