Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Compared to last year, this summer has been un-hectic. No wedding planning this year. No wedding classes to drive 45 minutes to and be lectured at for another two hours. No moving from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids for ten days before heading 700 miles three days after the wedding. No getting used to a new program, new people, and a new city. I should be grateful that life is less complicated of late, though big change is two or so weeks away. But I feel as prepared as I can be for the little person and, with M. in control of much of the day-to-day preparations, have the luxury of the stability of knowing we have a home together. There will be adjustments, sure, but a swirl of other matters aren't getting in the way of my peace of mind.

But I do wish I didn't have to wait for so much else on the professional end. I hate that feeling where something good is maybe in the works, though I have no control over it or have the slightest idea of when it may arrive in my inbox or mailbox. It's a game I'm tired of playing right now. I want to be proud of some accomplishment that feels like a, you know, real accomplishment. Yes, I've made it through the first year of the Ph.D. Yes, I've written a fair amount this year that I'm proud of. Yes, I have a good idea of what my last year of coursework ever will look like. These are all good things, but considering I'm in a six-month acceptance slump, I'd like some validation. I don't search it out very often, and I hate to be that guy who complains about not receiving any, but some sign I'm on the right track would be helpful and keep me from whining instead of being properly patient with the workings of the literary journal world.


On a more positive note, I was skimming Poetry Daily tonight and saw that as part of his "American Life in Poetry" series Ted Kooser introduced a poem by Alexandra Teague, who we published at Third Coast when I was poetry editor. After clicking on the link, I was happy to see that Mr. Kooser had actually referred to "Language Lessons," the poem Shannon and I took for the Fall '08 issue. There's something to be said for the pride an editor has in seeing a poem he/she accepted going on to be noticed on an even grander scale. Wherever you are, Alexandra, congrats on having your work put up in such a grand forum. And even more good tidings for getting your manuscript picked up. Great news, indeed.


A poem excerpt for the day:

Call us childish, call us to our teachers:
a cop with a clipboard calls me over, to ask me what of blood I heard.
He knows in his blood better than to say it that way.
He puts it neutrally, may his heart feel adjudged by restraint,
may the differently abled be restrained for their own good,
and when I say his "heart" may I mean mine and may my mouth feel antique—
what he asks me is if I heard any cries—no, not even that, just... "anything."
Let's get this right.
Does a dying self make up a face as it goes, will any face do?
Right there on the concrete a bloodstain the children will pass, to touch it:
what's to touch once blood stops doing its cartwheels?
Someons has stepped out from under our thumbs and heels?
Can anyone ever make blood do anything? Can clouds be pushed around?
On and on till the questions are all open coffins.

- Bill Olsen, "Blood," from Avenue of Vanishing


Keith said...

Good post. I'd like to see more, but with a baby on the way, I understand how of course you just may be a bit limited on such a front.

Three words: Blitz. The. System. Send a batch of 5 poems out to 25 places that accept simultaneous and keep track. Another 5 to 25 more. Another 5 to 25 more, etc. And yes, there ARE enough good journals worth sending to close to or over 100, in my opinion.

We've had luck getting into a few of the same journals also, and that's always helped me: finding editors that like X's work in addition to mine, and sending to all the other places they've published, even though initially you may not think the journal is "right" for your work.

Throw them out there and a ton will land in the fall. I'd bet a lot on that statement. It sucks to do all the work, but I think you'll see your publication credits growing massively once you get it going in the upcoming months, and growing massively comes with the deservedly so tag also.

Sorry, we've talked about all this before, and you're probably sick of me saying all of it. But I try not to give up on bugging talented people to get their stuff out there...

And it looks like I have your summer this year that you had last year, for the most part. The ol' switcharoo. Woo.

Keith said...

And don't forget how many journals now -- online and print -- either accept email submissions or the submissions manager.

You could send aforementioned batches of 5 poems to 25 places two times over without spending a dime.

OK, again, I'm sorry. I'm seriously done now.

WV: doomp

Alexandra said...

Thank you, Michael! I've been wanting to be in touch with you to thank you for the initial publication in Third Coast.

Michael said...


I think that's a big part of the problem. I have a core of journals that I send to, but I haven't been adding enough new ones of late in order to mix things up. This week is going to be hectic for you, but if you have any new suggestions, I'd appreciate it.

Michael said...


No problem. It was a fun thing to encounter just on a whim. I'm very happy you've had so much success lately. It's well-deserved.

Glad you liked the issue of Third Coast, too. It was a pleasure to work with you and the other poets in it.