Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, August 16, 2014

That Time I Published a Poem, 5 (and final!)

Okay, the time has come (the walrus said) ... I've delayed/strung out the account of that time I published an actual poem in an actual journal. It was a poem about teaching (as you'll see), so back in early 1982 I thought I'd try some of the good teachers' journals/magazines that I knew about. Some rejections ensued.
  • Phi Delta Kappan: "I regret that we cannot publish ... does not meet our editorial needs at this time."
  • Today's Education (published by the NEA): "Unfortunately, it does not fit in with our planning for forthcoming issues ...."
  • Educational Leadership (pub. for/by ASCD--Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development): "I regret that we will not be in a position to publish your article." (Article? It's in quatrains--and it rhymes!)
And then came the surprise. The outfit that publishes Education, Reading Improvement, and other journals sent me an acceptance on August 1, 1982.  "I would like to use your poem entitled 'On Teaching' on the back cover of one of our education journals." I wasn't keeping a regular journal/diary in those days, so I have no record of how I responded, but I'm guessing it was with the same sort of glee I would have felt upon receiving positive Pulitzer and/or Nobel news. On the cover! (Okay, back cover ... but still!)

But there was some further news--not so welcome. I was to pay them $50, my "author's share of publication costs"--though I did get ten copies of the journal (where are they? I can find only one?!?!). I passed on the opportunity to have my picture included (that would have meant an additional $15). 

In August 1982, for some historical context, I was just about to recommence my career at Harmon Middle School--eighth grade English. I had left Harmon at the end of the 1977-78 school year (I'd been there my first dozen years in teaching) to begin what I thought would be a long college career at Lake Forest College. But I didn't like college teaching. I knew by October I'd made a mistake. I resigned in the spring and found a job at ... Western Reserve Academy for the 1979-80 academic year; the school hired Joyce, as well. I would stay only two years (I resigned in a snit because of what I thought was an inadequate salary offer for 1981-82); Joyce stayed ten, long enough to see our son graduate from the school. In 1981-82 I taught part-time (frosh English) at Kent State and worked part-time in a local bookstore. We had very little money that year--so the $50 for the privilege of having my poem on the (back) cover of a teachers' magazine was pretty much of a stretch for us. Fifty dollars--a lot of money for us in 1982. (A pretty good chunk now, as a matter of fact.)

But I was able to worm my way back into Harmon (where I stayed until retirement in January 1997).

The poem appeared in Reading Improvement, a quarterly, in the Summer 1983 issue. And here it is in all its back-cover glory ...  When I first found my lone copy of the journal, I was alarmed to see the two little blue F's. I hope they were postal codes or something and not grades issued by the mail carrier.

Anyway, something is very obvious: It's not a "poem" at all; it's doggerel--of the very sort that I now compose every day for my Facebook friends. The "Ted," by the way, was my colleague and friend Ted Clawson, the Aurora band director, and I can't for the life of me recall why I dedicated it to him ... although he was my best friend.

As I read this effort over now, I see some (many!) problems of composition. But let's not get into it.

Okay ... just a little: The third line breaks the iambic rhythm. The same problem exists in the second line of the second stanza ("Jubilant") and the first line of the fifth stanza ("Teaching"). To be consistent, I should have started those lines with unaccented syllables--but, hey, "real" poets do that stuff, right? (Yes, but on purpose.) Anyway, it's mildly amusing, I suppose. The only real comfort comes with this knowledge: It's not a "poem" that anyone is going to "discover" and place in any kind of anthology--even a bad one. Until I resurrected it today, no one but me even knew that it existed. And that's a good thing. May it swiftly return to its (well deserved) obscurity.

Reading Improvement, by the way, is still in business--unlike lots of other little magazines/journals. I learned, via Google, that it was started in 1963, my freshman year in college. I don't know how many times they published poems on the back cover--or if anyone wrote a disgusted letter to the editor about a certain "poem" on the back cover of the issue from the summer of 1983. I suppose I could look it up ... but there are some things we'd just rather not know, right?

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