BY JENNY MACBAIN-STEPHENS
There were so many times when I read your poems and the images on the page were little bombs going off in my head. I thought, little dark waste-land misgivings can be the subjects of poems? These jewels of weirdness that I totally recognize? Yes. I couldn’t get enough of your surreal mistakes.
So, I sent you an e-mail, gave you a tasteful compliment and asked about the availability of one of your chapbooks. My e-mail was a fist bump. Days went by. Weeks. Who the fuck doesn’t bump back? I went through excuses on why you didn’t write back. Why I didn’t receive a simple, “thanks for the kind words.” That would have sufficed. I told myself, he’s traveling, he deleted the message by accident, he forgot. But I had to come to terms with the blow-off.
It took me a little time to pick up one of your books again, but I did. I tried to lose myself in the text but it was a little harder this time. It was harder to get lost in your woods, your ponds, your opera singers, your lumberjacks, and the still pieces of furniture that displaced themselves with other pieces of furniture. Six months later, when I read that you were touring select cities in America, and if people wanted you to come to their city, to E-MAIL you with a reading venue suggestion I swallowed my pride and sent a damn e-mail with a reading venue suggestion. No return message.
When I read this line****, I thought, “So am I.” We are of mental kin. The speaker does not need to exist in the universe as we know it. This idea thrilled me and I wrote a poem in the middle of the night that was accepted quickly—the poem as drunk off fiery inspiration as I was. Your work existed on a different plane. However, I still couldn’t help but think that we existed on the same plane—the earth—a seasoned writer and a novice writer, and still no contact.
I know from reading an interview that you appreciated your mentors and even name them in dedications, revealing that you understand how important encouragement is to a new poet. To capture my emotional core I will use your words from “What I Did With The Rock.” What have I done?
I mentioned this lack of correspondence to my therapist. (Yes, I have a fucking therapist.) Your lack of response made me question me. In my mind I had become the woman with gigantic tree-trunk legs (who makes an appearance in your third book,) who strangles you with her thighs until you suffer convulsions and are hospitalized. Was I being a stalker? No. Had I “stalked” before? No. Had I obsessive thoughts? Yes. But doesn’t every writer? Why would someone display their g-mail address in a twenty point font size on their web page if they didn’t want any discourse? Is that just for editors to solicit work?
I am not trying to fuck you. I am married. I have children. I have self-worth. At this point, I didn’t want to say screw off—I still want to review your catalog (several chaps and now four, five? full collections to date,) and draw inspiration from them—but I have to say, as much as I try to not let it affect me, as much as I try to “forget,” you blowing me off—your work is burning less bright in my heart. Again, I will use your words to capture how I felt/feel: (From your poem “The Woman Who Falls From the Sky”).
You have inspired me with your words, and maybe you will continue to do just that. I look back at how it all began. I came across your first book at the Mission Creek festival and it was a wondrous surprise. Your editor was there, and out of all the books on the table, he picked up yours, and said, “Start with this.” I was intoxicated. But then I was rejected by you. We, writers, who have to face rejection from our e-mail in-boxes every day, this one stank like rotten milk. Go on with your life, your readings, your tours, your creative poem-ic films. I wasn’t even a blip on your radar.
Now I’ve become this person writing about you in an online lit mag. I know one day we will meet. I’ll have a couple of books under my belt—or just one. But I will be reading somewhere. You will come up to me, afterwards—a glass of wine in hand, say you like my work, and then I will have a choice to make. Do I bring up how you were a dick who never wrote me back? Will I take that out of my back pocket like a smelly sardine and lay it on your silver platter? Or will I rise above, clink my glass to yours, and just know- know that I will always have this over you.
Jennifer is a writer who currently works at a scientific journal. She just moved to Virginia with her family. She grew up in Michigan and went to New York University where she studied three subjects: Drama, English, and Journalism. She has also lived in California, London, New York, and Iowa City for various periods. There are lots of hills and green foliage here in VA. All of the roads look the same to her. If you see her in the wrong lane somewhere, don’t bother honking, she already knows she is in the wrong lane. The only thing keeping Jennifer going at the moment is writing about herself in the third person, making collages, and writing poetry.