How the Moon Became a Poem

Storm Moon photo

In Tuesday’s mail came the May 2017 issue of POEM.  POEM is a journal of the Huntsville Literary Association, and has been continuously published since 1967—fifty years. They publish perfect little poems—the journal itself is not quite 5”x7”—and I had submitted a pack of poems to them just to say I tried.

So when I got the acceptance last year, I was thrilled—especially because it was one of the Moon Poems from my narrative manuscript (you know, the one I’ve submitted like 50 places).  The Moon Poems, with maybe two exceptions, are “perfect little” 15-line lyrics, that appear throughout the manuscript and (at least in my mind anyway), represent the poetic output of one of the main characters, thought the voice in this particular poem is Vidalia’s, not Tallulah’s.

I’ve been trying to remember what initiated my interest in writing the Moon Poems.  While it may be true that I wanted to demonstrate a range of my writing ability (that I can write something other than narrative), it seemed important to incorporate the moon almost as a character in the manuscript, especially as it is about witches and women who harness energy and strength from the moon in order to enact their spells.

The poems each take as their title one of the (many) colloquial/ northern Algonquin names for each month’s full moon—though the February full moon is technically the “Snow Moon”—but of course, there’s no such thing as snow storms in February in Louisiana, but there is rain, so I fudged a little, and made the poem “Storm.” (Actually, this poem could also represent July—which is the month of  the “Thunder Moon” as well as “Buck Moon” but I believe I meant it for February.  But the word “thunder” appears in the poem itself…maybe the connection to February is wrong?)  As I think about it, February actually has two poems in the manuscript, this one and “Hunger Moon.” Anyway, writing about the moon felt authentic to me, and authentic to the experience of all the women characters in the manuscript.  (Not surprising—as Marge Piercy reminds us, “The Moon Is Always Female.”)

With this publication, the total number of poems in the manuscript that have been published in journals comes to 11—when the manuscript is 83 poems, my publication rate looks feeble, a mere 13%.  But it has been difficult to publish poems from this collection because it’s narrative (the Moon Poems not withstanding), and they are interdependent, and how do you take individual poems which all contribute to a story out of their milieu and make them make sense as stand-alones?

I’d very much like to have at least 20 poems from this collection published—that seems like a reasonable goal—then I would feel like maybe the manuscript would finally have a chance.  And getting the rest of the Moon Poems published might be the way to accomplish that goal.

On the other hand, there is still the other idea I have been kicking around in my head…taking out the line breaks in nearly all of the manuscript poems (except the Moon Poems), and trying to get it published as a hybrid flash fiction/poetry work.  So far I’m not that desperate—I mean, I conceived the book as poetry, and would hate to lose the beauty of well-wrought-lines, so I’m going to hold out the hope until I get the next batch of manuscript rejections that it will get published as the verse novel it is.

But the line break removal thing is still a possibility… because it has worked for me before, transforming what I thought were poems into flash fiction and flash nonfiction—or rather, perhaps the conversion process only revealed what their true form meant them to be.  And in many cases, these erstwhile poems found homes in journals like right away.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy “Storm Moon.”  Let me know what you think.

Big News in My Writing World (But Not a Manuscript Acceptance, Let’s Not Get Crazy)

It’s chilly—44 degrees out, and blustery.  There are few leaves on the trees, but they rattle as the wind blows, and somehow the weather is fooling me into believing it’s October.  I want to believe Halloween is right around the corner…because it would mean that November was right around the corner too, and that would mean it’s time for another NaNoWriMo.

I’ve been missing the energy of NaNoWriMo.  I’m still in the early stages of Hecate Applebough 3 (still untitled), and part of my lack of progress has to do with a weirdo persistent migrainey exhaustion I’ve been suffering for the last month (and which my Mom has nagged me about going to see a doctor for—ugh), and also not feeling that compulsion to write every day those 1,667 words because I have nowhere to chart the progress, no pep-talk e-mails from the NaNo people coming every few days encouraging me.  It’s just me now, and it’s harder to write, without the community.

But, a couple of days ago, a fortuitous tweet put me on to an app called Writeometer, which exists only for Android (sorry iPhone folks) and which gamifies the writing process, kind of the way NaNo does—you can set a daily/ monthly/ word goal, use its timer, enter your daily word count, and get reminders about writing, and you can earn “guavas.”  I don’t know all tricks of the app yet, so I’m not sure what earning the guavas can do for you, but I’m sure I’ll find out as I become more familiar with the app.  I’m looking forward to using it—I need the motivation.  So I’ll let you know how it goes.  (If any of my Five Readers have tried the app, I’d be curious to know what you think about it—but I suspect most of you are Apple users.)

Other than working on Hecate, I’ve produced a few short pieces lately—a few honest-and-for-true prose poems—one of them came out so well that I’ve “given” it to Hecate, and shoehorned it into the second book…although if I can get it published on its own, I will—and a few bits of flash that I want desperately to be prose poems, but I knew they aren’t.

Prose poems have a certain surreal quality—and so does my flash, except that the surrealism of prose poems is its own little thing.  When I try to do surreal flash, it just comes out as nutty.  Like maybe I’m trying too hard.  But hey, two pieces of just such flash were accepted by a journal on Monday, so I guess nutty works too.  In general, I just have a little “heart on” for prose poems, because they’re hard to do well, and because I think, in my mind, I still privilege poetry over prose as being Important and Worthwhile… while fiction just seems like something you do for cash.  (Not that I have received any cash for ANY bit of fiction I’ve produced—not ever—but you take my meaning, I’m sure.)  And of course, even as I write that, I know that’s a false dichotomy—but there it is.  The poet’s bias against fiction writers.  Hmm.

