Crazy Uncle Joe

CRAZY UNCLE JOE

he piles his bricks he piles his bricks alone
while overhead the basement skylight flicks
an incessant phosphorescent monochrome
he piles one brick then two then one-oh-six
scrape-slips the last so tight it barely fits
and thinks no mortar there in ancient rome
no glue hell lights were made by rubbing sticks
and they made do with it they felt at home
with just their fists no mathemagic tricks
for them no sorrow in a dial tone
no wives so sad they’d slit their tiny wrists
to sleep forever still and stacked like stone
so he piles his bricks he piles them all alone
his mind a startled bug its shell outgrown

Advice

ADVICE

Think buckshot:
Not the rifle,
but the musket.

Ear-horn of
powder, arm-
deep in black

soot. Think
flint lock
and flash pan.

Muzzle blast.
Hollow point.
Don’t paint

the rounds,
don’t ready
the bayonet.

No aim
is necessary;
nothing is true.

Think percussion
cap. Any metal
as shrapnel.

Any spark as
lightning;
be bottled.

This Is the Line

This is the line that marks the space between what this journal used to be, and what it will be in the future.

When I started blogging about the relationship between poetry and editing, I had two goals:  1) to demystify the role of an editor within the broader literary landscape, and 2) to become a more vocal part of that landscape.

I think I’ve done a good job with the first goal — if you scroll back through this blog, there are dozens of posts that reveal my perspective from this side of the desk, and that I think do so with an honesty and clarity that have made them worth sharing.  I have strong feelings about what my role as an editor should be, and what poetry fundamentally is, what it offers us as human beings, and I’ve enjoyed writing on those subjects.

When it comes to the second goal, though, I’ve been a total failure.  I’m not really a part of the literary community — when I go to conferences I feel entirely out of place among other editors, up on panels, or even  in the audience listening to intellectual discussions of the latest trends in genre or tributes to poets I should admire but can’t bare to read.  I don’t care who wins the Pulitzer Prize this year, or what G. Tod Slone said, or which book contests are rigged, or what’s happening on the staff of Paris Review, or what comes of Ted Genoways, as much as I admire his work.

Those are the things I don’t care about, and never have.  The only reason I wrote about them was because they were things I thought I should care about; if I want Rattle to become an influential enterprise, which is one the tasks I’ve been given, I should become a part of the literary community — even if my part in the pantomime is just the groaning, indignant  outsider, I still have to join in the dance, don’t I?  I can’t participate on a social level, because I hate socializing.  So maybe I’ll blog — that was the thought.

And maybe it wasn’t a bad thought.  But the fact is, no matter how much I try to care, I just can’t make myself.  And it shows.  In sloppy, indifferent, rudderless prose.  And so my futile attempts at participation remain ineffective — maybe even counterproductive.

On top of that, I published a book with a small press, which made me feel obligated to work at promoting the book in reciprocation for their confidence and investment in me.  So in the middle of posts where I pretend to care about the latest literary happenings, I had to swallow my vomit and try to talk about American Fractal in a way that would keep it alive, on life-support, for as long as possible.  You publish a poetry book and it inevitably dies; I didn’t want to let that happen before it had earned its time on earth.

But I hate promoting the flotsam of my fiddling almost as much as I hate the idea of a literary community I’m thrust inside.  So, like my posts about Ted Genoways or Cider Press or whatever it’s called, the best I could muster was half-hearted, pointless babble.  In a way, I admire the people who are passionate about the cliques and gimmicks of becoming a successful poet — Red Hen, Rattle, American Fractal deserve all the promotion they can get.  It’s just not me; I’m not good at it, and I hate myself while trying.

So I’ve accomplished my first goal, and I’m giving up on the second.  As such, there’s no longer any purpose for this blog in its old form, hodgepodge mess that it was.  It’s over.

I’m going back to basics.  I only find myself an editor by accident; I tripped while running through a love of writing and fell face-first into this cubicle.  I used to have a blog, under a handle, where I posted poems and stories and photography, and took none of it seriously.  That was fun.  Then I started publishing poems, and had to worry about losing First Rights by posting them online, so I hesitated, then withheld.  Then a job, then a book, then the thought of the next book, and somewhere what was fun turned into work.

Fuck that.  Now that I’ve published a book — and not just any book, but a book that I’m proud of — I can see clearly how inconsequential the whole thing is.  How wrong the entire structure of the system has become.  Publishing a respectable book of poetry is not the goal of poetry.  There’s writing, there’s reading, and there’s being read.  Those things matter.  Imprints and barcodes and serial rights do not.

As a writer, I’m bowing out of the literary system.  Everything I write will be posted here, whether it be rough draft, or revision, or final copy.  If you want to read, read, if you want to comment, comment.  If you want to go away, go away.

If other magazines don’t want to publish what I’ve written because it’s appeared on here, so be it.  When I want to gather some of it up into a coherent collection, that’s what I’ll do.  If no press wants to publish that book, then I’ll self-publish.

I suppose this is my manifesto.  Not much of a manifesto, but it exists as negation.  I’ve felt this way for a long time — it’s the reason I haven’t submitted a single poem to any magazine in three or four years.

There is a place for publishing in my current view, but there is not a place for withholding within publishing.  The job of an editor is to be a poetic sieve — to filter out the one poem in a thousand that the most people will want to read twice, and then present it as nicely and to as many readers as possible.   As an editor, I’m going to work hard to keep on doing that.

As a writer, I’m going to write. That’s what this blog is for. The detritus of my day, turned into play.

In Other News

I’m thinking about radically changing this blog.  I like writing, but I don’t like blogging.  I’ve done my due diligence, trying to come up with things to post about, and I just don’t really care what I have to say, at least when it comes to poetry and editing.  And I think it shows.  More and more it shows, as more and more I come to the realization that I just don’t care.  And if I don’t care why would you care?  Do you care?  Would anyone be heartbroken if I deleted all 233 posts I’ve made so far and turned this into a travel log of my trips between the office, the grocery store, and the garbage disposal?  Honk if you’re horny, I guess.  I’m not.