One-Liner Wednesday: question

Why must there be such a fine line between bravery and futility?

This angsty bit of self-commentary is offered as part of Linda’s One-Liner Wednesday. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2016/08/10/one-liner-wednesday-an-earworm-for-you/.

A calm(er) poet

It’s finally here! The poetry residency/workshop which Tupelo Press is offering at Mass MoCA starts within 24 hours. My regular readers have put up with my freaking out over signing up in the first place and stressing over choosing poems to bring – I’m sparing you all posting the links – but I’m pleased to report that I have calmed down significantly.

I was feeling insecure because I have just begun publishing my work and don’t have a lot of academic background in poetry. I was afraid I’d be in over my head, especially if everyone else is an MFA.

Fortunately, I’ve had lots of help in getting some perspective. My local poet friends have been very supportive and great about offering advice.

I was also lucky to have two good publishing experiences in the last two weeks. First, Eunoia Review accepted one of my poems for publication.

Second, my poem “Lessons from Mahler” was published this week as part of Silver Birch Press’s current series.  While I am always thrilled when one of my poems is published, this poem is special on several counts. I was pleased that I used some of the skills I have been working on for this poem. I first began to write from prompts a couple of years ago when I started participating with the Binghamton Poetry Project.  It is very different from the way I usually work and I have been trying to improve at writing from prompts. When I first read this very specific prompt from Silver Birch, I thought there was no way I would be able to write a poem to fulfill it, but, as I mulled the prompt, an idea came to me.

I wound up writing a haibun, which is a form that I learned about during the summer session of Binghamton Poetry Project.  I also was able to workshop it with my Bunn Hill Poet friends and with Heather, who directs both Binghamton Poetry Project and Sappho’s Circle and then hone it into a poem with which I was really pleased.

When Silver Birch Press accepted it, they sent me a nice compliment in their note to me. I wasn’t sure when exactly my poem would appear, but I was so happy it came out on Monday. The editor found a copy of the recording of the Mahler songs and linked it to the poem, which was so touching to me. I have been happily plastering Facebook, Top of JC’s Mind, and some email inboxes with the link to this poem because I want people to read it and to listen to the recording.

It also makes me feel like I belong in the community of poets. While there are always some newer poets like me represented in Silver Birch Press and other places in which my work has been published, most of the poets have chapbooks or collections to their credit. Being among them gives me hope that I might be able to publish a chapbook in the next few years.

It’s good for poets to dream…

(poetic) mix of emotions

Some readers may recall my major angst about whether or not to attend my first poetry residence/workshop.  I posted about it here…and here…and here.

And then, I had to wait….

I continued to feel a mix of excitement and apprehension, but I’ve had to concentrate on more immediate obligations, such as rehearsing with University Chorus and working on poetry with Binghamton Poetry Project, Sappho’s Circle, and Bunn Hill Poets simultaneously.

But now, with less than two weeks to go before traveling to North Adams and Mass MoCA, the conference is drawing more and more of my attention and emotions. Part of this is increased communications from the organizers at Tupelo Press, including photos of our residency apartments just across the street from the museum. I know that we are a group of seven at the moment; the maximum number was eight, so there is still a chance of another poet joining us.

The main preoccupation for me at the moment is the request to bring ten poems to the conference for workshopping, which means critique.  It’s not that I don’t have (many more than) ten poems that could use workshopping; it’s figuring out what to bring.

On the one hand, I want to bring work that is strong and current, but most of that has been workshopped with one of my local groups, has been published, or is ready for submission. These poems have the best chance of putting me in a good light with the other poets and the poet/editor who will be leading the conference, but it is awkward to ask for revision for something that has already been published, although it could be helpful to fine-tune a poem that may one day make it into the chapbook or collection I aspire to assemble (at least on my more confident days).

On the other hand, some of my early poems – well, not really early in terms of my lifetime, but things that I wrote from 3-5 years ago before I connected to Binghamton Poetry Project, which led to my other groups – could use the help. I find it especially difficult to revise things that I wrote before I started to read and study more poetry; somehow it is easier to use my new skills in writing poetry than it is to apply my new editing skills to older work. However, these poems could make me look less competent as a poet and are often deeply personal, which makes critique seem especially (potentially) brutal.

