Advent meditation 3

A drawing of Alice in Wonderland crawling through the concrete wall at Bethlehem, next to text describing the impact of checkpoints in the daily lives of Palestinians

This time last year, I had begun a third period waiting for a response to a new manuscript of poems. It was my third submission of the year. I had come close with the previous two, but this did not made me more optimistic about my chances. I knew I would hear nothing until the end of January at the earliest. There was nothing for it but to wait.

I have thought about this a lot during this recent season of Advent, specifically that the life of poetry is one long wait. A friend of a friend on a WhatsApp group put it well. ‘I can’t bear those Christmas sermons which skip straight past Good Friday to Easter Sunday,’ she said. ‘It’s the same with Advent. Let’s just sit in the darkness and wait. Let’s not be afraid of holding the tension of now and not yet.’

In practice this means you send your poems to Really Amazing Poetry Now, who do not have a simultaneous submissions policy, and are not exactly the most prompt at responding, at the same time as sending them to Even More Brilliant Poems, who do, and are even slower. In the end I go old-school: no simultaneous submissions to anyone. I used to think this policy was doing them a favour, but now I know it’s for me, for my own sanity (I’m not joking) and my own sense of order, of just really enjoying the sense of knowing where everything is, even if it takes five times longer to get anything done. Maybe this is why the gaps between my books are quite long.

Speaking of which, the gap between The Afterlife and The Wind and the Rain will be slightly less than four years. For me, given the speed at which I choose to operate in poetry-land, that is lightning fast. While I now have a date (June), it still feels like there is a lot more waiting to be done. There are proofing corrections, a cover to think about. There are readings to organise (hint hint). The work is done.

And yet it’s not done. It never is. I am beyond excited. I wrote the poems very fast this time round, and set about sending them out to mags without really thinking about what I was doing. To borrow from a piece by DBC Pierre, I leapt before I looked. Each book has its own speed. This one asked, no, demanded, to be fast. I am beyond lucky that it has come to pass. In the meantime, I go on waiting.

With thanks to Helena Nelson and Rob Mackenzie.

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