An irony more ferrous

Sunday, 4 January 2004

Seasons of the Electric Witch was a long poetic exploration on an intricate acrostic theme of winter, spring, summer, and autumn with my own newfound Italian, or lack thereof, used as bookends for it. An experimental work unlike most everything else I ever wrote, it was liberating and finally quite satisfying. It took a great deal of work. It’s the most structured poetry I ever wrote. I was proud of it. And though it isn’t my best, it contains some of my favorite lines.

the words do complicate,
the words get in the way,
every word used by another
is a word i shouldn’t say.

With this new pride I submitted it and two of my shorter works to my university’s student run literary rag, Blue Mesa, I think. They judge blind, no names, so the work is all that counts. I’d never shown it in a class. No one had ever read it. I liked my chances.

After some time went by I was pleased to accept but the second or third of my two score rejection letters.

That tears it.

I was already pretty good at typography and typesetting so I got a business license and started a ’zine. I didn’t know it then but this is the curse. They don’t tell you about the curse. But I will. To prove I’m your friend in spite of everything.

Writers who want nothing more than to write—even for beans and rice and that snowed in mud shack without plumbing—will become editors. As editors they will be frustrated and miserable and never see anything they care that they wrote in print. It works for any career.

I discovered this axiom early but not early enough. Like you, I should have seen it coming. Before I ended up an editor, my best friend, a fantastic actress, ended up a Production Coordinator. Making good green but not really happy at all. I watched that poor chick go to a call back and do a regular day’s work one day when she was puking every hour from a stomach bug. She wanted it. Like me, she got the worst compromise—facilitating the dream but not being allowed to be the thing.

The new ’zine, majenta (some pieces converted to online life), did well, fairly predictably. Sold every copy of 7 issues and various side projects and whatever reprints we did. Good reviews, all unsolicited and two from out of state.

For the second or third issue I hit up some old chums from the English department for submissions. Contrary to popular belief among unpublished writers, editors don’t want to keep you from getting published, they just can’t find you. Or you suck.

Someone I’d had a couple classes with responded favorably. She was doing her thesis (undergrads have to do a thesis for a writing degree at UNM). So she agreed to hand over her poetry thesis as a submission.

When she did I was excited to have what I expected to be a polished work to pick and choose from. Thumbing through I’d already seen a couple worth publishing before I got to the last one; I believe it was Seasons of the Hysterical Female.

It opened with an Italian word or two. It continued on to discuss the seasons and so on and so forth at some length. I’ve never been given Rohypnol but I suspect what I felt was exactly like someone who has and is slowly realizing something is wrong. Really wrong but what.

I read it again. It made no sense. How? The spirit of the radio? Some bizarre pin-point manifestation of zeitgeist caused by a shared lecture from Sandra Cisneros? Bruja becomes strega because… No… No. She had been a judge on the Blue Mesa panel. That’s all that made sense. The panel that rejected my poem as unfit for publication.

That fucking bitch had submitted a loose rewrite of my own poem back to me and worse, had used it as a part of her graduation work. At the time I tried to find some flattery in it.

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