The Pacific Northwest is roasting under its first big heat wave of 2022, and I’m trying to sustain the energy for writing that I had in the spring. In spite of my best efforts, my mind wanders, and I find myself sitting on the floor in front of the bookshelf. Then I get a brilliant idea, which will help me avoid the writing I’m supposed to be doing for at least an hour: arrange all of the journals I’ve been published in in chronological order!
Every writer who publishes in literary journals and small magazines probably has a shelf or two filled with contributor’s copies. In these days of online journals, actual physical magazines are becoming rarer, but I still get a few every year. When I leaf through them, I feel a profound sense of gratitude to the editors who chose my work. I’m often amazed and humbled to see the other names in those issues: Naomi Shihab Nye, Charles Harper Webb, Mary Ruefle… as well as the voices who’ve left us: John Oliver Simon, Lyn Lifshin, Carol Frith, I find some gems in those journals, by poets whose work I see regularly, and poets I’ve only seen once or twice.
I can’t help noticing that Jack Kerouac’s image shows up on the covers of two of the journals. The 2021 issue of Redactions features a painting by Scott Poole titled “Kerouac Listening Through the Static,” and the 2014 issue of Beat Scene, from the UK, shows a photograph of Kerouac from the early 1960s. Is it a coincidence that right now I’m reading The Dharma Bums? The cover art of the other journals ranges from a plain cover with just a name and date to beautiful, unique artwork selected specifically for the issue.
My contributor’s copies date from 2003 to 2022. That’s nineteen years of writing, submitting, waiting, and the joy of seeing my name in print. No matter what age I reach, publishing my work will never get old.
Here’s a poem of mine I found, from the 2014 issue of The Main Street Rag.
after the storm
the street is wild and dirty
the ceiling with
its mystery of tiny holes
drips water from a leak
wetter than the gallons
that roll off the roof
you said, the wind can’t break us
the rain can’t break
the fern, fastened to its hill
sending spores like letters to the world
at the mailbox a giant maple leaf
wets my face with a cocky slap
and I believe you
And another one from Red Rock Review, Spring 2011:
Woman in the Berlin Airport
You think you know me
but the landscape
my skin makes with my hair
is what you recognize.
I was chosen young
and brought forward to wear
the face you stare at now. In
fact, my beauty is an accident,
my life a series of airports.
Strangers allow their eyes to linger
as if my body were a waiting room,
but remember: I am on my way
somewhere else, just as you are.
Yes, look at me.
Your eyes are as insistent
as the voices that spread
from hidden speakers, warning
against touching strange packages.
Ok, back to the writing.