Friday, November 2, 2007

In the Mail: Almost a Book and a Gift Card, Then Buell

Today Tupelo Press teased me once again. For three years I've been sending my poetry book-length manuscript their way, so in love with their press that I am. The last two years I've received delightful notes. Last fall, a note saying I was in the the top 30 of 1000 manuscripts for their summer open reading period. Today, I don't know the number, only that the editor "held on to this until the last possible moment" and that "this is superb work--please consider letting us see it yet again. It keeps coming very [underlined twice] close."

I appreciate his note and time, but I am also very tired of getting about two dozen of these types of rejections each year as I struggle to publish even a few individual poems or essays.

But other presses reject me faster that you can say. That fast. So I take whatever encouragement I can get.

I did get a lovely $35 gift card from Campbell's Nursery here in town for being such a loyal customer (don't ask how loyal, you've seen the pictures, I've been EXCEEDINGLY loyal).

Went to hear Lawrence Buell last night lecture on eco lit and crit. Clearly a genious. Clearly has his fingers on the pulse of the times. Clearly why everyone quotes him (not me, not here). Whenever I read his work I have to step back every few paragraphs to let myself be awash and absorb his ideas. His writing and speaking is dense, but said at just the write cadence and pace we get it. I can't say this for very many other people who lecture on college campuses.

He reminded me of Alan Alda. He did.

And when he did his q&a I was surprised at how he involved our comments. I imagine he's an excellent teacher. Clearly, he knows, and we know, how smart and influential he is in the world of environmentalism, but he also seems to know that no matter how smart he is, it's the rest of us who will put into action those ideas that are at the core of environmental awareness and balance. He's just the spark. He did this humbly, in my opinion, as if truly part of our tribe. He is, of course, I just wish I could be like this.

I'm also fascinated--and a believer for years now--in his idea and new book project that only through STORY and creative art / writing can we invoke the kind of spiritual change needed to save the planet and get ourselves back in balance with it (I'm biased being a writer). This is why I teach Tim O'Brien and Dorothy Allison and Terry Tempest Williams and Scott Russell Sanders to my FRESHMAN COMPOSITION students. All these authors show, and even tell us point blank, we save ourselves and our world through story. It's also why I tend to believe that writing, seeing as it destroyed many American native cultures, is second in story power to oral tradition, and somehow the mystical / moral power of the oral needs to be infused into the written tradition. However, it can be a close second, as Linda Hogan and N. Scott Momaday would say. Too bad movies and music have overwhelmed writing (it's like chocolate for dinner instead of hot dish).

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