“When one has weighed the sun in the balance, and measured the steps of the moon, and mapped out the seven heavens, there still remains oneself. Who can calculate the orbit of his own soul?”
A couple of poems of mine just got rejected again by a new publisher. That’s okay, it’s progress. Sooner or later I’ll find a home for some of these things.
Where? Don’t know. Poetry’s a tough market.
I do a lot of self-publishing but I resist self-publishing poems, lately, because the self-published space for poems feels particularly cloudy and indulgent. I may be wrong about that, of course, but that’s the feeling I get. Poetry thrives on curation, even if that’s a legacy thing from an earlier time.
Why is that? Don’t know.
I think it’s because a lot of readers don’t know — happily, mysteriously, in fine ways — what poetry’s about. When’s it good? When’s it okay to like a poem that’s not “good?” When does a poem speak to you and how is that separate, if it’s separate at all, from when a poem is “good?”
The culture and customs for liking lyrics or music are different and differently established for so many readers. We understand that a song can be enjoyable or appreciated or meaningful even if it’s not somehow technically great.
The ghost of empiricism hovers over poetry’s open grave, warning would-be visitors not to leave the wrong kind of flowers or cry the wrong tears.
The selfish thing is that I think some of these rejected poems are okay and some are pretty good. I think they might find their audience one day. That feels arrogant, though, because People Who Know told me these aren’t the right poems. They didn’t tell me why, though, so I just wonder and hope and doubt and tinker.
Self-publishing poetry is tricky, though, because it can sometimes appear like a self-published poem is for the poet, not a reader. A gatekeeper — even a pretentious or spurious or crusty one — helps say, “You’d like this, it’s for you.”
If you’re a Clementine von Radics (see clementinevonradics), you can self-publish beautiful works in a way that are for both the poet and the reader. Raw, sweet nerves that shock or spark both poet and audience, there. I am no Clementine von Radics.
I’ve been writing poetry for more than 20 years now, though, so maybe some day. I’ve been dabbling some in public here and some in private back there, but a poem published online is usually not welcome at a journal or magazine, thereafter, until you get von Radicsian degrees of energy built up in your hurricane. But most of us are not hurricanes. I say this without ire — von Radics has devoted herself to this craft in a way I haven’t and she’s dared to risk and I have not.
Foolishly or not, I’m still in the wilderness looking for a gatekeeper. I don’t want into the city. I want to build my own city. But I fear I won’t have the keys to open the doors even of a city I build.
So, yeah. Poetry. Don’t know.
“It’s nice to be nice.”