Writing Poetry is Like Playing Golf

Good news this week!  I was notified that my poem “Recess” will appear in the poetry journal Enigmatist in August.  This will be my first journal publication.  That got me to thinking about my odds.

Counting up the rejections I can remember it looks like I’ve been rejected from journals, or not won in contests, fourteen times.  I have won contests and will be printed in anthologies or journals four times.  So, it looks like I have about a 2/7 rate of return. Put simply, I get two “Yippees” for every seven “Aww shucks!” In golf parlance,  I think I could say I played an 18 hole round of golf and I shot par on four holes and boogied the others.  I have no idea how to figure my handicap but I don’t think it is very good!  

I started on this odyssey of “going professional” with my poetry in January of this year after writing poetry for decades.  I joined a workshop and started sending my poetry out. This past seven months have been a challenge.  There have been times when I’ve wondered why I am doing this to myself. Why not just write for pleasure, the cats and my family? Learning how to write poetry better has often felt like when I tried to learn how to play golf in college.

In undergraduate school, I knew I wanted to go to law school.  I thought taking up golf would be a good way to network with the “boys.”  I really didn’t like it, but took it for a required PE credit.  Prior to taking real golf, I had only played Putt Putt and I have to tell you I was really good.  I never missed a putt-ever, as long as it was for fun!  I am sure my form was horrible and my swing all wrong, but my aim was dead on.

The professor started us on the putting green.  He taught us how to stand, how to hold the club, how to breathe, how to swing and hit.  Once I knew how to do it correctly, I never made another putt in my life.  He told me to go back to whatever I was doing before.  I threw up my hands and said, “I have no idea what I was doing before.  I was just having fun. You ruined it for me!” My coach eventually gave up on me, because I was left handed.  He suggested I find a left-handed coach and I left the game of golf for good.

Sometimes listening to the “experts” in poetry, I feel the same way. I want to throw up my hands and say “You ruined it for me! I used to be better.”  Truthfully, I can see that my poetry wasn’t as good before, but it was often more fun to write. I loved the popular feedback from my online group of a few hundred fans at the time.  They LOVED me for all the reasons my workshop and poetry editors hate me!  

Somewhere they must be a middle ground.  Only 8% of us buy poetry in America according to a survey done by the Poetry Foundation.  So, I think the “experts” might be missing something important.  I really want to write for real people, not just for “critical acclaim.”  But, I can’t help it, I got to tell ya, I also want the critical acclaim. How did Billy Collins do it?  Billy, if you ever want to guest blog, I sure could use your help improving my handicap.

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