Monday, September 22, 2008

It's Autumn, and I Just Made It Under Deadline

Today I'm headed to the post office to mail 19 envelopes--submissions to literary journals, some of which like me, but not enough yet. (Fall is the time to submit along with all the other lemmings, and hoepfully you get rejected in enough time to submit again in early spring.) 18 envelopes are essays, as I'm behind on poetry, and frankly because I've been doing 99% nonfiction for a while now. See, I've got this dissertation thing coming up, and I had an epiphany about it, which to other grad schoolees won't seem like one, but 'twas for me.

The only time anyone on my committee will read any meaningful, sizable chunk of it--and offer some comments--will be when I turn it in. And what I imagine will happen will be I'll get some praise, some minor suggestions, a slap on the back, and a degree. But I hope not. I really want to go through the gauntlet on this one. I want it to be as perfect as a first book of prose can be. But it's up to me, as it will be come May and until I die.

I think at this stage in the game--6th year of my PhD, after 3 in the MFA--it's assumed I have SOME idea I know what I'm doing (ha ha ha choke). I do, I think. I mean, yes, I do. I suppose. It's trial by fire--it's the only way a person can ever really be a writer, by diving in, doing it, failing and not. I know this, but never has it been on such a grand scale with so much seemingly at risk.

I can not tell you, whoever you are reading this, how hard it is to keep a whole 260 page manuscript in your head at once, to keep going back in and editing, making things less redundant, trying to make the essays and chapters flow together, to work as a whole, and trying to remember what you add so it isn't saying the same thing again, but knowing you sometimes have to say the same things again (if at least in a different way) to remind the reader (and yourself) what the heart of the narrative is, how it all connects--I learned when I first started teaching some call this sign posting.

Anyway, blog posts are less, and less meaningful as of late, and I predict this will be the case for a while. I've got some committee work coming up this fall--my first in 9 years of grad school, I almost made it--which will also be pulling at me.

I will say it helps to have things ground you in life, and right now it's the monarchs. We've got 7 pupating, and 4 cats left, one about to J it up. It's enthralling to watch them shed skin, to emerge, and to fly off. And my garden--is--so--wonderful right now. Sweet autumn clematis, eupatorium, helianthus, penstemon, agastache, sedum, buddleia, aster, turtlehead, goldenrod, milkweeed seed floating about, so much going on even with the first trees turning now.

Just as I turn back toward myself, relieved the first heavy batch of grading is done, and I now have a three week reprieve to write--oh to write, that divine miracle that burns, actually burns, in my arms and eyes and spine.


Anonymous said...

Ah, Benjamin. Repetition isn't redundancy if it's done for the sake of the music and to fix a haunting line or image or concept in the mind. Think of Homer and all the lyric poets who ever were. Don't beat yourself up, enjoy the writing, the creation. Fire in the blood! Fire on the page. And, oh, congratulations on Indelible Marks!!!

Benjamin Vogt said...

OFB--You're right, of course, but sometimes I KNOW I let too much of the poet breathe in the prose: too many commas and caesuras, too much litany, too much metaphor, too pensive.... And the chapbook came out in 2004, I just thought an image would look good on the side nave bar (but merci!). I need another one....