April 2, 2011

Dreaming of Commas

Happy National Poetry Month! Like many, I'm writing a poem a day, no matter how bad they may (will) be. I used to do this religiously when I first started my MFA but at some point I stopped. A good quarter of my book came from that time, and I'm hoping this month I'll generate a lot of new work for the next project so that I can stop obsessing about the little things in my current one.

Last night I had a dream that if I were to swap the order of two clauses (just two!) in one of my poems, my book would suddenly work and then it would be done. The dream was so vivid that when I woke up, I knew exactly which poem and which two clauses I had dreamed about. And sure enough after I switched them, the poem was better for it. There's nothing more I love about writing poems than the tinkering and trimming, and I very much believe knowing exactly where to drop a comma (or where to take one out) can make a poem more or less successful. But I also think that if I can edit poems in my sleep, then it might be time to start sending it out.

Which is what I did! I sent out the book (the thesis, the pile, the stack of poems--whatever you want to call it) to its first contest. And so begins what I suspect will be a very long road paved by rejection slips and self-doubt and a jackpot of contest fees, but I'm okay with that. I've been talking to a lot of people who've been through the process to gear myself up for it.

It's a beautiful day in Madison. Some measure spring by when the birds first return, but I measure spring by the return of shirtless joggers, and I can say with full confidence, "Yes, Wisconsin: spring is here!" It's hard to believe that just yesterday we had a wet onslaught of snow. But the sun's out, people are sweeping their sidewalks, the garlic has sprouted, and the ice on lake Manona has broken. The last snowpile in Madison lives next door to me in Olin Park, and it will be my great pleasure to watch it die a slow and agonizing death over the next few days.

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