It is April, which means springtime and Easter and National Poetry Month! I have already written about springtime. Easter was nice, but not too exciting since we are still taking a lot of precautions. So, let’s talk about poetry, naturally.
For the past two Aprils, I have shared a few poems with you. Now, as explained then and reexplained now, these are stragglers…poems that I don’t intend to send out for publication. (Presses frown on blog publications when considering your work. Even with your own blog, it is still considered to be “published.”) If I ever do decide to send these guys out or publish them elsewhere, I will remove them from my blog. But for now, enjoy some poems.
Oh, and should you be interested, you can always support a poet and purchase a copy of A Lovely Wreckage!
Pasted as photos, because I can’t figure out how to format a poem on WordPress.
I used to keep journals, religiously. Until one day, a terrible thing happened and I destroyed them all in an effort to burn away my memories. It didn’t work at first, but with time and no pages to look over I gradually let go of things that I held onto for too long.
I have one journal left, that chronicles a chunk of my 20’s. I don’t read it; I just keep it because someday there might be a story in there. Aside from my journals, there are my blogs. I have kept many blogs over the years, ranging from the personal to the professional. I suppose this is as close as I come to journaling these days.
Now, if I did still keep one, I would certainly have written in it about yesterday.
I was sitting in bed eating carrots and watching 30 Rock on Hulu when my dad called me. “Are you sitting down??” he says. Oh, no. Someone is dead. Wait, no, he doesn’t sound upset. Must be good news? What could it be?? I, of course, run crazy with thoughts in that moment, but then he says something about the newspaper and it takes me a minute to put the pieces together and suddenly I realize what he is telling me.
I am in the newspaper.
Now, I’ve been published all over the web. And I have a book of poetry out. But I really don’t think anyone was as excited about any of that as much as they were about me being in the paper. Mom came and took me to the gas station to buy a copy. When I got home, the poetry editor from the News sent me a friend request, with an image of my poem. He tagged me in a Facebook post that I shared on my socials. And still…I was in shock.
See. I dreamt of this before anything.
I wanted to be on that poetry page since I was a teenager, discovering it one afternoon while searching the Gusto for acting gigs. It seemed…attainable. And yet…my early poetry was only published at the now defunct poetry.com. (Side note: the website still exists, but I don’t know where my poems went.) I didn’t think any of the early stuff good enough, anyways. Then, after my self-imposed writing hiatus and comeback, I saw the news as UNATTAINABLE, because I just wasn’t good enough. I didn’t have a book yet, or a signing, or an interview. I was nobody.
Now, I disagree. I have stats to back my writing up, a little. So, I composed an email and sent it to the poetry editor and waited, hopeful.
And then this.
The poem was the one I won the Poesia contest with, too. So that little guy is having a good summer.
I am reminded a little of the tale “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” In it, her father tells her “If you see it in The Sun [their local newspaper,] it’s so.” That is how I feel today. I saw it in the News. It must be true.
So, if I kept a journal, that’s what I would write about today. Maybe a little about how E is spending the week and I am looking forward to lots of time with her while Mark is at work. Today we are going to the park to do a photoshoot for a new author pic for me. Tomorrow she wants to go fishing. She has never been here solo before, so this is a really fun new experience for us. I would write about it, because I would want to remember it.
I don’t keep journals anymore, and by default, I don’t do scrapbooks anymore either though I still have about seven of them. I kind of wish I did, so I would have somewhere to put my newspaper clipping. Ah, well.
I am maybe 12 and sitting at my desk and writing a story about god knows what when I decide that I will be an author someday. It just…fits. Cut to…
Thursday, May 28, 2020.
I awoke early, as usual, and felt that terrible nausea that I pray will pass each day. I get sick on the way to take Mark to work. I think I can probably get to his work and then the hospital if it gets too bad. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen again, so I go home and take a Zofran and try to get some more sleep.
I wake up around 11:30, feeling a little better. I check my phone. A text, a Timehop, an email. I click on the little envelope icon and find a message from my publisher with a link to an Amazon page.
My Amazon page.
For my book.
Any and all feelings of sickness evaporate, or perhaps are pushed out of the way by simple shock and surprise. I immediately text my parents and my besties the link, and when I hear nothing from Mom, Dad or Bern I call in a panic and ask them why they can’t check their GD text messages?! A phone celebration, as I tell my dad that I am finally, blessedly, truly a published author.
