Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rejection, The Illiterate

Rejections for the marathon submission session I put together at the beginning of the month are already coming in. I appreciate the speed, but these six journals could have strung me along a little longer, let me get my hopes up a little more. Though to be fair, several of the no's were warranted, considering my writing doesn't match the journals' aesthetics. I'm terrible at picking the places I should send to; I'm much better at finding beautiful journals who don't publish anything like what I write and believing I can change all that. A waste of postage, yes, but my naivete is a little bit charming, too. At least I like to think so.

We'll see how the other 26 poetry and 2 nonfiction submissions turn out soon enough. I hope this is the breakthrough time I've been waiting for.


I'm not typically comfortable in classes, which limits my motivation to speak, but tonight's class was easier than a lot of others have been of late. I was familiar with a number of the poems we talked about, but I had new takes on several of them and was at ease enough to mention as much.

One poet and poem that struck me (again, though I can't remember where I first read it, but I must have since the book has been in my Amazon Wish List for two years) tonight was William Meredith's "The Illiterate." An amazingly simple (word choice-wise, but by no means technically so) and profound sonnet. So much to say about poetry and poets and what writing can give and take away from us.

"The Illiterate"

Touching your goodness, I am like a man
Who turns a letter over in his hand
And you might think this was because the hand
Was unfamiliar but, truth is, the man
Has never had a letter from anyone;
And now he is both afraid of what it means
And ashamed because he has no other means
To find out what it says than to ask someone.

His uncle could have left the farm to him,
Or his parents died before he sent them word,
Or the dark girl changed and want him for beloved.
Afraid and letter-proud, he keeps it with him.
What would you call his feeling for the words
That keep him rich and orphaned and beloved?

- William Meredith, from Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wright, Births, Ohio, Dithyrambs

I had read this poem a long while ago, but it didn't hit me nearly as much as it did when it came up in class last night as we discussed dithyrambs, getting out of ourselves and receving a moment of perspective.

Well, What Are You Going to Do?

I took a nap one afternoon in Ohio
At the end of a pasture,
Just at the good moment when Pet our poor lovely
Lay moaning and gave birth to Marian my calf.

What was I going to do? All I could do
Was wake and stand there.
I don't know anything about the problem
Of beautiful women.
I was afraid to run two hundred yards
To call my mother
And ask her what to do
With a beautiful woman.
Besides, she wouldn't know either.

Two hours,
Two whole hours.
While Pet lay mumbling among the Grimes Golden apples
That fell from time to time.
I ate two or three, maybe.
What was I supposed to do there
But eat the apples while Marian's face
Peeked out slowly?

I ate the apples,
And when Marian was born
I helped her come out.
I had been in love with a lot of girls, but that was my first time
To clasp the woman beneath her chin
And whisper, Come out to me,
Come on, come on, and you can be Marian.

I led Marian out of her mother's belly
Down in the cold
Autumn thorns,
And there was a pile of horse manure
I couldn't evade, and so by God
I did not even try.
All I could do was fall
From time to time.
Marian's face was all right, speckled with rust
And more white than snow.
The one I was the more in love with
Was Pet, the exhausted.

I lay down besides her, she snuffled, she smelled like a Grimes
Golden apple.
Then I carried Marian two hundred yards down the pasture.
She delicately sprayed the insides of her beginning body
All over my work shirt.

I don't know that I belonged
In that beautiful place. But
What are you going to do? Be kind? Kill?

- James Wright, from Above the River