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This is how it all began. And I have very mixed feelings about the whole situation.

On one hand, I think I should actively support Stacey Lynn Brown, because I think the contest system is flawed. I think the contest system takes advantage of poets. She’s a poet, and so am I. I should support her. On the other hand, if I were able to substitute my manuscript for Stacey’s right now, I’d do it in heart beat, photo or no photo. I want publication more than to be “right.” I could get real un-picky, if a publisher offered me a contract.

PWADJ is right, when we enter contests we are contributing to a given press in hopes that we’ll have the winning manuscript. I’m not a gambler; if I went to Vegas, I’d go to WalMart and spend my allotted $50.00 there, because I know I’d get something for it. So why enter poetry contests, which I have done? Well, because the prize is publication. And because the poets I learned from did it this way.

Is it the best way? No. And it’s certainly not the only way. Poets are really footing the bill to publish other poets’ books. So why not your own? Well, because I’d like to know that at least one other person on the planet thinks my manuscript is worth reading. Editors do perform a service that way.

I try to submit my manuscript during open reading periods and to network with people who may have leads as to where I can get published. But all this “join a poet community” doesn’t always work. I am 61 years old and do not want to ”hang” and drink with Artsy “kids.” I don’t drive (poor peripheral vision), and my husband isn’t interested in poetry (but supports me in my interest). Not driving doesn’t make my poetry bad. I want to write poems in my own house and send them out for others to edit it, publish it, and sell it on Amazon.com and in Barnes & Noble. I want to read, when asked.

I didn’t major in business. I taught English. I’m not a seller. But some of my poems sing.

The hope rises again and the dream lives on,” Senator Edward Kennedy said, from the platform of the Democratic National Convention last night in Denver. Kennedy did not appear as sick as he is; he could not. He came to rally the Democrats to do what must be done, just as he has time and time again. And a sea of blue signs returned the love: “KENNEDY.”

But Teddy is the youngest Kennedy, the one who never ran for president. A fixture in the US Senate, he came to support Barack Obama. The speech was classic Kennedy.

**

I’m not asking who you plan to vote for. Many of you have already expressed that (or will in the days to come). My questions are these: Are you watching the Democratic Convention this week? And do you plan to watch the Republican Convention next week? Why or why not?

“No writing on the solitary meditative dimensions of life can say anything that has not already been said better by the wind in the pine trees.”

Thomas Merton. Honorable Reader. Robert E. Daggy, editor. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1991: 91

Many parents have to suffer the death of a child, at birth or at a very young age. There probably is no greater suffering than losing a child, since it so radically interferes with the desire of a father and mother to see their child grow up to be a beautiful, healthy, mature, and loving person. The great danger is that the death of a child will take away the parents’ desire to live. It requires an enormous act of faith on the part of parents to truly believe that their children, however brief their lives, were given to them as a gift from God, to deepen and enrich their own lives.

Whenever parents can make that leap of faith, their children’s short lives can become fruitful far beyond their expectations.

“Art is created and supported by human beings, so the systems of their lives (their biographies, their interrelationships, their artistic and personal tendencies) are important to art in general. I try to support and encourage people, as a way of life, but also as a way to help create the art I enjoy. All of this is important to me. Art, though, has to survive on its own. It has to exist as an esthetic experience on its own. Certainly, the context of art, human, and personal history can help make some works of art mean, but we must not judge art based on their creators, their methods of creation, or the complexity of their construction. We must judge them on their effects. This belief forces me to love the art of people whose personal lives or beliefs I cannot forgive. Because art matters—even if the creation of great art does not all absolve an artist of personal iniquity.”

Geof Huth

Thanks to Carter Monroe for sending this quote. Read Carter’s poems on the Dead Mule.

emphasis mine

It is very hard to accept an early death. When friends die who are seventy, eighty, or ninety years old, we may be in deep grief and miss them very much, but we are grateful that they had long lives. But when a teenager, a young adult, or a person at the height of his or her career dies, we feel a protest rising from our hearts: “Why? Why so soon? Why so young? It is unfair.”

But far more important than our quantity of years is the quality of our lives. Jesus died young. St. Francis died young. St. Therese of Lisieux died young, Martin Luther King, Jr., died young. We do not know how long we will live, but this not knowing calls us to live every day, every week, every year of our lives to its fullest potential.

The poor have a treasure to offer precisely because they cannot return our favours. By not paying us for what we have done for them, they call us to inner freedom, selflessness, generosity, and true care. Jesus says: “When you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; then you will be blessed, for they have no means to repay you and so you will be repaid when the upright rise again” (Luke 14:13-14).

The repayment Jesus speaks about is spiritual. It is the joy, peace, and love of God that we so much desire. This is what the poor give us, not only in the afterlife but already here and now.

emphasis mine

“Paradoxically, I have found peace because I have always been dissatisfied. My moments of depression and despair turn out to be renewals, new beginnings. If I were once to settle down and be satisfied with the surface of life, with its divisions and its clichés, it would be time to call in the undertaker. …So, then, this dissatisfaction which sometimes used to worry me and has certainly, I know, worried others, has helped me in fact to move freely and even gaily with the stream of life. My unspoken (or spoken) protests have kept me from clinging to what was already done with. When a thought is done, let go of it. When something has been written, publish it, and go on to something else. You may say the same thing again someday, on a deeper level. No one needs to have a compulsion to be utterly and perfectly “original” in every word he writes.

All that matters is that the old be recovered on a new plane and be, itself, a new reality. This, too, gets away from you. So let it get away.”

Thomas Merton. A Thomas Merton Reader. Thomas P. McDonnel, editor. New York: Doubleday, Inc., 1962:16

emphasis mine

Poems:
Scroll down to find nominated poem.

“Ice To Water” by Clare L. Martin

“Foundings” by Scott Owens

“What It Is Like” by Dale Wisely

“riven” by Evie Shockley

“There Is No Map” by Felicia Mitchell

Lines Written After Hearing W. S. Merwin Read a Poem About His Last Conversation With His Father” by Sherry Chandler

Fiction:

“The Circle of Light” by Ann Hite

“Til Death Do Us Part” by Diane Hoover Bechtler

The Usable Field, Jane Mead’s third book of poems, is more difficult than here first two: The Lord and the General Din of the World and House of Poured-Out Waters.

If you aren’t familiar with Jane’s work, you are missing a truly great poet.

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