So this has been an exciting year for me: growing my fledging publication history slowly but consistently, receiving a Best New Poets nomination from Raleigh Review, and soon, getting to attend The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. In fact, I’m leaving for Bread Loaf in nine days. It’s embarrassing to admit that as a poet I lack the words to fully express my excitement. More embarrassing still is that I’m fighting back the impulse to post this in all caps and exclamation points (three’s all right, I think, but four makes you look like you need a Klonopin and a power nap).
At any rate, I’m thrilled about the opportunity to work with so many talented poets and writers. I just hope I can keep up! The faculty and guest list almost makes me need to change my pants. It even includes a wonderful fiction writer with whom I got to study at U of M. My favorite living poet (alongside Simic), Terrance Hayes, will be there. Hopefully he’ll sign my copies of his collections and ignore the hearts I’ve drawn above the pictures of him. It’s not creepy if it’s love.
If this post smacks of the giddiness (yes, giddiness, dammit!) experienced by someone—a nube, really—just recently acquainted with the thrill of having the possibility of his dreams confirmed, then you’re correct in your assumptions. I started submitting work for publication a little over a year and a half ago. When I began, I was still haunted by the questions that I let inhibit me from starting sooner: is it hubris to think I have something worth saying? Is the fact I could even ask this symptomatic of the flimsiness of my resolve? If so, will this doom me to a life lived with a clear vision of destinations but no talent for journey? I could distill any doubts I felt to this question: am I dreaming, just having this dream?
It’s been almost two years. I’m grateful to now know the taste of small success liberally seasoned with realism. Sometimes, I consider myself an outsider to the poetry world. I have no MFA, no real training apart from the handful of workshops I took as an undergrad. Still fresh in my ears are the boos and jeers I received at a poetry slam in the dingy upstairs performance space of a bar in Ann Arbor. I was seventeen. My teacher suggested any students interested in poetry meet him there (obviously this didn’t have administration’s seal of approval). I read some sopping adolescent doggerel about dei-phelia that literally had grown men hissing at me. The next morning, I was called to the guidance office to discuss my “well-being.”
Nearly twelve years have passed since then. They felt like installments in a payment plan that bought me these last two years. It felt (feels?) next to impossible at times to believe I was on the path. Maybe that was the path.