State of the Art(ist), August 2017

It has been a while since I last posted something that wasn’t either a poem, a ‘love note’ entry, or somehow not directly related to my self-publishing activity (the ‘Resistance Song of the Day’ notwithstanding). So, here goes…

I have yet to get a decent handle on 2017, even though it is two-thirds over.

Although I was still mourning Lucy (a/k/a the alarm cat) as the year began, I had reason to be optimistic. I published a new book (…but for the thoughts running through my mind) January 1st; not long after, I got my biggest copy editing job to date: 20 documents in all over a period of roughly six weeks in January and February. Plus I signed up for three featured-reader slots through PoetsWest, all in March.

The first two readings, back-to-back on the same day, went reasonably well. I didn’t sell any books, but it was good to have the extra time to read—and it was a much better experience than the PoetsWest reading I did in March 2016.

Nobody showed up for the third reading. I found myself reading for the host and an empty room; about halfway through, two of her friends came by, so I ended up reading for a total of three people. The relaxed atmosphere was good, but the lack of an audience was still disappointing.

Shortly after that, I hit a wall. I had been working on a new collection of poems (This Is Not the Book That Will Save Your Life), which I finished in early April. But then, apart from National Poetry Writing Month, there was nothing. I’d had no editing work in March, and had no way of knowing when the next assignment would come my way. In short order, it was not uncommon for me to spend most of the day in bed.

Depression commonly accompanies anxiety, which I have lived with for 28 years now, and I have had my share of depressive episodes over the years. But this one felt different. Staying in bed all day has never been a habit of mine, even at the worst of times. So, following a rush editing job, I decided to get help; by the end of April, I had gone to an evaluation session, and scheduled my first appointment proper.

This combination of depression and the feast-or-famine nature of my work/income has made it difficult to maintain my usual level of activity. The last two or three months in particular, I have missed a lot of open-mic readings I would normally go to, either because I didn’t feel like going out (including the three weeks in July I had a cold), or because I needed to conserve gas. I have also been a poor correspondent when it comes to anything outside of work—to the point where it feels like my outgoing personal e-mail is turning into a series of apologies.

At the moment, I am in the now-familiar position of having payment coming my way, but not having received it yet, and being broke while I wait—or feast and famine, as I like to put it.

Meanwhile, my counseling sessions are going better than I would have expected (I’m no longer spending most of the day in bed), but they are bringing up some things that I clearly have not worked out yet, even as they frequently provide material for my poetry. How does that line from Magnolia go? We might be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.

At least I have been able to keep up with writing and related activities. I participated in National Poetry Writing Month again, as well as the 2017 Poetry Marathon. I submitted This Is Not the Book That Will Save Your Life to both the Pulitzer Prize and Tufts Poetry Award competitions (because I could), submitted new collections (The Ostensible Sloth of Distress and Ekphrasis à Gogo) to competitions, and applied for the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship and the Jack Straw Writers Program. The waiting is the hard part: the earliest I will have any information will be September, when the winner of the chapbook competition (in which I entered Ekphrasis à Gogo) is announced. In addition, I have enough potential material for a new collection (The Lilac Years), but I’m waiting to see what happens with the chapbook competition; if mine isn’t chosen, I may incorporate some or all of the poems into The Lilac Years.

I have also been doing some painting. Nothing recognizable, of course—I gravitate towards textures and/or fields of solid color.

Another bright spot has been the continuing growth of my blog, which I have had since 2011. I didn’t start posting regularly until I started the whole ‘love notes to the days of the week’ thing in October 2013; it has grown steadily since then—4,022 views in 2014, 5,056 views in 2015, 6,690 views in 2016, and (as of this writing) 7,839 views for 2017 to date. I generally don’t focus on statistics, but it’s good to know I’m building an audience, however slowly.

Coming up? On Thursday, September 21st, I will be one of four featured readers at SoulFood Poetry Night, which takes place at SoulFood CoffeeHouse in Redmond; the festivities start at 7 p.m. Beyond that? We’ll see…

(28 August 2017)