I'm a week and a half away from leaving for three weeks, and I feel as if I'm wandering around in circles. I'm not complaining. I just don't know what to do first. My legs are leaden and my head filled with cotton. I feel strangely dejected despite all the good fortune coming my way.
Here's my advice to you, if you're a writer. Submit your work widely and then chill out. Chill out when you get rejections because you'll probably get a lot. For every ten things I've sent out over the years, I get about eight or nine rejections. Years ago, a literary agent sent a manuscript back to me with the words too sad written on the cover sheet. That was it. Sometimes rejections are wildly entertaining, like the one I got over the weekend from a literary journal named after a body of land with some amount of water around it. This is what it said:
Thank you for sending your work. Unfortunately, "Dreaming of Sex During Acupuncture" is not for us. Good luck with your writing and thank you for your interest in [name of journal].
Doesn't that tickle you? I imagine you're wondering about the title of the piece I sent in, and hopefully you'll read the whole thing one day because I'm sending it back out. I'll keep you posted.
While vacuuming my car this morning, I pulled Frank O'Hara's little Lunch Poems out of the door pocket and opened it up, even as I scraped the dead leaves and grit from the floor. My heart is in my pocket, I read from the poem A Step Away from Them. How perfect is that? My other advice to writers is to read all the time and stash small poetry books in weird places.
Have I told you about my obsession with the Annunciation? Given my estrangement from the Roman Catholic faith, I'm not sure why I find it so compelling, but there's something about a big old angel leaning down to softly tell a virginal woman that she'll be carrying the son of God that knocks me flat. There's all this grace inherent in the gesture, I think. My favorite painting is Fra Angelico's Annunciation, and after visiting Italy for the second time and seeing it, after which I had a disturbing encounter with an epileptic young woman, its significance became all the greater. You honestly can't make that shit up, and I didn't. I did write an essay, though, that was accepted for publication by Slow Trains years and years ago. It was rejected at least five times before being accepted. You can read it if you like.
Mary Szybist wrote an entire book of poems about the Annunciation. It's called Incarnadine. Here's one of the poems:
Annunciation Overheard from the Kitchen
I could hear them from the kitchen, speaking as if
something important had happened.
I was washing the pears in cool water, cutting the bruises from them.
From my place at the sink, I could hear
a jet buzz hazily overhead, a vacuum
start up next door, the click,
click between shots.
"Mary, step back from the camera."
There was a softness to his voice
but no fondness, no hurry in it.
There were faint sounds
like walnuts being dropped by crows onto the street,
almost a brush
of windchime from the porch -----
Windows around me everywhere half-open ----
My skin alive with the pitch.
Maybe I'm weird, but that just blows my tiny little mother mind.™