Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Always the Contributor, Never the Contribution

It's been a fun two days of checking the mail. I received my contributor copies of Beloit Poetry Journal, New York Quarterly, and Hollins Critic. For the Critic, I reviewed a first book by Mike Smith. It's titled "How to Make a Mummy" and I heartily recommend it (the book, not the review) to everyone. NYQ is a feast, featuring poems by Bob Hicock, Marge Piercy, and Dorianne Laux (among others), a craft interview with David Shapiro, and a memorial to W.D. Snodgrass. I've only just started browsing, but the range of aesthetics is remarkable. BPJ is, as always, amazing. With all three of these, I'm humbled by the company I'm in.


So Contributors' Notes are rough. They doom impermanent things. I had forgotten what I put in NYQ only to discover that the last line of my bio said "He lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains where he spends his days thinking about a girl." Though this may still be true in some respects, the sentiment of this thinking has shifted drastically since I originally wrote the note. I did a similar thing with Best New Poets, in which my bio read "He lives in Roanoke, Virginia with a thirteen-year-old sheepdog that growls at sweet old ladies." Two months after the book is released, the dog has been put down and the sweet old ladies roam free. I've always been a fan of putting something other than just publication credits and other c.v. type info, but maybe those things persist simply because they're safer. Luke Johnson writes contributor notes that make him cringe. He does not learn his lesson.


So I've been struggling with how to tell casual acquaintances about this whole not getting married thing. I wish I could just hand them a slip of paper and tell them "everything you need to know is right there." I'm just done with having that same conversation over and over again. Doesn't anyone want to talk about hockey (Go Caps)? The possibility of LeBron vs. Kobe (Witness King James)? The possibility of LeBron vs. Carmelo (push)? Minor league baseball (Salem Red Sox)?


At the prodding of friend C.I. Shelton, I'm currently reading Tom Beller's story collection Seduction Theory. Here, two quotes from different stories that struck me as maybe pertinent, maybe true, certainly interesting and well-wrought.

"Women were like campfires to Walter: warm and comforting in the midst of the wilderness, but if you didn't keep an eye on them you might end up engulfed in flames. He generally played the role of cynic when his friends confided details of their own women-related problems. His own relationships tended to be groping and short-lived. He had had his fair share of sexual experiences, but he had come to think of sex as a form of roulette; once something was set in motion it was nearly impossible to control. Even these encounters had trailed off in the months since he graduated from college, and in their absence he was almost able to forget the completely nauseating terror of having a crush."

(from The Hot Dog War)

"Again and again as he prowled around the house now, he was struck by the evidence of lives lived. It lay on the shelves, along the walls, stacked in piles on the floor."

(from A Different Kind of Imperfection)


I'm learning a new song on the banjo, it makes me feel good about my calloused fingers.


Keith said...

LeBron vs. Carmelo!

That's why I stick to the lame contributor notes. Get used to it: you'll be publishing a shit ton of poems soon.

It's funny especially about place and school and whatnot. I no longer teach at VCU, but there are some journals coming out with those notes. The most important part, however, as you know, will always be the poem, and that's what the folks will be liking.

An odd question maybe, but I have no idea what issue I'll be in for the Critic? Would it happen to be the one you have? Or does it take a while -- say, months? -- for contributors to get their work in?


Luke said...

LeBron vs. 'Melo would test me. I grew up cheering for Syracuse and Carmelo, but LeBron is just so damned kingly. That said, I'm hoping it happens.

Agreed that the poem is the point. Lame, at least boring, contributor notes on the horizon.

Your poem wasn't in this issue, but I imagine it will be in one of the next two, simply because they usually do their best to clear the decks before we start taking submissions again (in Fall).