A Question of Reputation

I have recently had to draw a clear line between A) the business of poetry (the po-biz) and B) the dynamic life I have in language when I am composing poems. An analogy from my religious upbringing would be, on the one hand, A) your relationship to your church; on the other, B) to your God. It’s really that dramatic. Churches are congregations of people who share a common belief: which, in this analogy, would be that poetry is worth reading, and therefore writing. It has value. But, for the poet, the value it has has to transcend the value we place on it. If I let every editor’s rejection of a poem inform my feelings about the poem, I would be helplessly at the mercy of editors. If, on the other hand, I let nothing outside myself inform my feelings, I would soon alienate myself from any literary world or community: a crackpot.

A friend recently suggested that I don’t care about the reputation of the journals, or magazines, where I submit. There is some truth to this. As a church member, I might care about my reputation in the church, but as a believer I must only care about my relationship to the source. When I receive the miracle of a magazine acceptance, it’s because some one else out there and I are able to share the same moment together in language, and that’s incredible! How many moments do we really share with complete strangers in the grocery store, gas station, or public library? In poetry, we have this possibility for community, or communion, quite often actualized. When there’s a disconnect, however, and an editor sees things differently, we should not be discouraged, but we should learn to appreciate more greatly and be more greatly grateful for our acceptances because they are that much rarer and more special.

As devoted as I am to my writing practice, I cannot ignore the socioeconomic conditions under which I participate in the worthy endeavor of magazine publication (as writer and editor). I am quite simply unable to afford submission the fees that are charged by a good many “reputable” magazines. My wife resents enough the amount of time and energy I allocate my literary activities and shift away from the rearing of our two small children. There may be financial support for bare necessities in the U.S. of A but spiritual necessity is not a thing. In light of this, I have had to adopt a pragmatic, democratic attitude toward my “B” life as a literary production (as opposed to my “A” life as a literary producer): Any one out there who believes, as I do, in the value of poetry enough to create a platform, as a so-called “labor of love,” and apply for grants, beg, borrow, or steal, to keep submissions free, and good poems available, is a friend of mine, and I will submit. I will support with what skill I have those magazines.

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