There is a widespread perception of “the editor is the enemy because he is the gatekeeper,” that editorial process stifles our true voices and our truths. And rather than rush to debunk the perception of the editor as gatekeeper and stifler of truth, I want to say that I am interested in how experienced, knowledgeable readers, teachers, mentors work to support us by bringing us into focus, by pushing us into more pointed, more thoughtful exploration of language, speaker, perspective-position-argument, nuance, complexity, layers, texture.
This goes much deeper, well beyond expressing one’s truth. In a well written, well composed, well edited work, one’s truth is laid bare and tested.
“A snake is crawling along a desert trail that parallels a straight, black paved road. Over the horizon walking down the road in the opposite direction is a woman. The two get closer and almost pass each other, but each stops in time. They both step into the area that runs between the trail and the road. The wind gusts suddenly, and the snake is instantly transformed into a man. He has dark hair. He is marked with scars and symbols, patterns of his tribe. The two walk toward each other and embrace. Another gust of wind comes and blows all vestiges of clothing off them both. The sun holds still for a moment and starts to slowly rise, and as it rises it turns a deep crimson and gives off a low, metallic whine. The couple are fully embraced and perfectly still. Their bodies fit together like two parts of a jigsaw puzzle. Another gust of wind comes and blows the flesh and organs off the man and woman so all that’s left are two skeletons locked in embrace.”
– Henry Rollins, from Pissing in the Gene Pool & Art to Choke Hearts
Princess Urduja, Fernando Amorsolo (1892 – 1972, National Artist for Visual Arts), 1959, oil on canvas, 61 x 87 cm.
Yes it is. All at once clean, complicated. grisly. First, the clean: Palatino and Baybayin Lopez 11-point fonts. Standard one-inch margins. Lots of white space, lots of two-column multilingual poems. 64-pages. All titles in the infinitive form.
The lines, uniform stanzas, and columns are very tidy. I know, Dan Langton used to say that there’s no need for us to anchor ourselves to the left margin. Sure, I’m with that, but I think about the reasons to weigh anchor, and that I don’t have good ones. The orderliness of the pages and then the content of the poems are in some kind of tension.
My relationship with Line is an ever evolving one.
In the past, I’d shied away from the metered line, for a few reasons. First was my resistance against formal poetry — more reactionary than legitimate resistance — and then because I didn’t think I was any good at executing these without going all sing-song. These days, I am pushing the sing-song, precisely because my content has grown disturbing. My content upsets me, and (as above, regarding orderliness) the metric quality of the lines serve to upset me all the more. You know, tra-la-la, she was hacked to pieces by her estranged husband, four decades her senior, tra-la-la. Have y’all read Eve Merriam’s The Inner City Mother Goose? Yeah.
OK, yesterday I received another email forward from a Fil Am writer whose name was not familiar to me, which simply means I do not know this person’s writing at all, what this person writes, where this person is based, who is this person’s direct community. The email was a very belated response to Bino Realuyo’s Huffington Post write up from a few months ago, “Dear Filipino Immigrants Who Will One Day Read Our Books.”
I am glad the article is still resonating, really. I want to keep talking about our community of readers and writers. I really do believe we do have a community (or communities) of readers and writers.
The email was a complaint about Filipino Americans who are not readers, but people who “gossip,” “watch TV,” and “dance.” The email was also a complaint that no one was buying this writer’s book, and that word of mouth was slow, mostly through family. So, these complaints are related. I think the first of the two, the accusation and judgment, is a result of this person not being able to move his/her books.
Blake Butler has got an amazing post, "22 Things I Learned from Submitting Writing," over at HTML Giant. I highly recommend everyone read it! Again, the reminder to put this submissions thing into perspective.
PAWA WORKSHOP with Barbara Jane Reyes: How to Submit Your Work for Publication
Bayanihan Center, Mission Street @ 6th, San Francisco.
Saturday, July 30th, starting promptly @ 10 am
Really, is this what the goal is, and/or is this what the goal should be? And if so, how to attain Google-ability?
This comes up as I have been preparing for the PAWA Submitting Your Work for Publication workshop. I have been asking other writers questions about what some issues and hang-up’s around publication are. Google-ability has come up.
I believe that’s beyond publishing, not necessarily a separate issue, but one that detracts from the core work and efforts of publishing.
That said, I do believe in maintaining a steady and professional web presence. This is why I have this website (and all these ancillary sites: FB, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. Really, look at all these places, though I can only realistically be active in one or two, and just have RSS feeds lead back here), which I should be updating more regularly than I do. I used to post here nearly daily, but that’s becoming impossible.
I have been posting calls for submissions like mad, over at the new and improved PAWA blog, and have been a little surprised at the non-response to them. I know; just because I’m not hearing any feedback does not mean folks are being unresponsive. It’s just that I have been trying to gauge community interest in submitting work for publication.
Here is what befuddles me: There’s so much dialogue over our invisibility and non-presence on bookstore shelves and on course syllabi, coupled with reticence to put work out there in a major way. As well, there’s so much interest in self-promotion, in being recognized, so much desire to be given props and praise for being poets and writers, coupled with reticence to put work out there in a major way.
What gives, with the contradictions? I am interested in untangling that, and giving substance to the picture of “poets and writers,” and the necessary work to make it so.
As my friend and fellow author Sunny Vergara has recently blogged, it’s loaded, “self-promotion,” and the term, “shameless self-promotion.” Submitting work is part of the work of self-promotion. With every cover letter we write to accompany every submissions packet we send out, we engage in self-promotion. We’re submitting to the possibility that our work is good and/or interesting enough to warrant publication in a potentially competitive field. He’s listed some truths, which I believe are important to arrive at on our own schedules, after going through our own processes:
- You cannot sit on your ass and hope to be discovered.
- You cannot sit on your ass and hope to be invited to speak.
- You cannot sit on your ass and hope to be published.
OK! So I’ve got a space reserved, a date, and a time, and now just have to get materials together.
What: PAWA Workshop with Barbara Jane Reyes: How to Submit Your Work for Publication
Where: Bayanihan Center, Mission Street @ 6th, San Francisco.
When: Saturday, July 30th, starting promptly @ 10 am.
Registration: Sliding Scale ($25-35 for students with valid student ID; $35-50 general). Please make checks payable to:
Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc.
P.O. Box 31928
San Francisco, CA 94131-0928
Include “07/30/2011 workshop” on the memo line.
Paypal option is here: http://www.pawainc.com/julyworkshop.html.
What to Bring: yourselves, your questions, your current submissions packets, your current submissions calls resources.
Who Should Attend: Aspiring and emerging writers with limited or no experience with the submissions process, or writers with some submissions experience, who would like to refine or clarify their own current processes.
For more information, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It may be time to get me to a writer’s retreat. This is what Oscar suggested this morning. I have found myself in this place where I am carrying around my multiple (e)notebooks, each a different manuscript project. Certainly, this started as I was processing the fact that Diwata was in my hands, this gorgeous book production with that wonderful fresh off the presses smell, full of gorgeous poems. So I got antsy, as I typically do, wondering what to do next and how fast I should be working before I get too comfortable, and even smug with my accomplishments thus far.
Then yesterday evening (and apologies for being necessarily vague here), an editor from one of my longtime dream indie publishing houses emailed me out of the blue, expressing interest in reading a future poetry manuscript of mine. This is someone I’d always wondered how to get on his/her radar. Now, I am being deliberately vague because everything here is abstract and full of details to work through, but this got me thinking about all of the poetic projects I’ve started, and how to get to the point that this editor will eventually have something really good to read from me.