Thursday, October 28, 2004

Poet in a Box

I had a brief conversation with Nick Twemlow, one of the amazing editors at The Canary. A few days ago they took one of my poems, "[Opera Singer]", for issue #4. It is a dark little ditty told in 9 sections about a man whose thoughts and feelings are inexplicably rigged to a gramophone that plays [opera singer]. {Opera Singer] is his inner soundtrack so to speak, played outward. Its like probably the best poem I've ever written, gawwwd (have you seen Napoleon Dynomite yet? Fabulous). Anyhoo, Nick had some edits, some deletions, for me to consider as an editor, in the traditional sense, should. It made me realize, not for the first time, but deeply this time that I am a poet in a box. I've been out of my creative writing MA program at Nebraska for 4 or so years now and I haven't bounced as much as a phrase off any other poet since. Everything I write gets evaluated and revised in my head only. I'm not saying that workshops are needed to make great poetry, but I do think they help frame a perspective that any given reader of my poetry may have. The only writers who read my poetry are the editors of the magazines I send them to, and the only feedback I get from them can fit into three categories: 1. Great stuff, we'll take it. 2. Oooh, so close, try again. 3. Sorry but this didn't fit our needs at this time. Its easy for me to gauge the quality of my work on my own but it hardly matches up with the poems that have been taken and have not been taken. Maybe my poems are more unique to me (and perhaps the books I read) and to my own universe I've created in my head out of poetry. This is a good thing right?. But I was ripe for Nick's edits. They made so much sense and made the poem so much better, something that would have never happened without an outside reader. I've been so entrenched in the way it was that I needed a different perspective to get it to where it could be. So, I'm torn between whether being in a box is a positive or a negative thing. Should I go back to school (because I am)? Are there any other poets in a box out there?

Nick's suggestions also made me realize that I don't do much editing as an editor of Octopus. I more like a selector and arranger. Tony and I have only suggested changes, in order to publish, to two or three poems in the four issues we've done together. The only one I can remember off hand was Marcus Slease's Introduction to Logic in #2. I look for something that blows me away in the form it is currently in, and take it as is. There have been a few things I wish ended differently, or this or that, but there is so much great stuff in our mailbox that is so easy to discard the ones that aren't perfect.

Anyway, on a completely different note: congratulations to the BoSox. Wow! These playoffs somehow managed to easily top last year's (minus Marlins v Yankees). I puffy heart baseball. I'm going to pine for you this winter. And especially a big congratulations and thank you to the 2 BoSox, Mueller and Schilling, that helped put my fantasy team, My Dogs are Barking, in second place this year. Sorry Henriksen, Tost, McCollough, Murphy, and down the line, etc. etc.

4 comments:

Tony said...
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Tony said...

What's goin' on here, Schomburg? I posted a comment this morning, but it's not here!

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks on behalf of Mssrs. Twemlow, Edwards, and myself. Your poem is fabulous, and I, for one, am very impressed that Twemlow has encouraged us all to be more hands-on editors. He's a brilliant brilliant man, and I think he took what was already a very good poem, and helped you to make it great.


By the way, when's the next Octopus due?

Reb said...

I have a poem coming out in the next issue of Pip Lit that the editor did a bit of editing with. I was blown away by what she did, thankful and humbled, to say the least.

Tony said...

Heh...I have a poem coming out in ZYZZYVA that Howard Junker very nearly eviscerated.

But I let him. I wanted the $50 honorarium.