I have been guiltily lurking in the Twitterverse lately and I noticed several threads, or series of tweets, that try to guide expectant writers through the perils of publication. Expectant writers are much like expectant surrogate mothers. They wish to deliver their work into safe and friendly hands, to be nurtured and adored as they themselves would have done.
The effort to map out the process is much appreciated by aged ingenues such as myself, people who have barely dipped a toe in the pond of publication, for fear of being swallowed by an alligator. The desire to be in that pond in the first place is often not original at all, despite the originality, which all individual authors profess to espouse. The desire to be published is actually often transmitted through the generations, with each younger generation observing the disappointments or successes of the previous one.
When I think of my departed mother, I find it bittersweet. This is partly because I know that, despite publishing far more than I ever have, she felt keenly the disappointment that accompanies rejection or indifference. Anyway, this poem is meant to caress and encourage the poets and writers among us, and to commemorate, most particularly, the one who brought me into being. Thanks for coming by to read!
Far from me, yet not forgotten,
Relic of a distant age,
Your fingerprints are everywhere.
Patterns creep across my psyche.
Rhythms link hands on the page.
Hidden well beneath a blanket,
Quilted scenes, a captured life.
Colorful yet cheery, stitched
Together with your signature,
Your vow, to be a mother, wife.
Haunted by your quest for order.
Always quivering, at my lack.
You straighten out my rumpled corners,
Dust my belfry, sweep my drive,
In case some visitors attack.
How cruelly was your Inspiration
Quelled, near-drowned: infanticide.
And yet, you kept your many notebooks,
Penned your travels, marked occasions.
Gulped the insult, deep inside.
That I may be as brave as you,
And link arms with Oblivion,
And march, without a glance behind
(To see how others rate my walk)
And scream, like Kafka, in the dark,
Unheard, unnoticed, until dawn.
Copyright 2022 Andrea LeDew
For other poems on writing read To the Poet, A Word and specifically on the disappointment of having others judge you as mediocre, read The Weight of Words. For another poem about my mother read Mother.
I think the irony for aspiring writers now is that they have the opportunity afforded by electronic media to self-publish–but the problem of getting noticed is as bad, if not worse, than it ever was.
From what I have read by way of anecdotes online, the changes in traditional publishing have certainly shifted the risks and costs and a healthy share of the marketing onto the backs of the authors themselves.
This is not unique to publishing in my opinion but pervasive across our culture, where the burdens of paperwork and self-help have shifted in most industries, allowing for leaner, more profitable workforces at the expense of poorer customer service.
The “opportunity” to self-publish is,I think, our Darwinic adaptation to the increased selectivity and decreased opportunity we encounter as authors to be published traditionally.
At the same time and perhaps in tandem, or as a consequence of the foregoing, the work, time and expertise it takes to compete online for the attention and time of any potential reader have exponentially increased.
Both attention and time are quite archly, if somewhat organically, monopolized by the all-pervasive and encyclopedic internet, the answer to all questions, the expert in all subjects, the solver of all problems. We as a society and perhaps as a species cannot ignore the seductive siren song of the devices in our pockets.
Add to that behavioral conditioning we now undergo as a society. We consume our media these days in portions measured inf seconds–the slice of humanity with the will and the discipline to endure reading an entire book dwindles daily.
Its true you can, as an individual author, eke out a remote corner of the internet and call it your own, but that does not make you visible. Not when everyone else on Earth is doing the same thing. And I would wager that although ebook readership has increased, only a small percentage of the vast internet readership use their devices to read or to listen to books or anything approximating serious fiction and poetry. So our slice of the slice is tinier still.
Not to mention those too old to be born into technology or too poor to have sufficient wealth to take on the authors’ costs of writing time, research time, self-promotion, marketing, social media and personal appearances or travel–Some, who struggle to adapt fail, and thus, arbitrarily, without regard to the quality of their work, they are culled from the herd.
Sorry to be so glum. For some reason your use of the word “opportunity” to describe self-publishing struck a nerve. No doubt we will slowly adapt towards a scenario with better equities for authors and poets.
Perhaps the odds have always been against us, but it seems even more so now. This vocation, or avocation, as the case may be, has a mandatory prerequisite of courage in the face of despair, at least until change for the better finally comes.
Thanks so much for your comment and sorry I used it as a launch pad for a rant!
Oh what a heartfelt, beautiful tribute to my dear talented friend, your mother of whom I also think especially often in August…
Best of publishing success, dear Andrea!
Thank you Margrit! Fond memories of a most delightful person!