Dream last night: I’ve finally got my nerve together and sent off a thick sheaf of poetry to every lit mag, zine, website, and anthology I’ve ever heard of, and all the others I haven’t.
In a vaguely academic location of some sort (packed bookshelves, green shaded lamps, a definite “teacher’s desk”), I’m scribbling away on more words in a notebook. Other people –writers, actors, artists– are all sitting around me, chatting about projects, doodling, scribbling. I’m so calm and energized and just happy to be there.
A big green painted door in the back of the room starts opening at regular intervals. Each time it swings open, some new person whose work I admire and whose opinion I hugely respect bustles into the room at top speed, seeking out the various people in the room. Directors, other writers, teachers –and yes, they’re all men of a certain age– rush to the various tables and chairs, share intense conversation, and then hasten back through the swinging green door. It’s not at all exclusive or worry-making… it’s exciting. There’s a buzz in the air, and I’m just waiting my turn.
Then I’m up. In quick succession, a poet, a college English prof, and a former director all approach with news about my submitted poetry. (Yes I’m aware it sounds like a really lame joke.) The poet is ecstatic and so encouraging: “They love your stuff! It’s not official yet, but you have a great shot at this magazine!” Then he disappears through the swinging door. The English prof has a different story: “I just don’t know. They think it’s a bit risque. Don’t get your hopes up.” I start to get worried, but keep scribbling in my notebook, reasonably buoyant.
Then the director comes out. A big hug. “You’ve done some really great stuff!” I ask him how it’s going in there (“there” presumably being where all the decision-makers sit, behind the big green door). “Well, they said if you change this line, it’s in.” He points to the offensive line. It’s one of my favorites from a poem I’ve just recently finished for my sister.
The proposed replacement line is ok, but it’s not me, and it changes something important in the candor of the poem, and I’m so so angry about that. So I tell him to tell them they can shove it. No deal. He shrugs. “Ok then.” And disappears through the swinging door.
It feels fantastic to say that. To stick to my guns. To defend my voice. I gather my notebooks and prepare to leave in triumph.
But then, with no apparent motivation –at least not that I can dredge out of my memory– I stick my head through the swinging door and yell, “Ok, fine, go ahead. They can change it. Just this once.” And all the other people in the room sort of shrug and nod, and go back to their doodling. And it wasn’t a fantastic feeling. Not at all. But it wasn’t terrible.
For whatever that’s worth.