Patience – your writing finds the right audience

Have you ever written something that developed a life — even an audience — unexpected? The final chapter of a literary biography I read recently featured an introductory note that caught my attention. The author stated that of all the essays he had written during his long career the final essay of the book received the most attention. And the most requests for permission to reprint it in various publications.

Those were different days, I reflected. A time when permission was requested to reprint material an effort to share thoughtful writings. Rather than copy, paste, click and post.

In a very small way, a similar observance was made regarding a piece I wrote more than a decade ago.

This was back in the days before iPhones, Facebook, or Twitter. A time when SMS messaging — later texting — was a novelty that would be the most used mobile data service. But that was a couple years away.

A reader of my blog requested a review of a poem. I was suspicious of the request. Thought it might be a college student seeking someone to write his or her literature paper. I accepted the challenge.

At the time, I was writing book reviews, essays, interviews and such. Mostly for local publications. But a few journals and magazines on the West Coast published some of my work. I reached out to Len Fulton of Small Press Review and asked if I could submit the poem review. He graciously agreed.

I wrote a review of Charles Simic’s poem “Old Soldier” in an esoteric manner that could not easily be passed off as a high school literature paper. I sent off the review for publication. And waited. Months went by. Issue after issue of Small Press Review arrived in the mail box. Impatient, I posted an abridged, clumsy version of the review on my blog. A month later I submitted it to editor, publisher, and friend Pasckie Pascua who published it in the September 2005 edition of The Indie. When the November-December 2005 issue of Small Press Review arrived I was surprised to see my review had — in fact — been published.

The review of Simic’s poem “Old Soldier” remains one of the most read posts on this blog. It is embarrassing to me for a couple reasons. One, the lack of virtue in my life. The selfish rush to be published. Patience is a virtue I am still learning to practice. Another reason for the embarrassment is that the online, perennial version of the review is a shadow of the original. The writing that appeared in the Small Press Review has never been released online. And maybe that is best for now.

The review of the poem is the final chapter of a book manuscript I finished. As of this writing it remains unpublished. But maybe one day it will greet an audience of its own. And maybe wander online as well.

No more Free Lunch

This weekend I received a letter in the post informing me that Free Lunch is closing shop. The news really disappointed me for two reasons. One, I was hoping to have some poems published. Two, I reviewed an issue of Free Lunch for Small Press Review and really enjoyed the publication. Some literary/poetry publications are dense with inaccessible poetry and my work doesn’t seem to fit. But Free Lunch felt like a good fit. Here’s an abridged version of the review I submitted to Small Press Review:

Free Lunch presents an engaging 20th Anniversary issue. Unlike many poetry magazines that contain a smattering of good poems and a couple great poems, the Spring 2009 issue of Free Lunch collects stellar work by Billy Collins, Stephen Dunn and many others. It is my habit as a reader to dog-ear pages in books or magazines that elicit some sort of physical response; like smacking a book on my knee and saying “yeah” to the amusement of fellow bus riders. Lyn Lifshin writes, “I love the sense/ of her contentment/ feel it moving/ inside me the/ way when a/ poem works…” in her poem “Writing a poem is like why and when a cat purs.” In “Advice from a Pro,” X. J. Kennedy writes, “I vowed to make my work intensley sober.” There are many great poems by poets Roger Aplon, Denise Duhamel, and others. And, in short, my copy of the 20th Anniversary of Free Lunch has almost every page dog-eared with praise.