Some time ago, I received a kind rejection from Clare MacQueen of MacQueen’s Quinterly. Although she declined my poems, she sent me an invitation to submit to the next issue. Not just a standard invitation: a special, jump-the-line one.
When someone solicits work, I think it is a good idea to graciously send some. Even if one of them is a recent poem you think is especially good. Possibly The New Yorker will reject it, and meanwhile the window for generous-hearted Editor MacQueen, who has recognized your talent and desires to promote it, will have closed. Long story short, with breathtaking speed (less than 24 hours), Editor MacQueen chose the best new poem in the bunch, and The New Yorker will just have to wait 😉
Seriously, I am grateful to her for her kind words and invitation, and for recognizing the merits of the poem, “Lion’s Tooth,” which is about dandelions and Ohio and the past. Like a lot of my poems, it just came to me, and I welcomed it. As always, I look forward to reading MacQueen’s Quinterly while waiting for my work to appear there in January.
Today I discovered that my poem, “Dreaming to Updated Mountain Songs,” is out in the first issue(s) (1/2) of the new online journal, Coastal Shelf. I am further honored that Carson Pytell, one of the editors of Coastal Shelf, liked my poem so much that he wrote an explanatory note about his experience reading it and some of its implications regarding Appalachian “mountain songs,” which accompanies the poem in the issue. I am grateful to him for his interest, his work, and his patience with me in our exchanges regarding the poem.
I first wrote about this poem here. I want to reiterate now that the work was inspired by a performance of Robert Beazer’s “Mountain Songs for Violin and Guitar,” which can be found beginning at 45:36 of this recording of an excellent recital.
But although Carson Pytell’s interest in the poem as a commentary on Appalachian music is not wrong, I also meant it to comment on the tragic fate of Appalachia, which fell victim to the environmental and socioeconomic depredations of the coal industry, and on the dark side of our country as a whole. The innocence of the “columns” of vanished chestnuts recalls their importance as a healthier, more egalitarian resource than coal. The healing potential of the lost chestnut trees and the living music of Appalachia is counterpoised against not only the damaged region, but also against the “orange hair” and “parade of tanks” that evoke our current national sources of evil and destruction.
At the same time, the poem tells of a dream and thus invites the reader’s mind to wander where it will over the scarred landscape of Appalachia, the United States, and their own psyche. Pytell’s interest in the loss of folk character in popularized and highbrow versions of Appalachian music, for example, adds an intriguing dimension to the work. Please let me know how you read it, and join me in checking out the work of my fellow contributors as well.
Besides getting mixed up about which reviews I’ve posted, I also attended a Zoom reading for Escape Wheel today. I had been seriously worried about my ability to hang with the talented and sophisticated poets of the volume, but everyone was generously appreciative of Elephant in the Room and the other poems I chose to accompany it.
Likewise, I was inspired by the varied talents who made me feel sad and excited and as if I were on a subway or watching an accident or having gay sex with a t-shirt over my face. If you want to feel such feels, check out the reading on Facebook here, or pick up the anthology at the places listed here.
Also, at 3 Central Time, I am going to be doing this reading that will be on Facebook because I am in the anthology, Escape Wheel. I will read my poem from there, Elephant in the Room, and a few others. I have gone virtually to two of the other readings celebrating this anthology, and the other poets are very impressive and highly varied. It should be a fun and enriching occasion, so please come.