Around noon, Mom comes by to take me for a cup of coffee. She tells me she’s going home to post my link on her Facebook, and when she does, she accidentally posts to my page as me. “Oh no! Can you delete it?” I go to do so, but there are already likes and comments. Eh…so what if people think I’m talking about myself in the third person?
After we get home Mark gives me a big hug and congratulates me. I still don’t feel like it’s real. Friends and family start telling me that they placed orders. I still don’t feel like it’s real. Mom tells me she got 6 copies for her friends and she wants me to sign them. I still don’t feel like it’s real.
When Moms’ books come, and I hold them in my hand…then what? Will it be real then? My final proof sits on my desk, staring at me. It is no different than the copy I will see when Mom gets hers, aside from the fact it has “Not for Resale” written across it. But holding it didn’t make it real, even…maybe a little more, maybe a little less shock, but thinking that there are people out there that are paying for my words? Words on paper, scribed in ink? It is mind-blowing.
Anyway, this is my official blog plea for you to buy my book and make me feel like a real author. A Lovely Wreckage is a collection of poetry centering around living with chronic illness and depression. You can find it on Amazon. If you are kind enough to purchase a copy and you enjoy it, I urge you to leave a review there, and I thank you from the bottom of my still-in-shock heart.
That little 12-year-old girl sitting at her desk and scribbling has been waiting for this for a very long time.
In the past few months I have been submitting a lot of my poems to various small presses and the like, hoping to find homes for them. I have had some successes (see Potatoes) as well as a steady stream of rejections. I have also been working on developing a small book of poetry. Poetry is my first true love when if comes to writing, as I love the way you can express something in this form.
This past week the Pushcart nominations came out, which is a prize for poets featured in small presses. A few writers I follow on Twitter were nominated, and I am thrilled for them. I always thought when I was younger that poetry was dying, but I see a resurgence now that I am trying to publish that bolsters me and shows me how wrong I had been. To be nominated for a Pushcart would be an honor that I hope one day to achieve and the poets that are up for it deserve it. Except one.
Of course, she’s not nominated anymore.
Shortly after people shared their joy at being nominated, Twitter turned sour when poet Rachel McKibben’s tweeted that stanzas of a poem she had written were lifted by another poet, and that poem was nominated for a Pushcart prize. The poet (who I will not name because she doesn’t deserve it) even had her reimagination of McKibben’s words tattooed on her arm. The poet wrote to McKibben to tell her of the infringement, using words like “lift” and “paraphrase” as though they don’t also mean “steal.” It then came out that McKibben is not the only poet she has lifted from; there are at least two others. Since this news broke, the poet in question has been dropped by every press she was associated with.
When I was younger, I had a poetry community on Blurty, an old blogging platform. There were a good number of people in the community, and we posted our poetry for sharing and workshopping. One day a poet contacted me and said my poem was on another blog with another name. I immediately contacted the person, threatened legal action (though I’m sure I had no recourse) and they took it down, but never wrote back to me. I wondered then how many people they had stolen from. I’m flattered, really, but I also want to fight you.
I had a friend once who liked poetry and always wanted to read mine. Then one day I asked if I could read some of hers. She had hand-copied at least two poems into her notebook and signed her name on them that I had read in Teen magazine when they had a poetry page. One I even had cut out of the magazine and put in a scrapbook, so I was able to verify that she had in fact copied it, word for word. I never lent her my book again after that.
Plagiarism is not a joke. You don’t get to take something just because you like it, or because it resonates with you. Changing it a little is not making it your own. Writers have a job to do and when you steal our words, you steal our purpose. If you can’t write your own material, you’re not a writer, you’re an impostor, and there is no room for that in what we do.
I don’t know what possessed this poet to do what she did. I don’t know why someone stole my poem, or why my friend thought copying others work made it her own. I don’t understand this because I was born a writer, I’m not someone who wants to be one. I have no choice. It’s in my blood, just like theater (which has been nipping at my heels lately, but that’s a whole other blog post) and gardening and loving my family. I can choose whether or not I write but if I don’t, it gnaws at me like the need for a cigarette, gripping me until I give in. I am constantly terrified of plagiarism. Hell, I’m even afraid I’ll write something original that is too close to someone else’s originality. I never want my words stolen; every writer deserves the credit for what they pen. It is unfortunate that there are people out there that don’t understand that. Create your own art; don’t steal from someone else.