Recently, I decided to submit a poem I wrote to a start-up literary magazine by the name of Little Room. It was created by Ohio University Creative Writing student Nathan Boley as one of his senior projects. The idea started as a simple Tumblr page soliciting/accepting submissions that has transformed into a purchasable book on Amazon.
Now, if you think I am mentioning this wonderful endeavor because I am in the book you would be horridly wrong.
Instead, I bring this up because after getting a nice rejection with great feedback – which noted that the poem could be seen in future issues, and that the connections made were interesting but the setting was not – I kind of felt relieved. I have had this poem sitting on my computer for almost a year and it was starting to bother me that its contents remained essentially the same. I wanted to work on it, but I did not really know what needed work. I had changed the structure thrice at this point, and the words had become more and more concrete, but something felt overlooked.
So, after debating if I should send this along to a literary magazine I had found by chance one night after scrolling endlessly on Tumblr, I took the plunge. Submitting a piece you have been working on should never be questioned. It should be as natural and instant as an intake of breath and as necessary and vital as the beating of a heart. These anatomical actions are never questioned – they are constant definites. (Unless you are in a post-mortem phase.) For writers, submitting pieces should be our constants. They should never be variables.
Hesitation, though, is another issue.
This sneaky, pestering anamorphic blob of thought will always be loitering about, but it must be pushed aside. For writing to develop and reach a new level of mental/verbal comprehension, it must be read and critiqued by others. It must feel the tug of fresh eyes, and the interest of unknown entities. The only way for this to happen is to:
- Join or form a writing critique group.
- Submit to literary journals/magazines.
- Post the material on your blog/personal online page. Solicit comments.
- Take a creative writing course online/in school.
- Show your work to friends/family.
I had done suggestions two and four for some time but stopped after finishing college because the literary world beyond my wooden desk seemed too unkind and too unpredictable. In other words, Hesitation was becoming less distorted and more tangible. It became a He. The only way I felt He could be stopped was by submitting my unpolished poem.
Post facto, I see what the poem needs work on and what can be left alone. I can acknowledge that it has potential, but it has not reached it yet. These are not disappointing thoughts, but rather tiny nudges that push me forward every day as a writer. They are what keeps a writer replenished and alive.
In summation, I hope during this upcoming winter break YARN readers take Hesitation by his blurry coattails (Yes, he is a dapper gentleman – upon first sight.) and leave him out in the cold.
For those curious cats out there, I share the poem I submitted for your commenting pleasure.
The Red Book*
She browsed the shelves looking for an escape of any kind.
She was sick, tired, annoyed
with the limited selection of non-fiction.
It was always depressing
The fiction was much more welcoming.
She plucked one book after another
from their places of rest
but nothing caught
her eye – until The Red Book.
Its cover was vacant.
Its spine was without representation.
All she saw was red.
She tucked the book into her
beaten and bruised messenger bag.
And walked away from everything.
At first, she avoided opening it.
The thing seemed possessed
but something overpowered
She opened the cover.
Everywhere she went The Red Book would be in her hands.
She stopped eating, sleeping, talking.
All she did was read.
Others would peer over her shoulder to see
was so interesting
but all they saw were
She no longer heard the head-numbing
arguments ricocheting around her.
The comments about her
lack of personality,
lack of confidence,
lack of ability.
All she heard, saw, touched
laid in her hands.
People gave up on her after some time. They never
questioned the existence of the book. All they
wondered was when she would waste away.
After a time the book ended and she ended.
Her eyes were bloodshot and the book was
newer than ever before.
* I was inspired to write this poem after seeing the 1948 film The Red Shoes, which is loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of the same name.