We’re supposed to be cheery in late December, right? Ho ho ho.
I’ve been having a rough time, for reasons I can’t write about at the moment. But like H.D., when times are bad, I eat my way through it. This can be literally true: hello, Christmas pudding! But I also mean that I chew through piles of work. Writing and reading are never more important to me than when I’m feeling down and powerless. I can’t always work on the stuff I’m supposed to–my focus is more fragile–and I can hardly talk to other people, sometimes, even the kind people who don’t run in the opposite direction after a glimpse of me glowering. (Most people run, the cowards.) But I do hunker down, and this slow desperate doggedness adds up, and eventually some work bears fruit. A reference letter helps someone win a fellowship. An essay builds, paragraph by paragraph.
There are worse ways to cope than hypergraphia, I guess, even when it means isolated days of typing in pajamas.
Out of heaps of fermenting crap, small good things grow. And here I sit in that stinky paradox, feeling lucky and, alternately, choked by fumes. Ho ho cough cough.
The most surprising small good thing this December: my poetry chapbook Propagation, a fable in which a middle-aged woman in crisis enters the woods and weirdness ensues, was just accepted by Dancing Girl Press for publication in October 2017. I first drafted it in April 2014, writing a poem per day for thirty days, using Vladimir Propp’s 31 functions of the folk tale as prompts (I dropped one function and I’m not sorry). It took me a while to revise, obviously–long poems are complicated creatures. But now my protagonist gets a genuinely happy ending.
Other mss I completed last year are still gestating, but I’m receiving supportive notes and friendly feedback. This is rare, and lucky.
Additional amazements: for all the rejections I’ve received this year, and there have been a boatload, an oil tanker load, a number of generous editors have helped deliver my work to the world. Since summer, poems have appeared in Fjords, National Poetry Review, Thrush (that’s the first poem from Propagation), Tahoma Literary Review, and Queen of Cups. I’m also delighted to have a poem in the outstanding anthology edited by Jane Satterfield and Laurie Kruk, Borderlands and Crossroads: Writing the Motherland. Next year will bring an essay in Crab Orchard Review and more poems in journals. Again, I labored hard to make those pieces and keep them in circulation–I’m not saying I didn’t earn a few laurel leaves. But I am also lucky.
I’ll post sometime around the new year about some terrific books I’ve been reading. The good company of dead or distant writers sustains me always. But it also feels urgently necessary to express gratitude for the friends and family near and far who keep checking in on me and cheering me on. Their persistence is the primary reason to be cheerful. Bless them, and bless leftover Christmas pudding, and bless Ian Dury and the Blockheads, and bless the antisocial hours I can spend revising mss over pots of tea.
And, finally, thanks to anyone whose reads this far. I hope, most sincerely, that whatever kind of holiday you’re laboring to create for yourself and loved ones, it bears surprising fruit, and it doesn’t stink.
4 responses to “Reasons to be cheerful, part 4”
Lesley, I admire you ability to get anything accomplished when you’re going through a stressful time. I hope next year will be much easier on you. Congratulations on all your acceptances! I hope they’ll help you have a Merry Christmas!
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Thanks, Pat, and Merry Christmas to you, too!
At the January BIPF, I am going to set up a space for you to sit, sip a nice expensive bourbon, and let you just free-talk about anything you want. The only subversive activity might be me looking for a line or two I can “snatch” for a future poem. You know how us poetry thieves are!! Happy Holidays, Lesley. Soon!!!
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Sounds lovely. I’m so glad we’re both reading on Saturday–the only day I can be there all day, I think. Looking forward!