Monday, February 10, 2014
The Little Poem That
Lost in a weird, poetic landscape, I sought acceptance.
Back in 2009, I wrote a poem. I thought it was the greatest
poem I’d ever written. Heck, I still think it’s pretty good. Amazed at myself
for having produced what was obviously deathless verse, I promptly sent it out
to a magazine.
Okay, some people have no taste. Out it went again.
Their loss! Out it went again.
And well, this went on for years.
I started to feel like I was being gaslit by a conspiracy of
poetry editors. What was wrong with me? What was wrong with them? What was
wrong with it
? Every once in a while,
I’d take the poem out and change a word, thinking, well, maybe “pale” should be
“wan”? Maybe “Missouri” would be a more mellifluous and meaningful state name
than “Montana”? It all seemed pretty minor but who knows – maybe every poetry
editor in the world had bad memories of the word “incipient,” and just wouldn’t
publish anything with those four dread syllables. Fine, we’ll say “nascent”
I changed all the words back. Why should my deathless poem
alter with the obviously fickle and insubstantial caprices of the Hungry Ghosts
That Call Themselves Editors?
I changed all the words again. Of course, of course, I would
murmur, how could I have been so blind? “Wheedle” is so clearly inferior to
“cajole.” NO WONDER NO ONE LOVES YOU.
The rejections started to feel like a part of the physical
construct of the universe. Gravity makes things fall down. The sky is blue. No
one will publish this poem.
I kept sending it out, although with an ever increasing
sense of fatalism. Maybe, I would think, since everyone else seems to hate this
poem so much, its presence in a packet will make all the other poems seem
better by comparison? What made it particularly hard was that I never got to a
point where I could say, “the poem just isn’t very good.” In fact, every time I
read it, I’d fall in love with it all over again. You’re so good
, I’d whisper to it; it’s the world that’s bad
This past month, the poem was accepted. I’m a little
relieved, and a little suspicious. I mean, maybe somehow the editor caught wind
of my dilemma and accepted the poem out of pity. I imagine him, feet on the
desk, cigar crunched between his teeth, ash piling up on his shirt, saying, “Eh, what the heck,
let’s throw Thorson a bone. It can’t hurt. I mean, nobody reads this stuff
anyway, amiright, and we can always slap a few ads on the reverse.”
(in my head, all editors are J. Jonah Jameson)
Or maybe, of course, he just happens to be the one editor in
the entire world with a good head on his shoulders. If he’s really good, maybe
he’s already made a little shrine out of my poem. There’s some incense, a
candle, and a slim volume of Emily Dickinson. Every night, he reads the poem again. Then he moves over to the window, looks out at the world below, its ice and lights
and people, moving, moving, moving. They all seem so insubstantial now. In the
face of the deathless poem, he gives out a tiny, shuddering sigh.