Sunday, December 30, 2012

I was young when I left home-- Bob Dylan

Sent my third manuscript to a publisher. Suspect it will be rejected, but you never know. I will continue to work on it and send it out. It may take years, but I might be pleasantly surprised. I sent SEVEN out three times. I am lucky. I am blessed. I think the actual process of writing matters. It helps me survive. Lots of people say this, but some despise such psycho-babble. I will return to Denver on the 5th.

Largely, poetry, the writing of it is insignificant. There are more important things in life. Of late, I feel past  trauma has left me somewhat throwing myself into writing, despite the reality of obscurity and isolation. Regrets over what can't be changed regarding the past personal issues need to be ignored, and this moment now is what matters. It's all we have. Maybe that's in part why I write here, to flesh things out, to move beyond mere talk about writing.

Nietzsche at one point of his writing career was frustrated with his publisher. He felt that there was no promotion of his first books, and that it was not distributed to bookstores, yet later, he simply says, "...Namely, one simply does not want my literature and I-- may no longer afford the luxury of print."  I think this is a fear of many writers, at least it's a fear of mine. Overall, we struggle in isolation, in loneliness. I recognize too still, that many who speak of community are nowhere to be found when difficulty comes in one's writing career. Everybody loves a winner. Nietzsche in some ways was deemed a loser. He quit his professorship and lived isolated and poor in the mountains with poor health. He was at odds with his colleagues. His love life was problematic. Yes, he broke down at the end, and one has to wonder about this. So much to speculate about it. But in the end, his works are revered and read by many long after his death. He went against the grain. He challenged the conformist thinking of the past duality of good and evil. He pronounced that God was dead. He was bold, nervy and obsessed.

Finally, I think it is okay to question the status quo of "community," and to challenge conformist ideas of what it means to be part of a community, which in itself is a vague concept. Smaller, more localized communities seem more practical to me. Workshops and genuine meetings about the work over coffee seem much more rewarding than trying to fit into the murkier world of national "affiliations" which are considered to be allied and supportive. For the most part, they are not. Friends and people in proximity are more likely to spur the writing on with encouragement and that ever so elusive faith. Publishers and editors and the relationships we build with them seem so much more important than the mysterious community. Yes, communities that are "in person" are more real. Networking is mandatory, but it can be of genuine interest and a shared love of literature. I have written reviews and I feel this is helpful and communal, yet there is still that safe distancing that propels us to write.

Kierkegaard supported the individual. He said often "the crowd is untruth." For some reason, I sense this is correct, despite everything else that's currently going on in poetry. This is one reason, I selected to have no blurbs on my next book. So much is about proximity, and this in and of itself leads to disparities in what's called po-biz, but somehow looking at Nietzsche and Kierkegaard helps.

A friend saw that I'd been reading Nietzsche and said laughingly, "I hear reading him messes people up."

Friday, December 28, 2012

Wow. Tonight, after a real major flop of communication regarding a reading in my hometown, I am thinking about how difficult it is to write poetry. To be a writer of any kind is a difficult road.  I've often thought too-big a part of  poetry these days is about where you've gone to school and or who you know, but lately, I am thinking about how communities are built oftentimes through our mutual isolation and loneliness as writers.

El Paso. Wow. What a love-hate relationship I have with you! So often I want to move back and live here on the border with its dust-bowl days, but then I return and the lack of organization and potential poverty turn me off to living here. I miss my family terribly, but sense I am better off staying in Denver, despite the snow and cold.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In 2008, PTSD finally caught up with me. I have been in recovery ever since. I think my forthcoming collection, SEVEN, from 3: A Taos Press addresses much of this journey, yet it is still a journey I am on, and it is one that may likely take a lifetime. Trauma takes hold and it is difficult to overcome. Struggles with anger in the past and anxiety in the present have shaped much of my writing life. Anxiety that I am not good enough stems really from the past, and one must let go that past and embrace the present. Anger and anxiety, it seems were on some surreal pendulum. In some ways though, this difficult journey has made me a better poet. I am often in a place of ambiguity and uncertainty, and the hyper-vigilance in my daily life has, I would like to think, helped my writing. Why? Constant awareness of one's surroundings is a good thing to have as a poet. At the same time, prior to 2008, I lived in an amnesiac state in many ways, where life was a fog. So tonight, I felt like writing about this journey. The new poems I am writing and putting into a third collection also deal with trauma and recovery. This is not to say I don't care about language, compression, music, imagery and movement. I do, but I care about trauma and how it effects people. It is devastating. It is ruinous in terms of one's relationships and one's self-image. Somehow in some small way, I want to make a difference when it comes to understanding this and helping others who are struggling with the same difficult journey. Writing is one way to do so.

Lots of talk regarding the politics of writing-- ie: marginalization, race, culture, ethnicity, oppression etc, yet the trauma I write about is violence towards children and women, and I am not doing this in some abstract distanced manner. I still think sometimes a first person poem is necessary because the content demands it. Form is to content as content is to form as someone once said. An anesthetized poetry of separateness from the self seems troublesome if one is writing about trauma. Yes, there is cultural and economic trauma in this society as well, but personalized trauma can not simply be dismissed in art.

