Friday, July 23, 2010

Rattle 32

Here's a notion: poets are more interested in having their own work published than in reading poetry written by other poets. Same can be said of literary writers in general. That means that the number of people who will actually pay money to buy your literary journal will always be dwarfed by the number of people who will submit to it. Most writers will flood the market with submissions, but never buy copies of most of the journals they're sending their precious work to. Kind of funny, isn't it?

And literary journals seem to be catching on to this idea. More and more competitions keep showing up, and a new twist to these competitions is the inclusion of a subscription to the journal with your entry fee. In a certain light, it looks like a way to trick people into subscribing.

Rattle is one of the journals that uses this technique. Honestly, the only reason I've ever read an issue of Rattle is because I entered their competition last year. I didn't win anything, but now I've got a one year subscription.

Actually, I still haven't ever really read an issue of Rattle. I've been trying to read the first issue I got, #32, for more than a half a year now. I get a few poems in, and they're generally decently good, but decently good poems aren't enough to keep you going for long. Especially when you're faced with so many of them.

There are probably around 100 poems in this issue. Of those 100 poems, I've forced myself through more than half of them. And of those 50+ poems I've read, only three made enough of an impression for me to actually write down the authors names': Bob Hicok, Ralph James Savarese, David Hernandez. Actually, thinking about it right now, the only poem that I can even remember clearly is the Hicok poem.

But instead of going into the significance of all that, I want to mention something else. Besides all the poems, Rattle also has interviews, and even an essay. I just finished reading the essay. It's what made me want to write this post.

The essay is by T.S. Davis. It concerns the literary establishments general disregard for prosody (prosody means, I learned in this essay, "rhythm, rhyme, meter, stress, and language") and preference for free verse. It's a good essay for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the feeling of intelligent contemplation that comes across in the writers observations.

But I'm not going to get into all of that. Blog posts are supposed to be short in length and brief in scope, and my posts never seem to manage to be either. This post is already getting too long as it is. So I'm going to limit the rest of it to an inclusion of two paragraphs from Davis's essay. They concern the general shift, from confidence to uncertainty, that seem to accompany aging. It's something I've noticed in myself. It's something that came to mind while I read Dolly Freed's POSSUM LIVING, and compared the tone of the afterword (written while Dolly was in her late 40s) to the tone of the rest of the text (written when Dolly was 18).

Here are the two paragraphs:

When I was a young man, I was much more confident about my ideas of the world and the impact I intended to have on the world. I had no doubt that my art, obscure as it was at the time, would one day take its place in the great canon of literature. I had all the time in the world to make it so. But now, at the age of sixty, I no longer have that time, and I certainly haven't received the level of accolade that as a young man I had anticipated would automatically follow the recognition of what I naively thought was my undeniable talent. [...]

But looking back, I also realize I didn't have much to say then in my poetry that wasn't just an extension of my fairly rigid ideology. The older I got the less confident I was and the more I understood how little I knew about the world and how little my work is likely to influence the world. Paradoxically, now I seem to have more to say and I'm a better writer than I've ever been, though less well known than I once was. Somehow one needs to know less to know more.

How true, Davis, how true.

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