Friday, August 15, 2008

One Plus One Equals

I have two things on my desk at the moment.

First, I have Erin Malone's What Sound Does It Make, winner of the 2007 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Award, to which I submitted a version of my manuscript last year.

Second, I have some great specific and actionable feedback on that manuscript from a NJ poet whose name I'll hold back lest some net-trolling 'bot associate it with such a generous gift and create a monster for that poet.

It would be arrogance to put these two things together and say "I get it", but I surely understand "it" a great deal better this evening than I did a couple weeks ago. I'd like to think I'd have reacted to one or the other piece of input with equal open-mindedness (Right. What writer is objective about his own writing?), but the alignment of the feedback on my own work with some of the (very successful) poems in Malone's book has enabled me to sharpen my focus on my own writing, to be almost clinical about the possible improvements, the required changes.

This is where I continue to believe that being a technologist is a great benefit for a writer. No matter how biased one might be about the ideas one has birthed, when confronted with data, a scientist or engineer (a good one, anyway) should have the ability to accept feedback on that idea like a disproved hypothesis. Career technologists know that the best learnings are in the failed experiments, because only when we are proven wrong have we learned something we did not already believe.

Now, I don't think I'm a failed experiment. Not yet, anyway. But I do, for example, know quite certainly now that an organizational premise I've clung to, even in the face of prior feedback, is not worth clinging to. "Wrong" may be too harsh a word - but certainly not differentiating or impactful the way I thought it would be.

So thanks all around: to friends and their feedback, to publishers and their devotion to craft. It's up to me now to show that I have learned. Let me work on my next hypothesis and begin the experiment again.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Acceptance, Rejection, Anticipation

Acceptance * 2: Diane Lockward's "Seventh-Grade Science Project", originally published in the Harvard Review, was Friday's post to Poetry Daily. Let me zoom in on a meaningless detail to show you where my head's been this week: I took note of the proper use of the hyphen in the title and was completely aware that it biased me toward enjoying the poem before I reached the first line. Not that I need such bias; Diane's a terrific poet, and I'm not just saying that in case I run into her at Shop-Rite. Congrats, Diane!

Rejection = Acceptance?: Here's a different twist on things. There's a new journal online called "Redheaded Stepchild", which will only accept poems rejected elswhere, putting into practice the philosphy that "a lot of kickass poetry gets rejected, and we thought it would be fun to publish only previously rejected poems." They do not guarantee publication. What does it mean to be rejected by an editor that prefers rejects?

Ancitipation: 55 days to Dodge. The schedule's not posted yet but the appearing poets page has been stable for a few weeks, so it should be any day. The roster of NJ poets is really quite good, including Evie Shockley. Here are a few of her works, for your enjoyment.