PTSD is a serious illness, but healing and recovery are possible. I have to believe this. I am still on the road to recovery, and I see writing as a means to that recovery. These things were very uncool to various poetry professors I've had, but somehow I doubt they had ever been severely traumatized, though prozac jokes were common. So my writing, at least in SEVEN, is inherently political because it deals with trauma, both cultural and personal I believe. I do feel it is a good book despite my tendency to be hard on myself. Yes, I think it is good and this is precisely because it deals with the harsh realities of traumatic experience.

This Beethoven piece I have linked to is for me a new beginning in terms of my writing and my journey towards healing. A moving past the initial safety and mourning stages of PTSD. One never really breaks completely clean of these things, but one gradually moves on to wholeness or fulfillment with one's daily activities. I need to stop being so hard on myself, embrace my talent, yes, even say I have a talent. So many are confident, assertive, self-assured in their talk of poetics that sometimes it's kind of sickening. Young men who are not yet really published assert their opinion staunchly regarding poetics, so I'm going to go ahead and say what I have to say as well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Today I spent time proofreading SEVEN and will send a few changes to my editor soon. I also sent some poems to magazines. Sigh. The difficulty of doing so is getting harder the older I get. Seriously. But I will keep believing!! Yup. I need to work harder on the poems. Just keep revising. Just keep going. One foot in front of the other. One document in front of the other. One line in front of the other. One poem in front of the other. Will send some more out after I type final edits on SEVEN. It's quite long. It came out to 118 pages, of which about 93, I believe are text. Yay! This surprised me. It's hefty. So, I need to knock these edits out of the way and continue working on poems for the third collection. Crazy into poetry these days. It helps that I am not working. I some days drain myself revising, and yet the work seems so clunky at times. Much work ahead.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

At home relaxing in my mother's house. Trying a little self-promotion on facebook and it sometimes makes me uneasy, even queasy. Anyone from El Paso's lower east side knows that bragging isn't a cool thing, but alas this is the corporate, capitalistic way to "success." Ugh. What is success anyways? A child of the eighties, the "me" generation, I was immersed in the cult of success, and here I am at 47, soon to be 48, quite "unsuccessful" in terms of income, prestige and power. I feel lucky. I wish we could eliminate this need to succeed at every turn. Freedom, it seems may come when we let go these foolish notions of success. It's difficult when we are feeding wounded psyches through this need to be fulfilled by external forces, rather than being fulfilled within ourselves as we are.

This missing core, the damaged self, seems to want to pump itself up with acceptance and even praise from others. We must, in the end, praise and celebrate ourselves. There is this notion I think that people should behave certain ways online and in public, but the fact is there are very damaged people in this world. Recently people have been hyper-critical of a poet, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet too. They use words like "paranoid" and "unstable" to describe him and when people seem to sympathize with him, I understand why Nietzsche despised pity. They say most poets have been hurt or damaged in some way, and I think poetry by its very nature is about a person's need to have a voice, to be heard, and nowhere does that spring forth more than from a difficult and alienating childhood. I sense have a lot in common with this despised and now pitied poet.

Secretively, I cheer him on at times because I understand the rage, the feeling of outsider, the frustration with not being heard. And more importantly, I agree poetry has all too often become an insider's game, an academics game, a game of who-knows-who, but today I have hope! Hope because I sense most everyone is feeling the same way no matter the amount of their "success." Even a Pulitzer Prize winner gets fed-up with the goings on in Po-biz. I think most poets feel themselves outsiders to a degree. I think people
are focused so heavily on the mental illness of said poet, they cannot see the forest for the trees. It's true that unseemly behavior is uncool, but there is indeed, in my opinion a whole lot of whopping truth about what this man said. This is of course true in part because I am not in academia, and have never really been "accepted" and this stirs those feelings of shame and alienation.

This need to have a voice springs forth from having been silenced, and this too can happen culturally. Being of mixed-heritage makes it even worse I think because one can not fit in either culture or ethnicity. One is always at odds with "success" and "fitting-in". This is why large groups of Latinos band together in poetry land. It is necessary. And at times, unseemly behavior seems necessary, but of course diplomacy is what's needed? Sometimes I think diplomacy has Latinos getting crumbs from the literary world. Not only crumbs, but stale crumbs. When the likes of big name poets only know one Latino name, we have a problem.

Overall, my wandering through the field of self-promotion has me still feeling awkward, foolish etc. But one must press forth and shout out one's "successes" from the rooftops? I'm not so sure. I have to think further on this. There still, it seems to me, seems something unseemly about the whole thing.

I am very lucky to have a supportive editor and a supportive press at this point in my life. It was very much needed. Now, I will look through the mock-up of the book and press forward. All is well. I am very blessed when this book comes out, and I have to  not let the fears of invisibility overrun myself. Be still. Meditate on the good things you have in life I tell myself. There is so much to be thankful for here and now. In my hometown the weather is phenomenal. Now, I think it's time to get to work.