Saturday, November 14, 2009

Balance, Soliciting Editors, and Katha Pollitt

First up on my blog surfing adventures from today is Joshua Corey's post Nel messo del romanzo (That makes 3 poet Joshua's this week...weird). Corey's post is about the time suckage of writing and the differences in writing poetry and fiction. Topics I love to read about and mull over during my brief spare minutes. Here are a few quotes to whet the appetite:

The ancient hubris of poets produces this Faustian bargain: give up some portion of your life to writing, and immortality might be yours.

I am in the middle. Not I hope in that narcotic sense, but in a literal sense (I feel myself to be halfway through a first draft) and in Dante's sense, the middle of my way, in which I am necessarily lost, so that I may find it again.

I, too, become lost in the world of words, grammar, syntax, the OED, the crippling indecision of revision, and sometimes I find my way back to my other life only by stumbling from my office and being met by the reality of chores, grading, &etc.

I must say I am a lucky woman b/c I married a man who understands this wandering way...a man who doesn't mind the floors unswept, the dishes unwashed, and the shelves undusted. Now what to do about the papers ungraded?


Deborah Ager has posted a piece on the 32 Poems blog on the editor's responsibility if he/she solicits work from a writer. Is the editor required to accept something because he/she solicits work from a specific writer? My answer, no. I've actually been on both sides of this as a writer. I've had work solicited that was accepted and work solicited that was rejected with a nice note and a suggestion to send more later.

I admit, the ego-boost of having someone solicit my work was extraordinary, and I did feel more hopeful that the work would find a home. However, I didn't feel a deeper sting when the editor who solicited my work decided to pass. I knew the poems were a bit new and different from my previous work and might not fit. Also, this happened at a time when I was low on poems that were available to send out, which meant a smaller selection to begin with.


Finally, here is a link to Katha Pollitt's great post on She Writes in the continuing dialogue about the PW top 10 list. A long time ago when I was living in Columbia, MO, I had the great fortune of hearing Pollitt speak. She is the real deal. These two quotes hit home for me:

And yet, whenever a list comes out and it’s all men, or mostly men, the listmakers bristle at the suggestion that maybe gender affects the way they read and evaluate. “We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz,” writes PW’s Louisa Ermelino in preemptive-pugilistic fashion of the magazine’s all-male Top 10 list. That makes the editors of PW the only people on earth who are not only totally unaffected by the society in which they live, but who have no subconscious.

A wealth of studies show that gender affects just about every kind of evaluation people make, from grading papers (the same work gets a better grade if supposedly written by a boy rather than a girl) to getting elected.

As an English instructor, that last one actually scares me. I had a professor in grad school who had us create aliases for our midterm essay exams. A third party held the key that matched our names to our aliases. This was the professor's attempt to grade without bias. I've toyed around with doing this in my comp class from time to time, and Pollitt's statement nudges me closer to actually doing it (that and researching the studies she mentions).

And speaking of grading........

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