Okay, we're getting closer. I really did publish a poem once in an actual periodical, but, as I wrote about last time, I recently remembered, going through old correspondence folders, that I'd tried at least two other times to dazzle an editor with my prosody. Last time, I posted about my first failure--well, not my failure, of course. The editors' failure (notice the plural possessive: as I said, I had more than one rejection of "Resurrection," a lame poem about waking up one night with a "dead" (numb) arm and shaking the sucker back to life--the arm, that is, not the poem).
Now ... here's a second (very) embarrassing experience. It requires a little background. Back in the early 1980s we acquired a dog. A black Lab puppy. A colleague's daughter was giving away puppies from their litter, and, with fond memories of my own boyhood dog (Sooner), I impulsively took one and promptly named him Sooner, as well. Our son was only eight or nine at the time, and I thought it would be good for him to have a dog around. A boy and his dog ... you know?
I was wrong. This hellhound was the most destructive creature I've ever seen--Godzilla included. His temperament was gentle and amiable (his gastro-intestinal exhalations unbelievable), but he gnawed floor tile, books, record albums (he was very fond of one Bill Evans cover). Just a quick story. Joyce and I once made homemade pasta for some friends who were coming over for dinner, left it to dry in the kitchen, went upstairs to change, came back down and found every strand of it gone. Guess where? I raged, raged against the dying of the dinner--and then had the consequent pleasure of dealing with Sooner's night-long vomiting.
Much of his behavior, I know, was my fault. Still ... nothing on earth had ever pissed me off as much as that animal. (One of his litter-mates, by the way, tore the clapboard siding from his owner's house.)
Anyway, I wrote a poem about him called "Sooner." (See image.) And promptly sent it off to a bunch of presses.
Here come the rejections ...
- The Ohio Review: "Thank you for giving us the chance [to reject this?] ... We are sorry to report that it does not meet our present needs."
- Poetry (what was I thinking?): "Thank you for giving us the opportunity ... but regret to report that in our judgment its merits did not prevail against those of other poems in the very large number of competing manuscripts."
- Small Pond: "I wish I could keep Sooner but can't." (Exactly the way I felt, by the way--about the dog.)
- Images: "This isn't quite right for Images."
- crazyhorse: "We regret ... sorry ...."
- Chouteau Review: "I'm afraid .... Thank you for thinking of us."
- Blue Horse (in Augusta, GA): a bit of good news, sort of. A full-page letter. "We have come upon evil days, financially speaking," she (the editor) wrote. But she said she was planning an anthology one of these days. "Would you like to join the improbable dream with the revision?" (She'd suggested a few things.) I wrote back quickly, said I'd love to revise ... and ... wait--and have been doing so since July 1982. I just checked Amazon and found no sign of such an anthology edited by her. So I guess I'll wait some more.
So ... we gave Sooner away (I'm sure he was promptly re-gifted, I hope to someone who understands such as he)--our small son wailing the while (he would write essays in school--several of them--about this experience), and I realized, afterwards, that I'd just done some things I was deeply ashamed of, things unworthy of forgiveness. But I also realized that I was a poor owner for Sooner. And I realized it was much more fun to write a bad poem about him and get some nifty rejection letters that to run out to the grocery at the last minute to buy some boxed pasta for our dinner guests.
TO BE CONTINUED ... the final installment, up next!