In the midst of feeling a bit down about my prospects, with the interminable wait for my Canadian visa stretching on, I reached out to an old poetry professor to ask for some advice. I’d seen some chapbook competitions and prizes out there, nothing big, nothing splash, but it would be something, right? And I have whole swathes of poetry just sitting here, begging to be seen, to be heard and sung by many voices.
I could cobble together something out of that, I was sure. Something about the idea nagged at me though; I felt like I was cheating. As if a collection should either come together organically, sharing a common theme or aesthetic, or be built from the ground up around such. This didn’t feel right, and I was struggling with it. She advised me not to do it. Chapbooks are always coming and going, she said, and few make a mark, especially if they’re not from a reputable or well-known publisher.
Better to wait, to perfect the poems, gather together a first manuscript worth publishing, and to make an impact with its publication. Your duty is to the work, she said. She spent ten years putting together her first collection. Well, fuck. It was a bitter pill to swallow precisely because I knew she was right. Not that I have any intention of waiting 10 years, not by any stretch of the imagination, I’m not that far off, but I took her point.
It’s just incredibly frustrating when you’re putting yourself, and your savings, on the line to just barely squeak by and painfully produce art–to pull it from your blood and bone, from dream and memory–knowing there isn’t any money on the other end, no real payoff to speak of. I don’t have ten years, that’s for sure, I have this one year, at best, to live off my savings and hopefully finish my novel, or poetry collection, or anything, really. In the midst of all this, I had to remind myself why I do this, why I put myself through this strain day after day, night after night. Luckily, I’d already foreseen this need, and had a piece from a year ago to refresh my memory.
It’s a performance piece, and the formatting is screwy here, but fuck it.
Here it is anyway. Continue reading