Since Sunday, I've been immersed in the idea of nostalgia. After receiving an email from MockingHeart Review, I immediately had the "better luck next time" kind of thought. As I've said before, I'm accustomed to rejection. But this was no rejection. My poem, "How to Heal a Snake Bite," will be published next month in the last issue of 2017 by MockingHeart Review. And what's more, the lovely editor said my poems (even the ones not accepted) touched her greatly. Her words took me back to the beginning of this poem's journey.
I was there, in that Williamsburg coffee shop where I first wrote this strange poem. Back before the revisions. Back before I submitted to five other publications who've all rejected this poem. There was the bitter scent of espresso, and the just-barely-there hum from the city beyond the patio of Black Brick. There was the best friend sitting across from me. There was the rest of the day we spent exploring, and the photos I took, and the memories I made. Looking back, I suppose I'd call this feeling now nostalgia, but then I just called it perfection.
So now it is almost a full year later, and this poem will be published! Since diving back into the world of poetry, I've been struck often by uncertainty; unsure if I'd found the right words or tone or voice, though I enjoy writing them immensely. But this acceptance is validation that my words mean something, that the act of writing poetry has helped more than just myself.
The world of poetry is strange. On one side, I have my beloved favorites: Sylvia Plath and Tennyson, Jack Spicer and Stephen Mills, and then there are the typewriter poems and the Tumblr poets and their words are just as important. We are in this unique place where poetry can be anything. No more are the days of Ginsberg having to fight to demolish the expected, no more do we forget women's voice in poetry like too many did when seeing Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath together. Times are different. Poetry is different. And I'm not so sure us poets need the validation when it feels so delicious to destroy ourselves on the page, to permeate those same pages with a prose poem, or a couplet, or a strange twist of words.
But publication feels pretty damn good! Sharing work is what juxtaposes these poems against our secrets still hidden in iPhone notes or journal pages or whispers before bed. But writing is still writing. Words are still words. And soon you will be able to read this completed work.
Until then, I'd like to remember that perfect day at Black Brick with the words of this poem barreling through me to the page. I'm still not sure where they come from sometimes. And I'd like to remember that conversation between myself and the best friend where we both discussed losing a story, and wondering who might've found it next. Because maybe we were too busy. Maybe it wasn't right for us in that moment. And I'm not sure what it was about sitting behind that small coffee shop visiting the best friend for the first time in NYC that helped me find this strange poem.
I'd also like to note what happened after the joy and excitement from that email. As I readied to send an updated bio and author photo to MockingHeart Review, I realized I had to make sure this piece wasn't still out to other publications. In the world of writing and submitting, simultaneous submissions are not discouraged. In fact, literary magazines and presses understand it might take thirty rejections before your work ever finds a home. But they also expect you to withdraw your work upon publication. Now being an old-school, pen and paper loving person that I am, I had to go back through my archives to find where I'd sent this poem. Along the way, I did find the page where I'd written this (October 4, 2016), and I found many other things. I also discovered that "How to Heal a Snake Bite" was rejected everywhere else it'd been sent, and so withdrawing was a non-issue.
But I didn't let this go as an unlearned lesson. I've since created my own color-coded spreadsheet to keep track of publications I'd like to submit to in the future, places still pending, rejections, and those three acceptances I've had so far this year. It's currently four full pages, and getting longer. And even looking at all those red rejections contained therein, it is astounding to see all the places I've submitted in 2017. And sure the rejection list continues to grow (I'm currently at 49!), but so does my list of publications!
Maybe I'll look back on this acceptance a year from now and be taken back to the exact moment I opened the email. Nostalgia is a fickle fiend, which too often tricks us into heartbreak. But sometimes she's good and kind and perfect and reminds us all how wonderful we can be, and how much we have to be grateful for now.
*Update: As of August 31, 2017, you can read "How to Heal a Snake Bite" published at MockingHeart Review!