Friday, 26 April 2019

Can you write American?

Sometimes I think I just submit poems to American magazines via Submittable, the portal which many magazines use for receiving work, just to get my reject rate up. I've had very few acceptances via Submittable in general, but of the six over the last 4 years, half are from American magazines, the other half are international magazines. I don't seem to appeal to American writers, even the ones I approach via email. Of the nine acceptances I've had so far this year, one has been via Submittable and I think it was the only American one, the others have been from Europe.

I was brought up in America, studied literature in America and started writing my poetry there, but it seems I can't write poetry that American publishers like. I wonder if I write in a British or Scottish style or if it is like my accent, a hybrid of the three with a dash of that foreign flavour that can't be pinned down.

There are lots of styles of poetry in both groups, many poetic 'schools', but I've never been able to categorise the differences between British and American poetry. I could Google of course, find articles to give me ideas, but I'm not sure how up-to-date they will be and it is a more organic thing, I believe. There's the language, of course, I can hear America in so many American poets' poems, the casual, loose sound of the language. It's not that British poetry is more stiff and formal, but there is a feel to American poetry that I can't emulate or properly explain. And, of course, I'm generalising from the smattering of American poetry I read in magazines and here and there   

I'm sure my references and experiences do separate me from the American reading audience, they are often British, European or specifically Scottish and Finnish. Having to explain the Finnish culture is often hard work, but I don't look at the British-isms I use, beyond language, just basic references that might be putting off or confusing an American reader.

But in the end it comes down to the editors and their preferences. Their education and their experiences will lead them to choose poems that speak to them and this will lean heavily towards other American writers though I'm sure they don't not choose poems because of where the author is from. They will, I believe, have an unconscious preference towards writers who speak of things they can relate to, in styles they like and possible write in themselves. I'm not saying poetry editors don't like to step outside of the box, choose poems that challenge them and their readers, I'm sure many do. But it is harder to be accepted when you are seen as difficult or different.

I must admit I do send to more British magazines overall as I do find I get more work accepted there, but also I feel more at home among those names I recognise. I'll continue to submit to American magazines, just on the off-chance. I do have poems based in America that might appeal more, but I won't restrict myself to just sending them. 

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Letting Out that Held Breath


You know when you've been holding your breath for a long time and you finally let it out and take a slow breath in. You realise how good it feels, it almost goes to your head, the beauty of it. Then someone comes along and kicks you in the gut, taking that breath away just for a moment. It hurts, but it reminds you that breathing is the best thing ever. Even so, you can't help holding it still for small moments because you're afraid someone's going to take it away again. Yeah, that. It's been that sort of complicated, exhausted week. But I'm taking the occasional deep breath and am ready to move forward full of new energy. Soon it will be easier.

I've continued with my two GloPoWriMo courses and am trying to write at least one poem a day. Some days I manage both, some like yesterday when I had my first day of teaching in forever I managed nothing. So today I made up by finishing one draft I had started and sketching another rough one. It feels good to keep the momentum going.

I had a dream last night that the publisher I sent my collection to last year had recently responded, but my email had a secret, unsearchable folder it was hiding things in and I couldn't read it. I hate my technology nightmares. Waiting a year for a response from a publisher is not unheard of, but it's so frustrating. I sent a query last month which I also haven't received a response from. I don't know if there is a problem with my emails or if they're just too busy to respond or what. I also don't know if I should send another query to their general email. 

I've sent my collection this week out to another publisher as I've kind of given up hope. I think it's the third publisher I've tried since I sent to the original one last year. To be honest, I've given up hope that my preferred publisher will accept it. It's been a tough year, especially the last six months and I did find myself clinging onto the hope of an acceptance, but I realise it was silly and I need to try other places, lots until I find someone who wants to publish it. So exhale and move on. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Home Truths

Writing a poem a day or even two for GloPoWriMo means I often have to scurry around for subjects. I've been doing prompt a day since August and it's no surprise that sometimes the same theme comes up. I've had Brexit twice, mythical animals, smells, colours about four times, pets, ect. I don't want to rehash old subjects unless I can really see a new avenue to explore, so I'm not holding myself back from looking at ideas that maybe feel a bit too personal or too close to the bone if they pop into my head for a prompt. 

I've often avoided writing about my family, my childhood in the past, not because anything too horrible happened, but it feels like it's not only mine to use. Many of the people I could write about are alive and might take my delving into past moments they are connected to as an invasion of their privacy. Others are dead, but living members might not like their 'dirty laundry' being aired in public, however limited the poetry reading public may be. I don't use names, but I guess if you know my family it wouldn't be hard to trace relationships.  

I published a poem in my first book about tracing my family tree through rumours and the characteristics I felt were passed down from one generation to the next. I made the mistake of sharing it with my ever-opinionated grandfather. He took exception to most of it, but it may have been the fact that I pointed out that there was a trend of sons not talking to fathers, which included himself, though I didn't mention anyone in particular. 

The truth hurts sometimes but I don't want to avoid it. I don't attack anyone, go out of my way to hurt them and, of course, everything is my opinion and point of view, but I do want to be able to explore difficult moments even if they might not be comfortable for those involved or myself for that matter. I don't need to try and publish them if they're too raw, but I want to be able to write them.

So I've waded into my childhood a lot recently. I noticed a decade or so ago how my grandmother, maiden aunt, even my mother would spend a lot of time together just revisiting the past, the good old days, the people they knew, the food they ate. It felt like such an 'old' thing to do when I was so caught up in the now, but I can now see there is some comfort in going back to favourite childhood haunts or bringing back cherished moments. And it also widens my fodder for my writing material.

That said I'm stuck for both prompts for today. 

Thursday, 4 April 2019

First Week GloPoWrMo 2019

I've started my double GloPoWriMo courses. I'm trying to write one poem in the morning and one in the afternoon, depending on time. Neither course has a theme, so I'm free to wander to whatever subject pops into my head. Again I'm not worried about finishing anything in a day, just to begin something, to shape it a little. I'm also not bothered if a theme doesn't grab me or if it's something like today when one of the prompts is 'your favourite colour' which I've covered in a couple of courses lately, so I'll just skip it.

I'm trying to work every day, but I'm surprised how missing one morning can throw me off. Not just because I'm a poem behind, but I can't focus as well if I try to fit it in between appointments and school runs. I like my slow start morning of reading the news, commenting on other pieces of writing in my courses and then posting my own work before starting a new poem. Anything else feels like I'm shoe-horning it in. As I've found with the kids, routines have their benefits to keep you focussed and on task. 

I was in Switzerland over the weekend, catching up with friends. I made sure I had some time just on my own to explore Luzern and to write. Spring is already well under way there, so it was lovely to just sit in the sun and soak up the city, scribbling whatever popped into my head. Primroses, wild garlic, violets were popping up in every sunny corner.  There's still snow in my back garden, though it's almost melted away. Even the birch trees in Switzerland were starting to affect my allergy, but it was worth it, just to get out for a bit. Chatting with friends and some new scenery has hopefully blown a fresh wind through my writing. 

I'm trying to do some rewrites after my mentoring session. It's going very slowly as I can't see a way to untangle one of the poems, full of Finnish terms. Again that problem of making sure they're understood in the poem without weighing the text down with explanations while also getting my idea across. I make a few small changes and then leave it to simmer. Hopefully it will all come together soon. 

Enjoy the sun wherever you are.