Wednesday, March 23, 2005

On Judgement, Submission & Discovery, For Eduardo Asleep Inside An Old Guitar

I just posted this to Eduardo's Blog, Asleep Inside an Old Guitar (sorry, I'm still getting the hang of drivin this thang, you'll have to corner him in La Cocina until I learn a quicker way of linking). I got a little carried away in my response to his question: Which 1st book competition is the most prestigious? And, which 3, if it had to be 3, would you choose? He has also just discovered that he has been "Discovered." (hey, ese, hasn't that been done? man, that's SO Old World) ;-) *Lynx promises emoticons to come*

I'll be leaving for SF tomorrow morning and there for the week, returning to CO on the 29th for a Celebration of Women Poets in Pueblo, then back to SF with a reading for PEN then at Cody's (premiere of the new books!) 4/16-17. I was hoping to post my schedule (BIG debut performance/reading from the hardbound DRIVE: The First Quartet: 5 books in 1, like a lit-pentych in a semi-permanent gallery showing, at The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Wash., DC this Oct; Dia de la Raza, forthcoming publication date!) to this site but I still haven't figured out how to post the block of text to this template. And now, with my father's illness, I'm not sure how much I'll be able to do on the blog. So, at some point, I'll probably just post my schedule as a blog entry & deal with it later. I'm in the middle of designing my new website & homepage. TechnoMensa Question #1: Anybody know how to bend a double-rainbow for a page? I'll also be updating my links, all by hand at the moment...but that's the way I like it. Uh-huh! Uh-huh! I like it.

Peace on. Poetry on. All.


& ps: Now that I'm on leave & on sabbatical next fall, now that my stomach is healing & my son is ten, I'll be traveling again & accepting reading offers. I'll also be touring & recording with my brother—maybe a band called Cervantes? Just so's I can call the first cd "Rozinante". Have Poems! Will Travel! (is that a registered trademark?) Love on~L
Lorna Dee Cervantes said... (Lorna Dice...)

Hey Eduardo, Congrats again! You will love being a poet in New York. If it's the same one I'm thinking of, watch the polished incline going through the door into the 2nd floor lounge (best feature!). I once sprained my ankle really badly one morning, not noticing that it was there, & lost a whole day of museum & gallery hopping.

Why three? Why not submit to all (hey, there are times it works in life—if not, love). And, speaking of love, perhaps you are asking the wrong question? Kinda like asking "Which one should I marry?" insteada "Who do I love?" Some deadlines are staggered, for just that purpose, that is, avoiding simultaneous submissions while poets wait for the "better deal" to happen, highly unethical IMO. But, now that I know your work, I predict you will be faced with the delicious dilemma of multiple wins, in which case the matter would be contractual, i.e., they'll tell you what to do. Such a problem one shoud have.

But perhaps the concern is financial--it gets dang expensive paying copying, mailing & fee costs per competition (ain't that also for horses?). In many ways, "First thought, best thought," go with your original 3. I, also, agree with C. Dale's suggestions. He's right: "it all depends on the press." Which press publishes the poets you love? Are those editors still there? Pit is a plum (yes, my bias) because they love the poets they publish and, most importantly, will keep them in print. Besides, there was Ed Ochester, responsible for planting the tree. But that wasn't the sole (soul) reason I sent my first manuscript there, and only there, it was the quality of the poets in the series, Greg Pape, in particular. I felt an *affinity* with the press & poetic. And, consider the judges, if they have been announced. Ask, "What poets & publishers do I feel an affinity with?" as in Goethe's Elective Affinities. Not, who do I lust for? (there's a time & place for everything!) I'd also consider NPS, but that's another bias as a poet/publsher who remembers the day. I like to support the idea of it, and I, for one, always pay close attention to who's winning & who's judging since thay always tend to be excellent books which go on to win other awards. But, it depends on the press, which like any living entity has ups & downs, fluctuations, divorces & marriages, and deaths.

About judges & judging & comps in general: I have a post I've been writing in my head: "Silliman & Sukenik; Or, On Jockeys From the Mule's Mouth." I'm in the middle of judging something right now (a small local contest, so nobody freak out) and right after I got through saying that I didn't believe in competitions for poetry, especially at the school level, I opened all the envelopes, read all the submissions, and, just as my grandma always told me: The proof is in the pudding. Great poems, great books, blow the top of your head off, as Emily noted (who was always good for an orgasmic metaphor.) I ended up reading aloud the winning poems in each category to my partner at the breakfast table just for the delight in tasting their sounds in my mouth. I'll go back & read the stacks through a couple of more times but I know that I have already picked the winners in all 4 levels, I went through about half a ream of paper in less than an hour.

Consider the judge (not, who you know! which can sometimes work against you) I don't know how other people judge, but I take it very, very seriously: The best, just the best, and nothing but the best—so help me, Prejudice. And, the best pops out at you with more pizzazz than Hunter's mushroom double-thumbed cannon, even after reading 300+ manuscripts. And, even if the press ignores you, in the case of NPS, a good judge will not, and you can bet she'll be singing your praises to any and all, long after that book & your subsequent books are published. I haven't judged any 1st book competitions, but I have judged enough "Best books" & sat on enough grant panels, and one thing that always stands out are the poets you discover, poets who feed your own Muse. I'm thinking of Cyrus Cassells, in particular, a poet I didn't know from Batman. His book was one of the last I read from I-never-like-to-count -so-I-don't-want-to-know -how-many-hundreds of books I had to read for that one (the Williams). And, I confess, since it wasn't a blind competition, I made piles of the books based on which poets I wanted to read first & figured would be in the top five; eg., "Oh boy! Here's Ignatow's collected poems!" Cyrus's title seemed a bit much (Soul Make a Path Through Shouting) so it was in the last pile. Man, soon I as I read the first line, first poem—Ah, here She is, Poetry! Quarter of the way through I knew I had the winning book. And, point is (sorry for the length! I'm still new to the conditions of this Blogosphere), that was years ago, and I've never met him but he will, forevermore, be an important poet in my life & work, and I go on like this about his poetry—and that *book*— whenever I get the chance, and certainly, whenever it matter$.

For, prestige, what is prestige? Aw, but a book....

write it. And know. Sometimes the right opportunity occurs at the right time because certain books & certain poems just have to be. But that's just another one of my corny theories. And, as Levine says & I like to phrase it: Failure, in poetry, is integral to the process.

But, uh, just try to explain that one to your abuelita when she asks how much money you made off of poetry this year. ;-)

Disfrútale! You deserve it. (and, take deep breaths)

Lorna Dee


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