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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Well...How did I get here?"

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, "Well...How did I get here?"

from "Once in a Lifetime," The Talking Heads

The last few months have been a process of “Ok.” As I wrote in my last post at the end of August, “There's a lot going on: dissertation writing, teaching, working on the new manuscript, other university commitments, and Baby is a only few weeks away (finally!).” Apparently the semester swallowed me whole, but that’s…okay. (Anyone else hear Stewart Smalley there?)

So, where’ve I been? A short list:
  • Teaching the Intro to Poetry literature course to 32 of some of my all-time favorite students. These folks were sharp, enthusiastic, and a joy to meet with three times per week. They were one of those groups that really will be missed, and I hope they’ll keep in contact. A lot of young critical and poetic talent there.
  • Working as Asst. Director of the Writing Center; mentoring a group of MA English students in writing center practices and composition pedagogy.
  • Dissertating! My old goal of finishing the critical introduction by Thanksgiving was not realistic, but it’s only December 7 and I’m not that far behind. Graduation is in May and the bulk of the dissertation is about finished, so I’ve got time to keep working, writing, and improving. And reading!
  • Entering the academic job market. Though this process has been almost like a second job itself, the experience has been, dare I say it?, enjoyable. Fingers crossed.

And here's the latest Poetry/Manuscript News:
  • That poem that was under “second read” consideration at a “favorite journal” (Boston Review) ended up getting rejected, but then it got nominated for an AWP Intro Journal Award. Although this means I can’t follow through on my plans to submit it elsewhere, at least until the results of the contest are released, I’m thankful to my department for nominating me.
  • Didn’t end up winning the Ruth Lilly Fellowship for which I was a finalist. Still, an honor to be on the short list.
  • Speaking of the short list: another honor to have Praise Nothing listed as a finalist for the National Poetry Series. That felt like a win in itself.
  • Praise Nothing has been a finalist twelve times, and though I’m starting to feel like a bit of an “also ran,” I’m still optimistic about my chances. Received a letter a few days ago from a Midwestern university press saying I’m a finalist and in the running still for their two publication prizes. Results should be soon. And just to keep it all in perspective, to demonstrate again how nuts and seemingly arbitrary this whole thing is, the day after receiving the finalist notification I got a form letter rejection from a major poetry publisher who had me as a finalist last year and who had encouraged me to resubmit the manuscript if by chance it wasn’t picked up in the meantime. So it goes. Currently waiting on eleven contests/open submissions. News should start to steadily roll in over the winter and early spring.

The biggest news is my wife and I had our first child, a boy, in late September, which is also a major reason, in case you’re wondering, why I’ve disappeared from the blogosphere and why my poetry email list has slumped. Other priorities. I’m all about The Boy.

This coming semester will be interesting. I’ll be teaching every evening and I’ll be primary childcare during the day. For some reason, I think I’ll have more time to write, and if that’s the case, I’ll carve out time for blogging. But if not, now you know the deal.

Rock & Sling: A Journal of Witness
I don’t anticipate writing much about The Boy on this blog, mostly because we want to have as much control over his presence on the internet as possible. E. has started a family website for that, something we can take down if necessary, though I’ve yet to publish my first blog post there.

Finding a way in to writing about him and about fatherhood has proven difficult because it is hard for me to be unmasked in such a public way, though I have recently dipped my toe into those waters in a post at the website for the journal Rock & Sling.

The piece is called “Coleridge and the Greater Romantic Fatherhood,” and explores the lyric process of becoming a daddy. Here’s an excerpt:
Before my son arrived, poet friends’ divinations were at odds. Some, mostly those without children, expressed grief for the death of my old writing life. Some told me poems would surely pour forth from me like [insert bad simile]. I told both camps all I wished for was an approximation of what Coleridge had in his rural cottage in “Frost at Midnight”: my slumbering babe and some of the frost’s “secret ministry,” some nighttime quiet in which to work, and, hopefully, a proper stand-in for the ashy bit of fluttering soot that might also “make a toy of Thought” even here in my ever-so-suburban office/nursery. 
Reality check: the boy is only just now sleeping at most five hours straight through and the only time to sit with my notebook and my feet up is in my dreams.
So, I'll be writing about poetry for them twice a month. I hope you'll visit their website and consider subscribing.

If you've made it this far in reading this latest update, thank you. I hope to keep it going.


Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Josh. I've got my fingers crossed for you and that Midwestern University Press. (Got my rejection from them yesterday and my rejection from the other major publisher today.)
I'm going to spend the break 're-evaluating' the manuscript AGAIN. Sigh.

All best to your family as it grows. So happy, happy, happy!

Joshua Robbins said...

Sandy -- Thanks for reading and commenting. And for crossing your fingers for me. I wish you insight and revelation when you "re-evaluate" and I hope you'll write about that process on your blog. We all learn so much from your honesty and frankness re: the writing life. Congrats on all your recent publications! The book's gotta be just around the corner for you.

Jake Adam York said...


As someone whose first manuscript was a finalist or semi-finalist 19 times before it got picked up, I can say this means you're very close. And your poems are better than mine! Keep faith.


Joshua Robbins said...

Hey Jake,

Thanks for the reassurance and confidence in my work. I'll keep on keeping on, holding onto the faith and carrying the fire. I appreciate the encouragement, sir.

Quite enjoyed your waiting room piece for Kenyon Review's blog. Thought of it while I was in the dentist's waiting room this morning. I frequently give out my extra copies to students, and I think the next time I clear out the journals I may redistribute some of them around town. Watch out Knoxville.

Anonymous said...

What a great update Josh. And what a wonderful, full, rich life you've been participating in!! The boy is here!, the book will come. No doubt, no doubt.

xo --dlaux