I sent poems to Poetry. I haven’t done that in years. Poetry is dedicating its summer months to reading poems by poets who have not yet seen work in their magazine. What a good idea.
Back in 2004 I checked out from the library the 2003 issues of Poetry. There were a handful of decent poems but on the whole I decided if Poetry were poetry I would not read poetry. Many many poems were just bad. At the tail end of 2003 longtime editor Joseph Parisi gave over to Christian Wiman. It seemed to me the few issues I read with Wiman in charge were better than the Parisis. But surely he was working mainly with Parisi’s backlog. I haven’t read an issue of the magazine since.
But one of the parts of my new send-work-out resolution is that when I send poems to a magazine I will try to include a wholly new one, a poem I have written specifically for that magazine. The one I sent Poetry was based on poems they posted on their website. I was thinking I was going to be producing poems somewhat akin to the editor(s)’ aesthetic, the poem thus having a better chance than most to make the cut. I’ve yet to see the result. (Of the three batches I sent out this year not one has seen a reply.) I rather doubt I’ve bettered my odds with these magazine-tailored poems. Who knows? But I do like the challenge; it’s an opportunity to make something new, whatever/wherever it ends up. The poem is my project. I have long since let go of expectation that I will build a poetry career that breaks even, or that brings fame. The poem is the thing, what it does.
Recently I wrote a poem to a generic magazine editor begging to be included in their magazine. I was resisting writing it – absurd subject! Then I remembered, what steps up to be written is what makes it to the page. I’ve learned that my writing is what my writing wants to be. There are all sorts of things I’ve wanted it to be over the years – salable, for instance. And I’ve had plenty of clever ideas for stories or experiments. But what gets written is what wants to be. If the writing is me forcing something into words the writing is going to be abandoned.