I just had another poem accepted for publication, my second. This is great: not only do I get to expand my audience from one (moi) to oh, say, three, but I can sense the scintillating threads of possibility unspooling before me. Maybe that first time wasn't a fluke! Maybe I have a modicum of ability! Maybe I'll win ten million dollars and a stuffed monkey playing pinochle!
Yeah. So anyway, it's always interesting to contrast which poems magazines like with which poems I like. In this case, I was bemused to discover that the poem the magazine accepted was one I'd pegged as the second-weakest of the four poems in my submission packet, far below the quality of the poem that was my favorite. In fact, when I opened the acceptance email, I was so shocked that I went back and looked at the poem in question, just to see what the hell they were thinking.
It turns out I'd seeded my last line with a particularly graceful double entendre having to do with grief and rocks. This would be fabulous, except that sucker was 100% unintentional. I revised the accepted poem six or seven times, and I missed my felicitous accident on every single pass.
Damn! Except in an odd way, this bamboozlement is what I like best about poetry: the fact that the process of writing a poem is almost as much discovery as creation. In fiction, you craft plotlines and character arcs. In poetry, you just try and figure out what the heck is going on.
Seamus Heaney once said, "The experiment of poetry, as far as I'm concerned, happens when the poem carries you beyond where you could have reasonably expected to go." Pushing past reasonable expectation is a lovely and amazing thing. Even if it does make you feel like a chump.