Subject: Writing Community
I choose you to be part of my new writing community (My wife says she loves my poetry but is too busy to read it each day.) You strike me as perfect for our email correspondence. Your rejection email was kind and quick. The New Yorker took 294 days to respond! And with a cursory email! I thought I would begin by asking a question:
Why does everyone get so worked up about clichés? What is clearer than crystal? How can eyes get any deeper than the sea?
George W. Barker (aka The Poet, which they call me at work.)
Good morning, Editors!
It’s been two weeks and you haven’t emailed me back. I understand you may be busy. Even though you’re not The New Yorker or Poetry, I’m sure you get lots of submissions.
Please answer my earlier question about clichés, and here’s a new question:
Why do elites hate poetry that rhymes? My great uncle once read me “Paul Revere’s Ride” (I read everything by Longfellow after that.) and I believe this is one of the best poems ever written. Suspense, patriotism, and good ol’ fashioned rhyme and meter. I bet those snotty editors (Of course, I’m not talking about you!) know nothing about iambs and anapests!
George W. Barker (aka The Poet)
I’m disappointed. It’s been a month and still no response. But I won’t be critical. I’m a genuinely nice guy. That’s what they say at work. That’s what my wife says, too. I don’t just take out the garbage and mow the lawn. I make dinner on Fridays, and I cook Sunday breakfast! And I’m the King of Barbeque. Speaking of food, here’s my question today:
When you write poetry, is food part of your ritual? If so, how?
I can’t write on an empty stomach. Or when I’m stuffed, like after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Well, maybe a haiku or two. But nothing serious. No, what I need is a mug of coffee, a wide-rule 8.5″ x 11.75″ notepad, and a plate of cookies. Preferably fresh baked. My wife makes the best chocolate chip cookies. One of those and some coffee, and the poems write themselves!
Not a word from you still. I’ve been patient. It’s been 42 days since my first email. When you rejected ALL FIVE OF MY POEMS you said you were grateful to read them! You asked me to keep you in mind in the future! Was this all bullshit? I’ll have you know that I am a guy who knows A LOT ABOUT LANGUAGE!!!!! I’m VP of Marketing for a major insurance company. No, do not bother googling me because I use a pen name when I write.
I may have been hasty in my email an hour ago. I apologize if I was overly critical. I have impulse issues. I’ve written 12 new poems since your kind rejection and I can’t wait to share them with you! I know, I know, wait until the next submission period.
All the best,
Hi—me again! My wife advised me to be more humble. Possibly I was wrong about what I said earlier about clichés. I’ve been thinking about the meaning of life lately. Things have been rough at work. Life is . . . Can you please tell me which of these similes and metaphors are the best?
Life is not a bowl of strawberries.
Life is not all monarch butterflies.
Life is like juggling a phone, a biscuit, a razor, and a shoe all at once.
Life is a mirror.
Life is a pond full of minnows and sharks.
I know you may be sooooo busy, but please write back.
I’m giving you one more chance. I tried being nice. Now I’m furious. This is no tempest in a teapot. My anger is as hot as that bubble of magma at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. YOU’RE DISRESPECTING ME. You may think you’re too important to email me back, but you’re low on Clifford Garstang’s Pushcart rankings which I learned about from a guy at work because guess what? I lied. I’m not really the VP of marketing. Some ass-kisser stole that promotion from me three years ago, and now he’s in an MFA program part-time! Po-biz this and AWP that, he chants. I know he’s trying not to laugh at me when we talk poetry. But a smirk is hard to hide.
Here is my final question. Please answer it. If you do, I promise you’ll never hear from me again. My life is pretty awful right now. Work used to just be boring but now we’re in nightmare territory. And my wife moved out. Please—how can poetry help?
That last email I sent was a test. If I really needed you, asked you a deep, heartbreaking question, would you be there? The answer was clear. I’ve been emailing for 68 days and have yet to hear a peep from you. However, you should know that in your neglect, you helped me see that poetry’s not for me. Have I . . .
- Taken up the exciting sport of martial arts?
- Gotten a wonderful new girlfriend?
- Gotten a wonderful new job?
- Started birdwatching with my cousin?
- Moved to a luxury beach home I inherited from my great uncle who I barely knew but who loved to discuss poetry with me during Christmas dinners?
YOU’LL NEVER KNOW!!!!!!!!!
Claudia Monpere’s poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction appear in River Teeth, Plume, The Kenyon Review, New Ohio Review, Ecotone, The Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing and first year writing at Santa Clara University and is a recipient of a Hedgebrook residency.