William James

working class poetry // punk rock performance

Jan. 3, 2016 // release, renew

Well, I did it...if you've been following along with my endeavors over the past year, you'll have noticed that late December, I squeaked into rejection #100 - the culmination of a project I started on 1/1/15...I set out to have my work regarded as insufficient for publication 100 different times, and BOY HOWDY DID I EVER GET THERE. It was a grueling process...I learned a lot, about the submission process, about my poems, about myself. Dedicating your literary year to racking up that many rejections is not for the faint of heart (then again, nothing about the literary world seems to be) but it's one I absolutely recommend to anyone who's at the "ready to send my poems out to the world but sorta kinda scared to do so" stage in their career. In the next few weeks, I'm gonna be writing an actual recap/essay for Drunk In A Midnight Choir, so be on the lookout for that. 

I've taken a bit of a pause from poetry as of late. It's been a necessary hiatus, so that in the grand scheme of things, I can maintain my love for this art. I went from 100mph to zero in a week - in fact, tonight, I just sent out my first submission in over a month. In December, instead of poems, I took a long train ride to Chicago with my partner; instead of reading poems, I read several issues of Cometbus. I haven't written a poem since October...that, of course, will change, but you know what? Sometimes you just have to step back a while and let your passion rebuild.

Recently, I had the chance to see Michael Lee-Wolf feature at my home venue. Dude's got POEMS, y'all. And you know what I did? I sat, and I listened. I didn't think "what's this guy doing that I'm not? how can I be that successful? WHAT TRICKS CAN I TAKE AWAY FROM THIS?!?!?" I just...listened. And the love came back. I remembered, once more, why the fuck I do this. It isn't the rejection letters, it isn't the eventual acceptances, it isn't the publishing contract, or the poetry slam victories...it's the feeling that somewhere out there in this chasm of a universe, someone exists who understands & relates to my stories, the same way as I have to so many others throughout my life. It's knowing that somewhere out there, someone gives a fuck. Because someone needs you to have given a fuck.

What did I learn from getting rejected 100 times in a year? I learned this: write a good poem. Write a poem that only you can write. That NO OTHER MOTHERFUCKER ON THIS EARTH could write the way that you write it. Write. Good. Poems. The rest will follow, or it won't, but you'll have written some good goddamn poems, and honestly? That shit really IS its own reward.

I've got a poem in the new issue of Really System here. Poems forthcoming in Tinderbox Poetry, Sundog Lit, and Half Mystic. Maybe some more later. The work goes on, because it has to. Because I have to. And so, I will.


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