Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Procrastination, Pessimism, and Floral Design

This afternoon as my hands gently clipped the tape that wound around the petals of the bouquet's fifteen gerber daisies, it occurred to me I should have gone to buy the flowers myself. I had ordered a hand-tied bouquet from a Malaysian florist on the web at a bargain and gotten only what I paid for. The tape was not even plant tape but regular scotch, and around the stems the tape held the whole together, but suffocated it as result. After freeing the flowers' faces to open into outward embrace, I wished someone would snip the tape and carefully peel it from around the petals on my head.

I don't know why I spent an hour choosing the flowers to order and then another hour proving my identity since I'd used an American credit card to buy flowers on the other side of the globe. Then I spent a third hour removing the tape from the flowers and arranging them in a large green vase, ignoring the deadline for the Yale Series of Younger Poets only three days away. But no one has taped my laptop shut, nor webbed my fingers together so that I might only bang at the keys. I've got an excellent compilation that really would only require the teensiest bit of shuffling and last minute cuts. At least half the poems have been published in journals and zines, and almost all have been given the editorial eye by at least one poet I trust. They represent ten years of writing and reading and editing, but also represent well over a thousand dollars in previous contest fees and related expenses.

Most of my peers in writing workshops and at conferences have admitted frustration with unrequited appeals to be published. We're in good company if you like Coleridge or Plath, amongst many others. Besides identifying with melancholics, writers in moments of self-doubt console ourselves with stats bordering upon urban legends, such as that most manuscripts circulate for at least two years, some as much as eight, and then greatness is rewarded. We're told by writers who've "made it" and editors that if we keep trying, really good writing will find a home, but of course they would say that. The other option is too dismal for a floral-scented reading or workshop for which participants have paid. Yes, perhaps the writing is good enough, but like Blake or Dickinson we may never live to know it, or even worse, perhaps the work will never go anywhere, period--or worst, maybe despite all our desire and energy the writing just isn't that good.

This year I let the deadlines for fall contests lapse because I'd rather keep my petals closed than risk opening them once again to nothing, but I hate how whiny that sounds. The self-indulgent melancholy in this post creeps throughout with such thickness you'd have to clip through it with a weed eater. And would there be any point in clipping through it? The red and yellow fall bouquet on my coffee table is calling me a hypocrite to prefer suffocation wherein I hold the scissors, instead of relinquishing them to an editorial team that I'd trust as much as my Malaysian florist. Then again, I am probably less afraid of "putting pearls before swine" than of getting the one-rejection-too-many that makes me think I am just not a blooming poet at all.

1 comment:

Jill said...

I can completely understand this. The fear of opening yourself up to rejection is greater than the logic of thinking, "well, if I never submit my work, less people are going to read it than if I do submit it!" It sounds like you've got some really promising work, so I hope you find the right place for it.