A Poem’s Journey: From Personal Page to Publication

October 20, 2010

While I was still an undergrad in the late 90’s, I wrote a poem titled “Power.” +I liked it. I liked it a lot. I liked it enough to start submitting it in 1998 a year or two after I had written it. (I didn’t keep good records back then so I’m not sure if I first began drafting it in 1996 or 1997).

I submitted the poem three times between 1998 and 1999, which was a lot for me back then. I didn’t send it out again until I submitted it twice in 2008 and then once in 2010. Why all the gaps you might ask?

In 1998, I received my BA in English. I took a job as an insurance claims adjuster and my writing stagnated. I didn’t have a writing community around me, and I still had not reached an understanding of how revision was often “re-visioning.” As a result, my poems didn’t change much as I sent them around.

I stopped submitting work (and I didn’t write much) from 2001-2005. Since I’d kept most of the poems I wrote in the 90’s, I’d go back to the stacks of old poems to see what was there when I started writing in 2006.

As I made my way through those old poems, I came across “Power” in one year into starting an MFA program. There were many pros to my MFA experience, but perhaps one of the biggest was opening up my ability to revise. I revised the poem and submitted it. After two rejections, I just wasn’t quite feeling the poem anymore. I liked it enough to keep it though. It sat in a file until I read a poem on a similar topic (a sibling convincing their other sibling to touch a wire fence) and I decided that maybe my poem deserved another look. Although, to be honest, the other poem on that topic The Bells in My Skin Still Ring by Rhett Iseman Trull, was so good, I initally wondered why I should bother!

I put the piece through one more revision and sent it out in July 2010. It was accepted for publication in September 2010. It is now online in Rose & Thorn.

So, what does this all mean? Is this a story of why you shouldn’t throw things you’ve written away? Is this a tale regarding the thrill of revision? Is this a parable of patience? Is it, most of all, a lesson that you should always revise the word “dappled” out of a poem? I think my poem’s journey shows a little bit of each. It also has something to say about how much being around other poets can help you develop as a writer.

I am glad a magazine published “Power,” and I think it’ll be added to my second full-length poetry manuscript. However, I hope it doesn’t take every poem I write over 10 years of revision and submission before they are published.

Jessie Carty is a regular blogger for 32 Poems. She’s a blogger, poet, and teacher. Find her on Twitter.

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