Since I stopped posting drafts of poems to this blog, I find myself writing fewer drafts of poems. The instant gratification of a blog can become addictive, but without a workshop or some other audience — some other incubator of the work– my poetry becomes like a tree falling in a forest. Of course, the squirrels and sparrows and voles are there to hear the tree falling, but they don’t really give very productive feedback. Neither do the random strangers who click “like” when I post an unformed draft.
Going back to Barbara’s workshop would help, and I’ve been taking some baby steps in that direction. I rearranged my schedule so that I might go, but I still need to take the plunge, make the call, set the date that I will return. And figure out how to pay for it.
Poetry seems like such a slow crawl right now — like that point in a labyrinth when you see the goal in sight, but turn away from it on your journey toward it. It’s not that I’ve been stagnant, it’s just that generating new work has taken a back seat to polishing old work and sending finished work out to journals. Submitting work is strangely exhausting. It gets easier with time, and then again it doesn’t. But I need to trust that there’s no wrong turning, that there’s only the inexorable journey toward the center.
Now that I’ve been sending my work out consistently for a few months, I have a better sense of the ratio between submissions and acceptances. It’s about the same as the ratio between cold calls and business deals: about 20 no’s for every yes. On average I’ve sent out four submissions per week. And I’ve been published twice in that time. I feel like a pigeon a Skinner experiment: I peck the button, and I’m rewarded with a pellet at random. Sometimes after I get my reward I take a break from the pecking.
I have a co-conspirator in this Po-Biz pecking. She’s someone I met back when I lived in Cambridge, and our paths have crossed from time to time since the first meeting. She comes over once every couple of weeks and we work on our submissions together. We’ve done a tad of workshopping, but mostly we keep each other on track. I suppose that’s my current workshop: a workshop of two.
I’m almost ready to open my home again to a generative workshop, but I’m also hesitant to do so. What keeps me from taking the steps to start a new one is a bit of superstition and a bit of the perfect being the enemy of the good. The last workshop I led was a success, and the momentum was there to keep it going, but I burned out trying to run it along with my other responsibilities. I feel like I’m back to Square One, trying to figure out what kind of workshop I want to lead, how to make it sustainable. Maybe in the meantime I need to trust that I’m on the right path, the only path really, in my labyrinth walk.
Labyrinth photograph courtesy of Wplynn via Flickr, CC2.0