Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Sarah Manguso wrote in the Paris Review “How far along are you? people will ask of your book, as if the page count indicates anything, but progress on a book isn’t linear. It’s oceanic.”

I grieve for my finished unfinished manuscript. Ten years worth of research and scrawl that feels stillborn now even though it is still alive still kicking dust from the molding with its tiny shoes in the office of a publisher. I feel guilty for my grief for giving into it in such a powerful historic moment.

I line my unread copies of the Paris Review in numerical order on the child sized roll top desk from which I used to teach pretend school as a small girl believing that one day I would actually be a true scholar. I’m afraid of opening them. The smell of fresh ink makes me high. Mimeograph ink was my first drug. I would shake when I held the damp slick test paper gentian letters swimming into my malleable brain.

Since the plague I’ve been afraid to turn on my pc where my manuscript lives. I tell myself the boxy computer is going to be dead or the monitor ultra bright wavy constant updates whirling away the white mesmerizing circle on the blue field Word won’t allow me access my pages will come up as Read Only and I won’t know how to fix it my story will be broken even though I have ten copies maybe more in my email. It feels like sickness.

I sent the manuscript in various stages to four people. One of those people was a writer I paid to do some editing and she said it was ambitious. This didn’t feel like a compliment. Two people liked the first section of the book my research and notes about what living through that research was like but didn’t mention the second half of the book the poems at all. The fourth person never wrote back. I sent it to Dorothy a press I adore. The editor told me she loved it but didn’t think it was a fit. The editor who has it now has seen all of it in parts but not the finished edition with its careful red lip and smooth hair.

Writing about Queer Wing-ed writing about writing gives me a crave for something creamy in my mouth butter noodles or mashed potatoes nursery food comfort food. Maybe my life as a writer is finished. My last reading was in NYC in 2016 at the KGB Bar. I evaporated from the Seattle poetry scene. I was never good at being part of a scene. Applesauce tapioca pudding milk toast.

Coward food.

When I was pregnant everyone asked how far along are you all the time. I slapped their hands away when they tried to pat my huge belly. I hated the human attention that pregnancy brought. In my ninth month a man in the mall pointed at me in the batik caftan dress I had been wearing for weeks and told me I was disgusting that I should stay home. I got the same question from writers about Queer Wing-ed the entire nine years I was actively writing it. How far along are you? Then the question suddenly stopped as though I had birthed the book wobbly and gravid with fresh ink in line at the printer.

I walk from room to room and the blue carpet feels like a sea or a padded cell or the scarred keys of a practice piano in high school. It never feels like a classroom. I miss teaching. I use eye drops to mimic youth. I smear cream on my face when I think of it. I keep my hair long and carefully bleached. All of my skin is a problem area. I am cracked but not currently bleeding. My last violin student called me coach. I wander from room to room and the blue carpet feels like whale fur or the fungal network that connects trees or the good doctor’s big white leather chair.

Fence has four poems of mine that I sent them 11 months ago. I opened Submittable today and couldn’t figure out how to use the interface even though I’ve used it for years. I have not submitted anything since December. I just stopped at the same time the world stopped. Blogger changed its font for no reason one paragraph ago. I don’t understand the breakdown of systems. I understand less and less.


Blogger Ramona Quimby said...

well, fuck it. I want to read that book.

I have a box of my second book in my office closet and I have purposefully covered it in old fabric, papers, glass frames, everything in danger of falling off and shattering if I open the door. I can't look at it. And my submittable queue has become an immovable block of no response.

June 9, 2020 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Radish King said...

Those books get haunted by our neediness as artists. Has Submittable given up on us all? I wrote to Fence a month ago before the plague. No response. Maybe they stepped through a portal and disappeared our submissions. ❤️🖊❤️

June 9, 2020 at 4:35 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I opened my manuscript the other day on my laptop, and I haven't looked at it nor x'd it off the screen. It's still there, waiting. It's been over a year now.
P.S. The Paris Reviews in a stack, numbered neatly, eye level with a set of small wooden Swedish gnomes in front of them.

June 9, 2020 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger Ms. Moon said...

A few boxes of manuscripts. Folders on a desktop. Yes. Well.
It doesn't matter but it does.

June 9, 2020 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger Linda Sue said...

Journal of The Plague Year- publishes some good shit.Maybe , maybe not, but i will tell you , your writing sends me! Your delicious sentences make me feel like I have been somewhere. Somewhere I want to go and stay. Don't need no pudding here- no cheesy noodles but I do share that feeling just as you said it. Your words and sentences and pauses are just right, just fucking right.Work well, and fuck it, just write- I want to read all of it. I am sure I am not alone

June 9, 2020 at 7:02 PM  
Blogger Radish King said...

Elizabeth They live! They live! You give me courage. The Swedish gnomes though are perfect and made me snort.

June 9, 2020 at 8:08 PM  
Blogger Radish King said...

Mary it didn’t take me long to return to living in a nest of papers and unfinished projects. I was going to send a new chapbook mss to a local press I admire. The deadline was May 31. I just watched it sail by.

June 9, 2020 at 8:11 PM  
Blogger Radish King said...

Linda Sue well damn woman you made me tear up a little bit. I will check out Journal of The Plague Year. I think I read about it on the twit. It would be nice to feel some forward momentum this year. Thank you thank you.

June 9, 2020 at 8:15 PM  
Blogger 37paddington said...

I don't think I've ever read anything more true, more searing, aching true, more passionate and authentic in its art, about what it feels like to birth a work, and then send it out into the world, because of course, art is created to be seen by others, must be appreciated for the way it breaks us open, rearranges our place in the world, and your art does this so powerfully every single time. I get the wandering from room to room, the comfort cravings, how haunting it feels to desire completion of the circle. I just want to say the fact that your book isn't yet published does not diminish its genius, its bravery, its art. If you ever decide fuck it I'm going to be my own publisher let me know. I walked alongside a few people who became their own publishing houses, and their work found its audience. I'd be happy to be your cheerleader. I am that already, anyway. I love you, woman. I was there in the audience that night at the KGB Bar in 2016. It is one of my life's shiveringly good nights. I hope you remember how much people loved you, how excited they were that you were there in that room, how much they understood we were in the presence of a master. Do you remember? I was, and am, in awe of your writing. This post, too, is art. You have made so many of us feel less alone in this wandering from room to room, aching. Thank you for that, too.

June 13, 2020 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Radish King said...

Darling Rosemarie, that night was incredible because I got to meet you. I have read your comment here maybe ten times today. There is no way to thank you enough for your support and deep understanding. I love you.

June 13, 2020 at 2:44 PM  

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