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The Education of J.H.S.

On Printing

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Today I printed out the poems I've finished and am somewhat happy with. The earliest was completed in November or December of 2009, and the latest was completed...well, today! There are fifteen.

Obviously, I wrote more than fifteen poems over this period of time, so where did those poems go?

The ones written for the poetry course I took (the poetry course from hell), I discarded. I've heard that many people keep everything they write, and I do too--unless it's garbage. These poems, inspired from writing exercises, held none of my voice, didn't tackle any of the issues I want to explore. The most promising piece from this class, a haiki "sequence", was way too narrative for my taste. I have no interest in producing works that you can look at and say, "Oh, I've done that writing prompt before."

Then there were two poems I wrote for my writing group, that they deemed...well, unsalvageable. I kept these, because I know one day they may grow into something--and I was right. The final line of one of the poems has now landed itself in a totally different poem. (The original poem was discarded--I was asked if I was trying to recreate a scene from "The Road", and it made me realize the poem had no original images).

I wrote a few poems I posted on here, but because of that, those poems are now essentially useless to me. Only one of them did I like at all anyway, the one called "rosary". I also wrote some religious poetry which is posted on another site.

There were a couple of sonnets I wrote for extra credit for a lecture course--one traditional, and one more free form. I had liked the less traditional one, but I took it to my workshop group, and they hated it, and I trust their judgment. And then I wrote a poem for an acquaintance's tuba recital, because they had joked about it--I kind of like it, but still not my style.

Anyway, for poetry group, I usually printed two copies of my tiny poems on one page. So I forgot what they would look like on a normal page of paper, and now that I see them, I realize they don't look too bad! I usually keep all my poems on a flash drive, but I think printing them out every once in a while will help me--at the very least help me remember that the poems are real, that I've really written them. I know that sounds crazy, but when you have one poem you worked on for six months that's a page and a half, and a bunch of other poems you wrote a year ago, with no one to share them with, you lose your sense of reality.
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  1. qimissung's Avatar
    an interesting iteration of your poetry to date, shortstoryfan. I usually keep everything; I do occasionally throw away something that is truly horrid, but I generally keep it all on two flash drives, one I carry with me, and one at home, and I try to print them out. I have lost one flash drive that had an unfinished rather long poem on it-I hope never to repeat that mistake (shiver)!
  2. Buh4Bee's Avatar
    This was very interesting to see the inner process of the poet. I agree that it is important to print our your writing, because it is tangible.
  3. Virgil's Avatar
    Yeah, it really doesn't make sense to post poetry on the internet. I've debated whether i can go back and delete my poems here. I've been thinking of submitting them for a few magazines. If one deletes them from the internet, do you think that they can still be found? I'd like to read some of your poems shortstory, especially the religious ones, but I can't advise you to post them. It would screw you up.
  4. shortstoryfan's Avatar
    Honestly, I'm not sure my poems will ever support me. I doubt it. But if I'm gonna get a career in anything it's gonna be this...I'll never be like JBI and be a scholarly/critic type or be able to teach Shakespeare and Co. I have an ear for the poetry of today, and I think with a little education, I could really teach about experimental writing. My talents aren't academic precision, but...evocation. The difference between what I type here and my poems is very big. The poetry of today is a lot about style, I think. If that makes sense?

    I think I have a musical ear, as well. And people underestimate what a strength that is in writing and understanding poetry. Many writers seem to get the rules behind the music, and use them, but there's something that goes beyond that.

    And of course, I don't want to give the impression that I'm sure of myself. I'm totally not. I feel crazy for thinking about even attempting any of this, or spending time on writing and reading the 6 to 7 free hours I have a day. It's insane. I second guess myself all the time, get upset, wonder...how do I even go about finding out if the techniques I'm using work. And I understanding what I read enough to emulate it? It's become obsessive.
  5. qimissung's Avatar
    Well, as a sentient being, I did make a conscious decision to post some of my poetry on the internet. I can certainly understand the decision not to. For myself, I post them in my blog. I find it very hard to believe that someone would actually publish them in a magazine. I've heard the competition is cutthroat, and I'm not really interested in competition. Maybe someday I'll send some in; but until them I am satisfied with "publishing" them here.
  6. Virgil's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by shortstoryfan
    Honestly, I'm not sure my poems will ever support me. I doubt it. But if I'm gonna get a career in anything it's gonna be this...I'll never be like JBI and be a scholarly/critic type or be able to teach Shakespeare and Co.
    I hate to burst your bubble, but almost no professional poet can support themselves on their poetry. No matter how good you become (and I wish you the best) you'll have to find another way to earn money. Yeah, the scholarly life doesn't appeal to me either. But it gives you a paycheck.
  7. Virgil's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by qimissung
    Well, as a sentient being, I did make a conscious decision to post some of my poetry on the internet. I can certainly understand the decision not to. For myself, I post them in my blog. I find it very hard to believe that someone would actually publish them in a magazine. I've heard the competition is cutthroat, and I'm not really interested in competition. Maybe someday I'll send some in; but until them I am satisfied with "publishing" them here.
    Qimi, it's not having them stolen that's the main problem. Most magazines want fresh work, not something that's already been posted somewhere. I'm not sure why they consider the internet threatening, but I guess they must think if a poem can be found on the internet why should one who buys the magazine bother paying money for it.
  8. shortstoryfan's Avatar
    I'm very aware that people think that you can't support yourself just being a poet. I get that you can't just write poems and that's all. But honestly, I love teaching. I won't be miserable doing it. And more and more positions are being created where you only teach poetry (I know some poets who only teach contemporary poetry). But people forget about grants. About fellowships. Residencies.

    One of my favorite poets is Eduardo C. Corral. For the past few years, he's had jobs like working at Home Depot, all while publishing in Poetry Northwest, The New England Review, going to both Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony. His parents are from Mexico, and from what I've gathered, he's from a very humble background. Though he's obviously an exception, I think it's ridiculous for poets to keep saying they can't support themselves on poetry. When your job is reading, teaching, and writing poetry, lecturing, editing, isn't that exactly what you're doing?
  9. qimissung's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil
    Qimi, it's not having them stolen that's the main problem. Most magazines want fresh work, not something that's already been posted somewhere. I'm not sure why they consider the internet threatening, but I guess they must think if a poem can be found on the internet why should one who buys the magazine bother paying money for it.
    That was my point, Virgil-that I understand by putting them here they have already been published. I think they don't quite trust things that are initially "published" on the internet since it is so easy to steal things from there (as we sadly know to be true). That's only a theory, however.