This afternoon, I found out that a nonet I wrote called “Dark in the Woods” won a Poetic Form Challenge at Writer’s Digest and will at some point find its way into print in the WD magazine. Before I get into my (inevitable, deep, dark, psychological) navel gazing around it, I have to give credit where credit is due. The Sprite’s been listening to Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass in the car (he could just read them, but he likes the Brit accent on Audible’s version) and there are certain phrases in the latter that we both like. Which have inspired six poems including this one (the original title was Hurricane in the Woods). And he’s also said a couple of interesting things that have inspired two more poems. The kid has a real knack for putting phrases together and has absolutely no filter/editor – it makes me wonder if I haven’t given enough credence to the possibility that he could end up being a writer.
Anyhow, back to my navel gazing. Because the WD poetry blog has a bunch of people who are consistent about hanging out there and are often FB friends (with me and with one another), there are a fair number of congrats coming my way in addition to those of my own friends. And I’m having the worst time responding to them, because I’m still kind of shocked that I won. I mean, consider this: I’d never heard of the form before Robert Brewer mentioned it on his WD poetry blog and never
tried it before this challenge. And I almost never enter these challenges – I think the only one I’ve tried till now was haiku which at least is a form I’ve had some experience with (and yeah, preposition, so shoot me). And the poem is not exactly a happy one. I usually avoid writing about depression, because – like Beelzebub or my largest cat – if you name it, it comes running up to twine around your ankles and generally make a nuisance of itself. And I almost didn’t enter at all – the three nonets I wrote were so depressing that I actually asked the spouse to read them to make sure they weren’t too depressing to post (put it this way: the one about depression is the cheerful one). Add to that that I was positive that one of three nonets by other people that I liked the best would be the winner (I’ll give myself “good taste” credit since all three of them showing up in the top 10), and it seems absolutely bizarre that my nonet was even in the running.
There’s psychologically something “up” with this – partly this recent and really annoying lack of confidence in my writing and partly my inability to assess my own work. The poem I had published at Pif magazine, for example, I threw into the submission group at the last minute as a lark. Seriously. I thought the poem was funny but that no-one would ever consider it to be Literature.
So I guess the object lesson is a boring one because it’s been said so often (by me, to others, for which I owe all of you who’ve had to put up with my sanctimonious “just send it back out” advice an apology) : ignore all the “no thank yous” and “not for us”-es, and just keep sending them out. It’s like I’ve got this huge blind spot in my writing so until I can find a writing group, I’m going to have to do this by trial and error, by feel.