If I Were Virgil Suárez

My poet friends used to joke that if you wanted to get your poetry published, all you had to do was put Cuban-American poet Virgil Suárez’s name on your submission.  For a while, it seemed like no matter what literary journal you picked up, there would at least one poem by him included–and it didn’t matter what the journal was–it could be a nothing-in-particular start-up journal, or it could be the Prairie Schooner.    I also heard–though I can’t substantiate it–that he had this scary complicated system for submitting his works… and gasp, he simultaneously submitted (back when that wasn’t a thing). The point was, he was very good at placing his work.

I don’t know what Virgil Suárez has been doing lately poetry-wise (his last book of poems came out in 2005)–but according to his Florida State University webpage, he’s just published a book called The Soviet Circus Comes to Havana and Other Stories (C & R Press, 2014) ($15.95 on Amazon)–so, at least I’m not competing for space in journals because of him.

But I am competing for space in journals… and losing, based on the two rejections I received today.  One rejection said that they didn’t “love the piece enough” to send it on to the next level of discussion; the other one praised the “ambition” of the work, but then stabbed me in the heart with the criticism that they found my work “too prosy.”  That just struck me as wrong.  My writing tends to be narrative, but it’s in no way “too prosy.”  I know from prosy–after all, I see student creative writing all the time–talk about prosy!  But of course, journal editors are human, and humans are subjective.  I wasn’t overly bothered by the rejections–submitting is a game to me at this point.

Not that I in any way mean that I don’t take the submission process seriously–I do.  I do research on the journals I submit–I generally try to read them before I send them my work.  But I guess as a writer you just get to the point where it’s all just a game–trying to figure out what certain people will like based on what they showcase in their journals.  If I were the Virgil Suárez of the past, that machine of publishing, I might just send my work everywhere, scatter-shot, and hope something sticks.  I might have a hugely complicated Excel file that lists every journal everywhere, and I might cross-list all the poems that I’ve simultaneously submitted–perhaps the same batch of poems for 15 different journals, and have 80 such batches sent out at once.

But that is gamifying the publication process way to much for the likes of me–that’s a little like playing all the numbers in the lottery.  It might work–and maybe if I were that mono-focused, I could do that and be published far and wide in any number of start-ups and well-established journals.  But on the other hand, my very analog system–I put all my submissions on index cards filed alphabetically by journal–seems to work for me.  I can manage that.  I feel good about my process of reading submission calls, reading the journals whose calls interest me, and submitting my work to them.

It may not net me a lot of pubs, but it feels like an accomplishment when I see all my index cards, even the ones that fall under the “Rejected” tab, as today’s two rejections now do.

 

Of Course, Of Course

Yesterday’s poem which I wrote tonight is called “Of a Different Color,” based on Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin’s 1912 painting The Bathing of the Red Horse (the picture at the link is not nearly as vibrant and startling as the print on the postcard is, unfortunately), a very beautiful, but strange image of a naked man riding a horse that dominates almost 2/3 of the picture.  What I know about Russian art could fill a soupspoon (there’s a shocker), so here is an interesting quote about the painting that I found by Molly Priesmeyer in her article “A Horse of a Different Color:  Politics and Aesthetics Collide at the Museum of Russian Art”:

. . . the rich colors in Petrov-Vodkin’s famous 1912 The Bathing of the Red Horse, a painting that offers an ominous foreshadowing of the Soviet future (the red horse stares at the viewer, rising above the world), are surreal or even Chagallesque. The 62- by 72-inch painting is one of the first things you’ll see when entering the newly transformed Spanish-revival Mayflower Church. It’s an iconic image of what the Russian avant-garde could’ve become had it not been rejected for its realistic and transformative imagery.

As a funny aside, I guess that idiom “a horse of a different color” is so ingrained culturally, that of course she used it in her article title, as I did in the poem’s title.  Well, how often do you see a red horse, anyway?

What appeals to me about this picture is that the colors are so vivid and there is something surreal about the picture–I would agree about the Chagal comparison.  I suppose I ought to have made the connection about the red horse as symbolic of Russia, but that would have been too insightful.

My poem is also strange, maybe a little surrealistic.  In the poem, the speaker comments that the sea is “uneasy” because this horse is present, and the horse’s appearance disturbs souls long dead.  While I have to say the horse doesn’t look particularly evil to me in the painting (actually I think it looks kind of cute in prancing sort of way), perhaps somehow I intuited that “ominous foreshadowing” which is why the horse in the poem is a proverbial harbinger of doom.

I don’t know how I feel about this poem.  I read through it, and while I like the words, when I finish reading it, I have to admit I’m like “Huh?  What does this mean?”  Which is not, perhaps, the best reaction to have when you read your own writing.  But I’ll get it in the mail tomorrow. 

And somehow, I’ll have to come up with a Day 12 poem, and a Day 13 poem.  I really want to get caught up.  (Yeah, yeah, I’ve been saying this for days.)

In other news, I received my print copy of Ouroboros Issue 3, the one which contains my poem “The Tears of St. Lawrence.”  And it just occurred to me, that the Perseid meteor shower happens right around now.  It’s too bad Atlanta’s night haze obscures any chance of seing them.

Also, my villanelle “Tulips at the Door” just came out in The Reach of Song, and Her Mark 2010, a day planner with art and poetry for 2010 produced by the Woman Made Gallery (a Chicago art collective), came in yesterday’s mail.  My poem “On Sanitizing Official Versions” is in it.  Maureen Seaton was the poetry judge.

It is a lovely planner, big enough to write in, but small enough to fit in your purse.  If you are interested in buying Her Mark 2010 and supporting a worthy cause, go here (scroll down toward the bottom of the page).  It’s $15 plus shipping, and well worth it.

And now I’m turning into a pumpkin.  Good night, all!