Crazed poet-parent launches daughter and book

Mad Wesleyan

Now my daughter is off in radioland–away at college but constantly present in my imagination, and intermittently present through texts and posts. A message with cheerful emoji has such an instant calming effect on my blood pressure–it’s amazing that when I went to Rutgers, I could only communicate with my family once a week or so via a payphone shared by the whole hall. My mother says that after dropping me off, she went to bed for eighteen hours with her first and only migraine. Performing the same ritual thirty years later, I headed towards the tear-blurred George Washington Bridge, driving like a maniac as I fought a very strong urge to turn the car around again. It’s a relief to be off the highway and tuning into my daughter’s increasingly upbeat broadcasts.

The shock of the separation is, of course, a mark of love–it’s better, in some ways, than NOT finding the transition difficult. When my mother went off to nursing school at 16, no one even walked her to the bus. Imagine that, dragging your lonely suitcase down some Liverpool street towards mysterious adulthood, without even the illusion that the Twitterverse is listening.

If I ever regain some mental focus–all these strong feelings crowd my receivers with a LOT of noise–I’ll be hunkering down to the sabbatical version of brisk September labor. In addition to my main writing project, I have conferences to prepare for and I’m behind on the regular work of poetry submissions. I’m also making to-do lists for the publication of Radioland in a few weeks. You can see the cover, blurbs, and a sample poem here, although it’s not quite available to order yet. Poetry presses do the best they can with limited resources, but publicity is mostly up to the poet, so I’m researching post-publication prizes, festivals, and other reading opportunities, and I’ll send out many notices and review copies myself. (Contact me if you want to teach or review it! Barrow Street Press is good about fulfilling orders, too.) This investment of time and money is intense but worth it; I put a lot of heart and hard thinking into the book so I want it to find readers, even if its chance for serious glory is, as always, small.

In the meantime, if you’re sending out a prose or poetry ms, check out C&R Press’s call for submissions. They published my first poetry collection, Heathen, but the press has new owners now. I’m impressed with the energy and smarts John Goslee and Andrew Sullivan are bringing to the enterprise. Thanks also to the editors of Time Present: The Newsletter of the T. S. Eliot Societywhere my review of Robert Crawford’s Young Eliot appears.radioland thumbnail

And beam me good vibes if you can spare any, because while I’m trying to be philosophical and appreciate my own luckiness, I am kind of a mess.

4 responses to “Crazed poet-parent launches daughter and book”

  1. Hi Lesley,

    Reading your posts and blog about dropping Madeleine off at college has reminded me of this rite of passage in my own life. I remember my parents lugging all kinds of stuff up to my dorm room and helping me get set up. We rented a minivan to haul it all down to W&L. When they finally left, it was hard to keep back the tears as that sinking feeling of abandonment kicked in! I don’t think I expected that feeling because I was excited to be at college — despite seeing some Confederate flags in dorm rooms and the pig roast in the quad (both of those did give me pause as I wondered if I belonged in the South!). But, I do mean to be sending you good vibes, so what I also want to say is that what an exciting time it is for Madeleine! I bet there are so many good things to come in the next four years — great friends, great professors, freedom and time to do what she wants. A new town/city to explore. New accomplishments that will make you proud!

    And, here is something else that I think will cheer you up — I’ve been teaching _The Receptionist and Other Tales__, and my students love it! Before our first class on it, one student came up to me after class to tell me that he loves it — such beautiful language, he said. Yesterday, another student came up to me after our discussion of it to tell me how much she also loves it, as does her mother. She had to get the book back from her mom so that she would have it for class! Lots of good conversations about different kinds of heroics and women’s speech and efforts to silence it and resistance to those efforts.

    Hope this helps to cheer you up!



  2. So many shared experiences, Lesley! My mom went to nursing school similarly unheralded; and I remember the phone-in-the-hall and the huge expense of long-distance phone calls when I was at college, so that my parents and I wrote long letters over the 600 miles that separated us (I recently discovered a cache of them, in which I constantly pleaded for money for books!!).

    My children are out of college now (well–daughter in grad school far away….) but I have not forgotten the lump in the throat and the welling eyes as I dropped each of them off the first time. Yes, it is a sign of love and connection, but it’s also SO important that they develop on their own and without us. You’ve got this. It gets easier, I promise! You won’t be “a mess” for too many weeks. And it is a good thing that you have much to focus on for yourself–get used to that feeling.

    Again congrats on the book–can’t wait to read it.


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