I broke out my Kosuke Fukudome t-shirt this morning, and wore it while running errands. In 23 days, the twice-defending N.L. Central Champion Chicago Cubs will begin their 101st campaign to win a World Series. Seven months of baseball heaven commences, enhanced considerably by Comcast, which carries WGN-Chicago, the channel that televises many of those Cubs games. Arriving out west last fall, I fell pretty far off the baseball radar. My lack of attention at such a critical point in the season no doubt contributed in a major way to yet another Cubs decline and I don't intend to let my team down again. Having addressed the major flaws from last season, the Cubs are well-positioned to roll off the first-ever perfect season in baseball. Short of that, I'll enjoy every last victory punctuated with a big dose of Steve Goodman.
I decided recently to withdraw from consideration some of the poems that I sent out last fall. I'm at a crossroads with a few of the months poems that I originally posted on this blog. They are important, powerful, and meaningful poems for me. However, I've also started to feel some ambivalence about the sharpness of thinking in those poems. There is an immediacy and intimacy in those poems, but also a kind of haziness about what grief means or adds up to. (Disclaimer: the couple of poems that I know are good, about whose quality I feel certain, are still going out.) I am constantly editing these poems, adding stuff in, taking stuff out, reordering the lines, and I'm not sure what they add up to. It's a startling moment, creatively, to think that something that made complete sense in one context now feels insufficient. For me, the most frustrating poems are the ghazals, which I completely love, but which have come back now from some good magazines with the exact same comments: these are strong, beautiful, sad, powerful, but ultimately don't work so well as a group. So, the next step is to revise the batch, and I have no idea how to start thinking about doing that. I want the ghazals to find a home in the world, I want them to be what they are, and I want them to be as good as they can be. And, I'm not sure I can do all three of those things right now.
This morning, the editors at 14 Hills asked, in response to my email requesting they withdraw from consideration poems that I sent last September, "Dear John, What was the name of the poem you submitted? Cheers, The Editors." I am taking this at face value as a legitimate inability to locate my submission, as opposed to, say, general incompetence, or an indifference or hostility to my work (their guidelines ask you to send such an email in the event that poems are published elsewhere). It is an interesting thing to send poems out into the ether of the publishing world, and to hope that, eventually, they return with some definitive word of their worth (e.g., "We love these and can't wait to publish them!"). To a poet, few things are so heartbreaking as receiving from a literary magazine or journal a form rejection notice 9-14 months after posting them. Still, stranger things have happened. Four years ago, Epicenter accepted for publication the only "topical" poem I had written to date, about Jessica Simpson, Nick Lachey, and the Iraq War, and only recently acknowledged, tactfully, well, actually, we lost your poem and forgot to publish it.
There is a kind of resilient optimism to living after a tragedy that confuses me. Instead of waiting for it all to fall apart, I feel alive and vibrant in the moment. Cait recently started a job and I can't wait for her to get home. I still turn (imaginary) hand-stands thinking about getting (and having) a Stegner. I meet Josh at the coffee shop and I'm excited to have a new good friend. I watch movie trailers for the summer blockbusters, confident that the new Terminator movie can be the best yet. In The Art of Possibility, a fantastic book, the authors sketch out two models of living, one based on abundance and the other on scarcity. In the former, life is full of inexhaustible potential whose manifestations we can't possibly encompass. In the latter, there is only so much to go around and if you don't lock down yours, someone else will take it away. Scarcity is seductive because it suggests a kind of injury in things that's hard to deny, while abundance is somewhat scary, because how else do you appreciate things, if not in comparison and exclusion to most everything else? Still, neither inures one entirely to that jerk in the Audi passing everyone in the bus lane.
It feels like two sides of the same coin: either an encompassing ease with or willed ignorance to the fragility of this world. It's like that scene from Annie Hall, in which the adolescent Alvy Singer tells the oblivious Dr. Flicker that he's depressed because the universe is expanding, only to have his mother chastise him, "You're in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!" At the end of last night's Friday Night Lights, Riggins and Street ride in a cab from NYC to a New Jersey suburb, where Street hopes to win back his girlfriend and kid. Role-playing his speech over and over, Riggins interrupts Street with, "I'm pregnant, Jason," explaining, hey, you have to be prepared if she throws you a curveball. The moment is funny and breaks the tension of the scene, and also sort of plays up the absurdity of being overly invested in controlling too many aspects of one thing. Of course, Street succeeds, just as, of course, Street is the actor Scott Porter leaving Friday Night Lights for a big movie career. As a viewer and fan, I lose interest in Street once he leaves the world of the Dillon Panthers, but his life goes on with its complexity, boredom, successes, failures, whether I witness them each week or not.