The precipitous perils of writing


National Poetry Month Display @ Forest Hills

National Poetry Month Display @ Forest Hills (Photo credit: mySAPL)

I write because… I feel better when I do, worse when I don’t, especially during the grey days of February. I feel like I’m supposed to write, that it fulfills something in me when I do. Writing is cathartic, gets the inside out, stops the slow simmer-spiral down, provides the occasional epiphany, allows for conversations to develop, promotes transparency, builds bridges, finds community. All that and more.

“Writing is a struggle against silence.” ~ Carlos Fuentes

But where I write/publish (and what is safe, yes, there is a very real element of professional safety involved around potential copyright infringement etc.) and what disqualifies me from further publishing of my thoughts-work-art is a very real concern these days. It causes a bit of angst for me and I don’t quite know what to do about it.

This year, when CBC announced their annual “Canada Writes Contest”, rules clearly stated that any work previously published in any form, including on the internet, was not eligible for submission. Bummer. Big bummer. And I’ve noticed an increasing number of Literary Publications that have this qualification in their submission guidelines.

Yikes, I thought… so much for blogging my poetry, my essays, my words, when it is clearly disqualifying me from serious literary activities. Or, does that really matter?

There is an inherent tension in the life of an artist… the hard wired need to express what and who you are, and then while you are busy doing just that, at some point, the thought crosses your mind and then becomes a small voice repeating itself over and over, expressing the need to expose your work to others. Then to further complicate things, the dawning realization that the ‘work’ of getting projects out there to others is quite complex and filled with dead ends and wrought with politics and costs and the days and the weeks and the years pass and you suddenly wonder, if this traditional route of getting out there is really working, is really worth all the trouble… I mean, is it? What is the point of writing if nobody is ever going to read what you write?

I used to share my poetry openly and with abandon here on my blog. Tuesday Poems were… every Tuesday gifts to whomever dropped by to read them. Then after the “Canada Writes” disappointment, a bit of fear set in, and I reluctantly quit posting poems. The haunting question remains… what if I’m giving it all away for free (because poets can expect to make big bucks once they are famous, right!!!), what if publishers consider any form of any draft poem published online out out out of the question too. Simultaneous submissions aside, if it’s online and free for all to see, then would any discriminating publisher want it? Would they?

It’s feels like a gift has been given (the world wide web way of sharing words/art/ourselves) and then taken back. And that really isn’t a very nice thing to do, whether it’s a pony or a candy or an opportunity? How is posting online any different from reading work aloud in public places? Or posting broadsheet billboards of my poetry old school style on posts and walls and street signs? Or, sending a hand written poem to a friend? If I share my written work any way whatsoever, is it considered used and tired and not worth publishing in a traditional sense? I’m confused. And a little bit angry.

I’m just laying this all out there today, in hopes of starting a conversation, discussion, around this topic. What do you think? What are the underlying issues?

Testing the waters,

Lesley-Anne

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