Monday, June 27, 2011

The Administration of Poetry

The worst thing about my job is the endless administration and bureaucracy it entails. You come to learn that it will never all be done, that all bureaucratic systems have their own inbuilt tendency to multiply. All you can ever do is mitigate it, say enough is enough.

Having a day off after an overload of necessary administration over the last two weeks, I feel I've earned a bit of time to get back to being creative. So, here I am, looking through the fifty or so poems I've written in the last year and a half, wondering which work, which don't, which need more work, which don't. And you know what? I've spent several hours this morning on the administration of poetry. I've been a bit slack on some things recently, but have mostly typed up my handwritten poems as I've gone along; thank God for that. But you can't revise poetry on the screen, so my printer's been spewing out pages for most of the morning, and then I had a pleasant hour, reading through, and putting them into 3 piles: almost there; those worth returning to; and those probably not. Its the first time I've done this ordering since last year putting "Playing Solitaire for Money" together, and the experience of doing that has helped here. Poems need to find friends, rather than stand alone - whether that's form or subject.

Then, what am I going to do with these poems? I kind of stopped sending out randomly to magazines quite a while ago; though there are certain magazines I'd love to get published in. So, I've done what Kirsty Maccoll apperently did in choosing the tracklisting for "The Joshua Tree", put them in order of my favourites. I needed a dozen or so - there's a couple of poetry competitions with deadlines next week (Bridport Prize and Lightship poetry competition) and though I've never even got shortlisted for a poetry competition I thought it worth choosing a poem for each - then there's two of my favourite magazines, one online, one offline, and I've sent a batch to each of those.

It's not that the other poems in the pile aren't worth sending off, but they're perhaps requiring a bit more TLC. Noticeably, a lot of the poems I've been happiest with are 2010's batch, rather than 2011's. Takes a while you see. So, it's mid-afternoon and apart from a brief coffee with an old colleague in Didsbury's ever pleasant Art of Tea, and a brief scavenge through the charity shops, all I've done today is the Administration of Poetry. Stamps. SAEs. Online payment systems. Hole punching. Printing. Ring binding. A satisfying day off, but in some ways, something of a Busman's holiday.


Tim Love said...

It's a task whose importance and difficulty is underestimated by budding poets. I think getting poems published leads to more/better poems being written. Experienced poets can be very helpful to beginners, pointing out what to avoid (sending your first 30 poems to Faber; vanity press, etc) and identifying suitable mags - there are still people coming to our group completely unaware of poetry mags (except perhaps Poetry Review). They need to be aware of the rejection rates too.

I show them one of my old record sheets to indicate the scale of the task. Online submissions are less of a chore (especially when mags use Submishmash) but even then there are different submission guidelines to follow - attachment or no attachment? double spacing? covering letter?

I have to be in the mood for it. Competition deadlines help. As does having a few pieces around that I think deserve to "find a home" somewhere. I've just entered a poem and 2 flashes for the Bridport. I got an e-mail rejection this morning, so I've got 3 poems worth sending away. I've tried PR and PN Review this year already, so I won't try them again until 2013. Guess I'll try the States - Rattle, etc.

And yes, it's satisfying when all's been sent off, the lists updated, and backups made. The downside is that there are no more excuses for not writing.

Adrian Slatcher said...

Love the record sheet. Far more organised than I've ever been! But trying to improve on that score.