How’s this for burying the lede?  In other news, now that Dan Veach is passing the editorial reigns of The Atlanta Review over to Karen Head, she has asked me (WHAT????) to serve as the managing editor.  OMG OMG OMG.  This is an amazing opportunity, and I can’t wait to sit down with her and discuss all the ins-and-outs, and really sink my teeth into this project.  Reading some brand-new poems (that aren’t mine—haha) that are searching for a home is exciting.  It’s been a long time since I did any work on a literary journal, and The Atlanta Review is a Big Deal—this isn’t any dinky fly-by-night online journal, this is prize-winning print journal with an international following.  The work that Dan Veach has done on the journal (founding it and running it) is amazing and impressive, and I’m so thrilled that I get to be involved…and so grateful to Karen for asking me to assist her.  Read Collin Kelley’s article in Atlanta INtown, about the transition of editorship to Karen, because it’s interesting and offers some history about the journal.  (As my first order of business as managing editor, I propose we update the website!)

What else is there to share?  I’m still working on reading those three books of poems I mentioned in my last blog post—I got a little distracted by my manga habit, and my weirdo exhaustion that makes me want to fall asleep at 6 p.m.—but I hope to finish them this weekend (in and around the 85,000 tennis matches I’ve scheduled).  And, I’ve gotten yet another rejection on my poetry manuscript, but I sent it out to two more places, and I’m crossing my fingers. At some point, SOMEONE is going to want it, right?  Maybe I need to “attach a few more zeros” onto the contest fees I send off… maybe bribery would work?  (You never know!)

Well, But One Acceptance Is Better than None at All, Right? So Quitcherbitchin.

I recently had the experience where I received an acceptance for two pieces of flash creative non-fiction.  To say I was delighted would be an understatement, particularly because the journal was one in which I’ve discovered many pieces that have moved me in one way or the other since I began reading it.  And I thought, hooray!  My writing will be archived among these paragons of the short form!  I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.

Then the other day, the journal contacted me about the galleys, asking me to look over the work and see if anything were amiss.  But they only sent me the link to one of the pieces they accepted.  So I inquired—what happened to the second piece?  Shouldn’t they have sent me the galley to it?

The CNF editor apologized, but said that clearly Submittable had made an error, and really, they only meant to take Piece A, not Piece A and Piece B.  They hoped I was ok with this, and they hoped Piece A was still available.

I’m not sure if the editor thought I might hold Piece A hostage—like, “You said you were going to publish both, and if you can’t publish both, you can’t publish either, nyah, nyah, nyah.”  I’m not so stupid that I would do that—an acceptance is an acceptance.  But it made me wonder if she had had that experience before, where she or one of the other editors had a Submittable “glitch” which accepted multiple pieces from an author only to have to break it to the author that there must have been some error with Submittable that day, and they only desired to publish one piece.  I could understand an author choosing to say, “To hell with that journal!  If they can’t even be clear about the works they want to publish, maybe I don’t want my work published there.”

I understand about computer errors, and software glitches, and even human mistakes—I get that.  Computers are machinery and bound to fail at some point, and editors have a lot on their plates and don’t always catch things.  But it’s hard, when you’re hungry to start racking up pubs in a different genre than you’re used to publishing in, to have an acceptance snatched away from you like that.  Part of me wishes that they would just have agreed to publish both works, since that’s what they said—and since I withdrew Piece B from all the journals I had sent it to, like a good little simultaneous submitter should do.  But then another part of me thinks I’d rather the work they didn’t want find a home in a journal that loves it for what it is—and not feel constrained to publish it under duress.

I’m trying really hard to see the multiple perspectives here.  I am grateful, of course, that they wanted to take any of my work at all.  That should be enough right?  Mistakes happen, blah blah—at least they wanted one piece—they could have told me the entire acceptance was a mistake.  But I’m stubborn and don’t want to be reasonable about this situation—particularly in light of some other recent (huge) writing rejections that have really demoralized me.  A little part of me feels like this “accidental” acceptance scenario is just too much to take.

I know, I know, this is the publishing biz.  I’m just having a little difficulty being rational while I wallow in my self-pity.

So, Productivity Can Pay Off…

I haven’t totally maintained my goal to be sending out at least two submissions every day, but I’ve been pretty good about sending out several a week these last few weeks.  And today, Flyover Country Review published my poem “Stegosaurus.”  I’m so happy!  It’s my first publication in 2 years!  (Not counting being 25% co-author [with Karen Head, Blake Leland, and Bob Wood] of the anthology On Occasion:  Four Poets, One Year, which came out in March.)

I also have a couple of poems coming out in Kentucky Review.  As soon as they do, I’ll let you know!

OMG!!! Finishing Line Is Taking La Petite Mort!

Alright, I’ve been hella down in the dumps lately, like, nauseatingly so.

So, imagine how awesome it was to get an e-mail from Finishing Line Press today telling me that they’ll publish my chapbook La Petite Mort!!!! This is completely out-of-the blue too, because I had entered it in their New Women’s Voices contest, got the standard “Thanks, we’re going to publish this amazing writer, and you’re not her” note, and didn’t give it another thought.  I guess they also choose to publish a select number of non-winners.

But I am dizzily happy, crazy amazed, and thrilled!  Tomorrow I will worry about withdrawing it from the other contests I have it in.  But tonight I’m going to bask in the knowledge that I finally have a real, live book to my name.