First Week at BMC

To be honest, the first couple of days I just decompressed. While other residents were saying things like "each day is so precious I can't bear to waste a minute!" I was drinking beer & sleeping, doing some reading & note-taking. Then I flailed around with my work for a couple of days, then I was depressed by a couple of rejections from magazines, then, the last couple of days, I settled down to fairly steady work. My main concern now is to try to eat less & to skip desert from time to time. I've finished one poem & most of another, both featuring crows, and have begun to map out the manuscript for a book from a welter of drafts -- the main reason I came here. The next book will not be just a collection of poems, but (somehow) one whole thing. (I'm thinking of it as being composed of "suites.") The problem is that, while all the parts have roughly the same tone & use the same structures, I've been collecting them for so long that the settings range from California to New York to Vietnam, with several places in between. So my problem is how to organize that stuff formally & thematically. I guess I'll have to make my bed this morning so I can spread the manuscripts out & have a look.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

2 thoughts on “First Week at BMC”

  1. JOSEPH (to whom I tell my understanding of the erotics of writing)

    joseph, a few thought this morning as i prepare for the san francisco gay day celebration in civic center at the ‘writers’ village’ where along with a dozen i’ll recite a few poems.

    lewis____(something) years back wrote that bk subtitled “the erotic life of poetry” that was swell. you’ll know. it’s a book that stays in print but the title escapes me. (things escape, they get away. can poems do that?)

    that haida potlatch thing you know has the advantage of freeing-up the long line that may become clogged as well. it’s jungian that there must be a receiver as well as a giver and the process goes on and on. a ritual happening there, i gather. maybe a cultural/psychic ‘spring cleaning’?

    remember virginia woolfe couldn’t move onto new work until what she’d written had been put-out-there and received (even a negative response that would dump her into another depression would keep the the movement of further composition from becoming blocked.) (then there’s the idea of the 360degree approach of writing-to-publication completion that has that wholeness approach).

    there’s a yeatsian place in a poem he said that’s personal to the author alone.

    also the drawers marked ‘private’ and ‘public’. lawrence fixel felt there were things you write and you recognize they are for YOU alone–not to be published–but meaningful to you in your development & teach you something. thus the publishing along with the privishing.

    (i’ll bet that’s why writers leave work BEHIND they wouldn’t publish but is WORK nontheless that has meaning to them and has in paul valery’s words taught them something more, work that can be taken-up again but that has its own value:

    “….a work is never necessarily finished, for he who made it is never complete, and the power and agility he has drawn from it confer on him just the power to improve it, and so on….he draws from it what is needed to efface and remake. this is how a free artist, at least should regard things. and he ends by considering as satisfactory only those works that have taught him something more.” –from valery’s A POET’S NOTEBOOK, publd maybe 40yrs ago as part of valery’s THE ART OF POETRY in trans from the bollingen series XLV by pantheon press.)

    joseph, i agree with you (and virginia woolfe) that most of us (unless we are writing a journal) want our stuff to get out THERE. & there IS this other area of privishing. plus there the personal level yeats described as being for the poet alone but that nevertheless informs, he believed, the poem giving it strength. (might a storywriter call this a kind of “backstory”?)

    well i see i’m not much good at theorizing. i maunder, trample, & cudgel ideas about a bull in a flower seedfarm daisy field, possibly traits of both amateur and autodidact or butching it up in a glass factory.

    YOU, however, can organize and explain w/o the mix of spleen and elbowgrease at messup my wordkitchen ends in where i destroy a lot to discover a little.

    mountains trembling and a little mouse getting born (that’s horace isn’t it?!) (my dad’s generation:
    you have to learn you’ll be straining for an elephant to shit for a mouse).

    (guess i better go back and peruse huntington cairns’ THE LIMITS OF ART. it always has a calming effect: “here,” cairns says, “here is what criticism has held…to be supreme….i have borrowed the phrase ‘the limits of art’…it suggests both the idea of perfection and the idea of greatness, a distinction recognized long ago by longinus, when he remarked on the difference between the flawless and the sublime….” (also a bollingen series title, #XII, pantheon/the national gallery and the mellon foundation,1948)

    not all detritus is detrimental. nor all disjecta membra dead broken parts.

    joseph, the “condition” (of not having recent poems accepted) may have much to do with the changeover from the exclusively written publication sources to the broader internet (which we “accept” but really don’t believe in as much as even publication of very small press magazine publication issues that were likened often to kleenex–used and discarded–). ARE YOU SURE IT’S RUST? says the little cockroach on the keyboard when my genie from between my ears suggested pensively that i’d slowed as i maundred dawdling abt what to do fustigating my failing self-regard in great danger of becoming annihilating narcissism and blaming it on age-deprived oils of youth.

    of course i counter: just press on regardless!
    but does work truthfully? my inner george carlin parries & thrusts.

    i think it’s physical: think of bladder infection when you have a bladderful. forcing is not the answer here. you need the literary equivalent of a catheter perhaps. (what would that be?)

    keep writing?! yes! (but keep at near remove a device to relieve remembering the lawrence fixel comparison of poets’ having the imaginary carrot and imaginary stick vs. the real carrot and stick that writers of plays, screenplays, & other narratives have.)

    edward mycue 29-june-2008 san francisco, california

  2. I know your artistic life doesn’t exist to give comfort to my artistic life, but I just wanted to thank you for writing honestly about getting a few rejection letters and then feeling depressed about it. I just got a curt thanks but no thanks form reply over the weekend and became thoroughly depressed and it was a timely reminder to see that poets with actual published books get them, why wouldn’t I?

    Sorry about the rejections. Thanks for writing about the whole of the process and not just the shining happy ending.

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