The decision is not helped by the fact that I don’t really know the range of experience of the poets who will be attending. In my imagination, I will be the least experienced in the group, although that may not be the case at all, as the conference is open to any serious poet, published or not. I am toying with the idea of bringing along more than the requested ten poems, mixing some older work with some of my newer poems, and hoping that we don’t have to hand ten over at the beginning of the conference, so that I can tailor the poems I workshop to the group of poets in attendance.

Given that we have to bring twelve copies of each poem, the only risks would be wasting paper and ink and possibly arm strain from lugging so much paper around.

So, am I overthinking this? What would you choose? I’d love to hear your advice in comments here, on Facebook, or in person.

With thanks,
Joanne

The “Confidence Gap”

The last several years in the United States have seen a number of articles, books, and studies about why women remain much less prominent than men in the upper echelons of business and government.

Some put the onus on women themselves for (variously) taking time off or cutting back responsibilities at work to tend to family, lack of self-confidence, and lack of ambition.

Research has made clear, though, that our country and our businesses, which we all like to think are meritocracies, are in fact, not.

What research has found in brief:
Women in the United States have been graduating from college at a higher rate than men and often have higher skill levels.
Though women are more skilled, they are also more likely to be humble. Men tend to exhibit a confidence level that they can’t actually back up with their skill set.
Despite this, managers tend to promote confident but less-competent men over more-humble but more-competent women.
If women adopt behaviors that are more confident, even when they have the skill set to back it up, they are viewed negatively, considered pushy, bossy, etc.

While women have been blamed for not being confident or ambitious enough, the bottom line is that the system is executed in a way that favors male-prevalent behavior patterns and penalizes female-prevalent ones, while also penalizing women who adopt more stereotypically male behaviors.

We need to stop blaming women and start changing corporate practices. Make assignments and promotions on the basis of demonstrated skills, not on who talks a good game. Actively solicit ideas and opinions from everyone on the team. Organize work hours in a way that helps people to manage their other responsibilities to family, community, etc. This is not just a women’s issue. Men also need to juggle multiple commitments.

To continue in the current mode is a waste of some of the knowledge, skills, and talents that women can bring to our companies, organizations, and government.

It’s (past) time for a change.

an encouraging rejection

When I was in Hawai’i, I spent a considerable amount of time searching for literary journals that might publish my work and choosing, formatting, and submitting poems to them.

Some of you may have seen my recent excited, squealing post over an acceptance that came from those submissions and my crazed rush to withdraw the three accepted poems from other journals to which they had been submitted.

I am nearly always submitting to journals that allow simultaneous submissions to avoid having to wait months to find out an editor has rejected a poem before being free to send it elsewhere, but the protocol is to promptly withdraw a poem from other journals if it is accepted.

Most of the time, I submit to journals that don’t charge reading fees, but I did submit a set of four poems to a journal that does charge a reading fee and offers personal, expedited feedback for a slightly higher fee, which I decided to do, as I haven’t had much experience in hearing criticism from an editor’s point of view. On the bright side, this journal also pays cash for poems they accept, which is somewhat unusual. It’s more common not to be paid or to be given a copy or copies of the journal, if it is print rather than electronic.

I sent en email over the weekend withdrawing the accepted poems and today (Tuesday) got feedback from that journal’s editor, who obviously had not seen my withdrawal notice. Under the circumstances, I’m grateful that she didn’t accept any of the poems! She did give very specific and helpful criticism and was very encouraging about my submitting to their journal in the future.

Her criticism of the poem in which she was most interested  – and which she invited me to revise and re-submit directly to her for consideration, which I can’t do because it is one of the ones that will be published by Wilderness House Literary Review this fall – was actually addressed in an earlier draft. I need to talk to some of my poet friends and see if it would be too forward of me to send the earlier draft to her to see if it addresses her criticism adequately. It’s dicey because I can’t offer it to her for consideration anymore.

Another way in which this journal is different is that they read blind, meaning that the poems are submitted without any reference to the author. For a new poet like me, it saves me from an editor seeing my file and saying “Who the heck is this?” So to receive encouragement to send more of my work was very validating, knowing that the editor didn’t know whether or not I was someone who published regularly or had a writing degree. She didn’t think I was a rank amateur.

When you get a typical “thank you but your work does not fit our needs at the present time,” you wonder if maybe the editor is rolling his eyes and thinking you are totally out of your depth.

But, at least today, an encouraging rejection is a confidence booster.