JC’s Confessions #10

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

I don’t feel like a musician anymore.

I started playing piano at seven. I began studying organ as a preteen and was the organist of my rural Catholic church at fourteen. I majored in music at Smith College, where organ was my main instrument, I played often at chapel, I sang in choirs, learned that I could compose, and was named the Presser Scholar in my senior year.

After I graduated, married B, and moved to the Binghamton NY area, I continued with church music until I took a few years away when my children were young.  Realizing that it wouldn’t work for our family for B and I to never have a common day off, I volunteered with the music ministry at my church, accompanying the youth and junior choirs and subbing when our music director needed to be away. When tendon problems in my elbow eventually made it impossible for me to play for very long at a time, our music director would play and I would conduct.

When our parish disintegrated in 2005 and my church music volunteering evaporated, except for occasional special celebrations, I still had my long-time affiliation with University Chorus to keep me musically active. After the retirement of our long-time director, though, University Chorus, which used to sing a major concert every semester, has cut back to only singing at one concert a year, at most. This academic year, we have not met at all and I am not sure we will ever re-convene. Due to uncertainty and personal scheduling complications, I haven’t been able to join another group.

With my last steady musical commitment gone, I don’t feel that I am still a musician, which leaves an empty space in my identity. In a period of my life when there has been so much loss, losing that piece of myself is especially difficult because music has long served as a vehicle to express emotion and to find community and comfort.

I don’t know if I will ever recover the musician part of my identity. Theoretically, I could be singing on my own every day and working on sight reading so that I would be ready to audition if there is an opportunity, but it feels too futile, not helped by the fact that I am a very anxious and not particularly good auditioner.

It is likely that I will sing again with the Smith Alumnae Chorus, either on campus or on tour, but those choral experiences would only be a few days a year. Not an identity-affirming amount of time.

Maybe what I should say is that, for many years, I was a musician.

JC’s Confessions #7

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

Poets are supposed to submit work to journals or publishers on a consistent basis. I confess that I have not been doing this. Not even close. Other than a few stabs at Rattle’s Poets Respond series, which only takes submissions written within the last week on news items and is a very, very, very long-shot, I have only done one submission this year, which I did because a poet-friend asked me to do. (I am not counting poems published in Binghamton Poetry Project anthologies because they are not a competitive venue.)

Given how complicated these last months have been, I suppose it is understandable that I haven’t been submitting for publication. I confess that I find the process of figuring out to whom to submit which poem daunting and incredibly time-consuming. I get nervous about the formatting requirements, which never seem to be the same among different publications. I also need to be in a mindset that can take a lot of rejection, because the vast majority of submissions will be rejected.

The result of all this is that it is even more difficult than before to get motivated to work on submissions. Not publishing also erodes my already fragile sense that I am a poet – or, at least, a poet good enough to be published.

Which makes it harder to get motivated to submit and adds to my lack of confidence, and so on and so on…

Later in the fall, I may/will have more time to devote to writing and poetry. Will I be able to get my act together to do submissions?

I don’t know.

Stay tuned.

One-Liner Wednesday: Jung quote

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
 – Carl G. Jung

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This is also part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us for that fun feature, too! Find out more at the link above. It’s a double dip!

One-Liner Wednesday: love

“Love is not something you do; love is Someone you are.”
~~~Richard Rohr
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One-Liner Wednesday: identity

“Exactly what it is that makes us all the same and yet all different both drives us and escapes us at the same time.”
— Joan Chittister, “The Need for the Feminine in Masculinity”chapter in Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life (p. 99)

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SoCS: Poet

I am a poet. I claim the title, even though it isn’t the way I make a living or something for which I have academic credentials.  (Realistically, very few poets make a living at poetry.)

I read an essay a couple of years ago by a young, credentialed poet, who was published and had been an editor, but who still felt he shouldn’t be called a poet because he wasn’t suffering for his art in a garret somewhere.

I, however, don’t make it that complicated for myself.

I considered myself a poet before I was even published because it was what I felt I am, in the same way that I am a daughter, a spouse, a mother, a woman, a musician.

It’s what I am, not what I do.

Maybe it is easier for me because I don’t do paid work, so I don’t have a ready-made answer when someone asks what I do, by which they nearly always mean “what is your job?”

I can claim to be a poet, because it is a mode of expression that is important to me and that I have been working on developing.

I am also a late-developing poet, given that I have only started writing seriously in my fifties. In the last two years, I have been working on improving my poems through participating with the Binghamton Poetry Project (a community workshop run by grad students at Binghamton University), a group of local poets who meet regularly to critique each other’s work, and a new women’s group called Sappho’s Circle.

I am about to take another big step as a poet – attending a residency/workshop. I have been angsting/mulling this over the last couple of days, which you can read about here and here.

So, I think this weekend I am going to register.

It’s one of those things that we poets do.

Because of who we are.
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This post of part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays. The prompt this week is “four-letter word.”  Join us! Find out how here:  http://lindaghill.com/2015/08/28/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-2915/

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