It’s been about three months now since our rural household was blessed with a modern convenience that we thought we’d never see again: unlimited internet. And wow, what a difference.
Three giddy months of streaming music and movies, of actually using the smart features of our smart TV. Of me leaving my email and browser open as long as I like just because I can. Of Glen making the choice some days to work from home. It’s been life-changing. But one thing I still haven’t done—even though I promised myself I’d get back in the saddle right away—is make any poetry submissions. And for heaven’s sakes, why not? How hard could it be to get some poems together and send them off? So a couple of weeks ago, I decided to stop procrastinating and just do it. Well, I uncovered a rat’s nest dating back almost thirteen years.
On January 1 of 2007, I made a resolution to write a poem every day of that year. That resolution got me back to writing and submitting poetry after a long hiatus, and even though I managed to write only 130 poems instead of 365, I considered the year a success. So much so that for some years after that I made the same resolution on each subsequent January 1. I never got close to 365, but I did break 100 five years in a row, with one year topping out at 225 poems written.
While it was beneficial overall, writing poems on a schedule meant that many of them were . . . how shall I put this? . . . crapola. And even if they weren’t out-and-out garbage, all they did was natter on about clouds or some such, without really saying anything. In those cases, my typical procedure after writing and titling them was to number them, print them out and stick them in 3-ring binders. For the ones that were worth something, however, I took the extra step of creating Word docs and storing them on my laptop in a single folder labeled “Poetry.” And then high-fived myself for being so organized.
But I realize now there are several problems with this system. Starting with that lone folder labeled “Poetry.” Why, oh why, did I not subdivide that into more folders, each holding the poems from a different year? Or how about this: Why did it not occur to me that I should store the duds in Word docs too, with the plan of someday mining them for images and ideas, repurposing them for new poems or for fiction? Because now that I read them years after they were written, I see that quite a few have gold nuggets buried in the lines. Not to mention the fact that it’s much easier to assess poems side-by-side on a screen than to flip back and forth through seven stuffed binders.
There’s also the awkward fact that I now see some of my “Poetry” folder poems don’t deserve the high hopes I’d had for them. Not without a lot of work, anyway. So last week, after several frustrating days of trying and failing to gather four or five poems together for a single submission, I decided just to revamp my whole filing system, organizing it the way I should have on January 1, 2007. That’s over 1,000 poems, about 650 of which need to be transcribed. The rest, which had initially made it into my super-duper filing system, will at least need to be shuffled around.
It could be worse, though. I should be thankful that since 2015 my production has plummeted. Moving, publishing two novels and getting a third underway have taken a toll. If I can eke out seven or eight poems this year, I’ll be happy. (I’m at six right now.) However, I’d like to think the overall quality has improved. Even if I do still write poems about clouds.
p.s. I’ve come across some fun stuff that I’d forgotten writing, including a handful of limericks. With the 2020 Presidential Race all over the news, here’s one from three years ago that seems timely again:
The Campaign Manager’s Directive, 2016
“Remember this. It’s consequential.
First, endurance and grit are essential.
But to seem most effective,
you must fling invective
while looking your most presidential.”