Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Story of the Collapsed Soufflé, or the Repetition of Dismissal

A chef cooks because it is something they good at it, and love to do it, despite getting criticism and the occasional negative review. I write poetry. I write poetry that moves something inside me. I love writing poetry that makes my stomach jump as if I engulfed an assortment of Mexican jumping beans, poetry that makes me want to run outside, have a cigarette and read it to my best friends over the phone (which I really do). I enjoy the process of being a poet. I enjoy being ridiculous and getting away with it by calling it postmodern literature. I enjoy being completely meticulous about submitting even though the odds are they will be rejected. Poetry happens to be my first-born child, granted I do not have ovaries and did not carry it for months; poetry fills me with an unconditional-type of love I imagine parents feel. Not to say that my child acts like a shit sometimes and I want to give it to someone.
Just like parents feel rejected when their children ask to be dropped off around the corner from school, tell them they hate them or decide to go off to college in the farthest regions of wherever – being a poet today, one must also become at home with rejection in its many forms. Having just received rejections from Black Warrior Review, Word Riot and Decomp Magazine; I didn’t have the habitual feeling of being crushed, or a thought of not writing anymore; rather I thought, “huh, what the fuck!” And, went on with my day. Although early in my poetic deployment rejections would make me die a little inside, well, okay… maybe a lot. Sometime I would not write for weeks after receiving one of those bland, automated rejections. So dumb!! If rejections offered more of a why, or some direction or even a hint of humanity – I would perhaps take them more seriously, but they don’t – so I won’t. Getting them for me has now become more of a “meh!” I acknowledge the rejection and keep going.

I think the hardest part of being a poet (at this stage of my career) is finding your audience, niche, following and/or readers; well, this has proven to be my biggest dilemma. I don’t know where I fit. I am 28 and have many more rejections than acceptances. Some would say this is normal, I feel it is bullshit. There is nothing normal about strangers that know nothing about you to tell you that you are not good enough on a continuous basis, but they are thankful you let them read your work. Alas, poetics have always worked this way and such are the dues of a young poet – and please believe—I am paying.

It is as Ntozake Shange wrote in her poem, somebody almost walked aff wid alla my stuff,

not my poems or a dance I gave up in the street
but somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff
like a kleptomaniac workin hard & forgettin while stealin
this is mine/ this aint yr stuff/
now why don’t you put me back & let me hang out in my own self

As I touched on earlier rejections at some points in my poetic journey have caused me to question my place in this canon. Specifically, editors have sometime almost walked off with all of my “stuff, “all of my inspiration, all of my talent, all of my thrill. Sometimes unknowingly resulting in what Sheri (my shift supervisor at work) and I like to call a “rolling funk.” A rolling funk is a phase when you are sad, depressed, and moody for no feasible reason, these funks are usually unexpected and their triggers are generally not known. My rolling funks allow me time to “hang out in my own self,” and figure me out (dramatics and all). In addition, they give me time to be quite and still within myself, which I think is healthy when they come on a sporadic basis. Now if I start to have rolling funk after rolling funk after rolling funk, I may need to seek medical help…haha.

I write poetry. Just like the chef with a fallen soufflé keeps on, keeping on – I do this in my poetry, I like to lay around in bed with it, sit it on the moon and fish it down when it’s done – I let it curl in my imaginary sister’s hot comb. When inspiration hits me, I have no choice but to write. It has to come out of me, as a placenta has to come out after a baby is born – it is mandatory and natural.

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