Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Broke the streak...

...of rejections at last. Poetry Midwest took one of mine for the summer issue. Cool. They're still reading for this issue till June 13, in case anyone else wants to submit some stuff.

Good snailmail today too: my tax refund from Indiana (I e-filed, but for some reason the website wouldn't take my routing number for direct deposit, so I said the heck with it and let them cut me a check -- hey, it was only 8 bucks, how much of a hurry could I be in to get it), a $10 check from the Kinsey Institute for a questionnaire I filled out, a "$10 off any $25 purchase" coupon from Lowe's, and the new issue of the Writer's Chronicle (hopefully this one won't suffer the same fate as the last one, which went astray on recycling night and got recycled before I was finished reading it).

Thinking, in the aftermath of Li-Young Lee's reading and the comments people made, about what we expect a poet to be like. Some people expressed dismay at what they perceived as a lack of professionalism or a lack of respect for the audience; some expressed delight at what they perceived as a bit of poet-y wildness. Should poets be wilder than regular people? If so, I think I'm in trouble; besides the fact that I don't always fully conform to gender roles and (like the librarian I am) I tend towards comfortable shoes, I don't think I come across as particularly wild or mysterious at all. I make every effort to avoid unnecessary drama and angst in my personal life. (I'm not particularly interested in dying young, either.) Does that mean I suck as a poet? I sure as hell hope not.

But are poets somehow fundamentally different from non-poets? I don't know. I used to think "creative people" saw the world differently from others, and this might be true to some extent, but if it is, then "creative people" has got to be expanded to include scientists and other people actively engaged in some kind of investigative process -- I sometimes think poets have more in common with scientists than with painters, and that writing is most fruitfully seen as a process of investigation and discovery. (There are flaws with that analogy, especially in that the writing process is much less clearly defined than the scientific method, but I think it's a useful analogy nonetheless.)

The more I read about science, the more I realize how completely everything -- everything -- is intertwined. Right now I'm reading a book about the conflict between whale conservation and the commercial fishing industry (Entanglements: The Intertwined Fates of Whales and Fishermen by Tora Johnson) -- there is such a complex web of interactions governing, well, everything; the reproductive success of the right whale depends on the abundance of a particular type of plankton (copepods), and the success of the copepods depends on ocean currents and water temperature, which depend on the overall climate of the Earth and things like El Nino, which are in turn changed and influenced by human activity -- and humans' survival depends on the survival of phytoplankton, which are eaten by copepods, and which are responsible for the production of a large percentage of the planet's oxygen. (Even that's an oversimplification, but you get the idea.) Scientists have a responsibility to see, simultaneously, the macro and the micro, and to understand all the tangled, complex interrelationships among ... everything. So much that on the surface appears completely unrelated is at heart utterly interdependent. And I think poets also have a responsibility to see connections that aren't immediately obvious; in fact, I would say that revealing unexpected connections is one of the hallmarks of a good poem.

Anyway, that's a bit of a tangent, although I feel like it does have something to do with the question of who a poet should be. I think that poets have to be curious and open to the unexpected, but I don't think that means we have a responsibility to be "weird" or whatever.

Actually, I think poets are about like regular people in that there are all kinds of us -- wild, boring, bizarre, professional -- and I think it's the poetry itself that we should put our expectations on. Although, of course, without the creative/investigative process of actually writing, the poetry wouldn't exist in the first place.

More later, perhaps.


Jennifer said...

Flaubert said (something close to), "Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work." I think I've trotted that one out before, but it always makes me feel better about my garretless non-carousal. Anyhow, if my life gets out of control, my work is crap, so it works for me.

You said, "I would say that revealing unexpected connections is one of the hallmarks of a good poem." I totally agree, except that I would even expand it to creating unexpected connections. Which is probably easier for poets than scientists, although in the really way-out theoretical branches, I wonder.

Congrats on Poetry Midwest!

Emily Lloyd said...

So much to think about, but first before all, CONGRATS ON POETRY MIDWEST! & more in a bit

Pamela said...

Congratulations on Poetry Midwest! That is great news.

Radish King said...

Congratulations, yea!

the machinist said...

Anne--congratulations!!!!!!! A big hug from me to you!

Your thoughts on poets v. others re: wildness has got me thinking, which is always a dangerous thing. Stay tuned.

Charles said...

Yay! Congratulations!! :) Are you doing the dance?

jenni said...

awesome! big congrats. let us know when the issue comes out.