on finding “Mistake” in my mailbox

They sent Mistake on purpose. Mistake, the poetry chapbook they published, the title of the collection they chose.

Make stuff, send it out. Sometimes I send the stuff itself – poetry manuscripts, DVDs. Sometimes I send the plans to make it happen – descriptions, to do lists, sketches. A feedback loop of non-response, acceptance, rejection.

I keep a semipublic sketchbook on this blog, on flickr, bits and pieces go to google+, to the Facebook page. The undialogue of ‘like’ing and +1-ing. The undialogue of no negative feedback. People are afraid of hurt feelings, people are afraid of alienation.

I found Mistake in my mailbox. Meredith Stricker’s manuscript won the 2011 Caketrain poetry chapbook contest. My entry did not. Glancing at a poem here, a poem there, her manuscript won it worthily, the work looks excellent. Right up my alley, too. I’m looking forward to reading it.

The nice thing about submitting work to poetry markets? So often they send content to read later. Not so much with the art shows, or the galleries. What did they do with that proposal, I wonder? That’s the non-response black hole the polished, tightly edited paperwork and supporting documents and DVDs go to. I have the delivery receipts. Blank refusals of no answer.

The editors, curators, gallerists I have enjoyed working with most have a useful etiquette for critique, for saying ‘no’. They provide some insight into why – “the inconsistency of your punctuation use tells me you haven’t figured out what that communicates yet”, “we like to publish work with stronger emotional punch”. That provides some insight into how to adjust my approach. At least, my approach to them.

What do I want for the work? Do I want it to be that way? I fold the critique back into the dough, as it were, and keep making.

A young musician struggling with how to get his creative life moving asked me what to look for in a creative relationship. I said, “Find a bass player that can tell you ‘no’ in a way that works for you”. He thought about it pretty hard. Apparently the kids these days like to take their ball and go home when the friends they play with give critical feedback.

I found Mistake in my mailbox. I had the privilege of starting to learn how to make at a very, very young age. I was four. Violin is hard. I was lucky, I had really patient teachers who validated my person while teaching my clumsy hands and wrists. I was lucky. I decided that my hands made the mistake, not me, when I had a tough teacher from second through 7th grade. (Thanks Mrs. Brandenburger!)

Mistake. Does mistake carry blame so our hands don’t have to? Its cousin, Accident, also a common target for our negative emotions keeps our egos blameless. Both mean our skills lack, not us. They can be a common foil for not developing our skill. We have to come back to the workbench, the practice room, the studio, to keep making.

Keep practicing. Keep sending. Excellence will follow. Or, what is good will find the right pair of eyes, the right set of ears. Some day, I will find my chapbook in the mailbox.

 

Pretty good, for a human : Ripley as Durga

Ripley in fighting suit after opening the hangar door

Durga : n (Hinduism) the goddess Parvati portrayed as a warrior: renowned for slaying the buffalo demon, Mahisha


First motion : she raises her armored arms

In one version of the myth, Durga was a warrior goddess who defeated the demon Mahisashur who had unleashed a realm of terror on earth, heaven and the nether worlds.

Mahisa means buffalo, Mahisasur was born from the form of a water buffalo. He could not be defeated by any of the gods because of boons he had received from Brahma.

Over time, each god armed Durga with a suitable quality and weapon, so that with their combined effect she was able to defeat the demon. The word Shakti, or strength, reflects the warrior aspect of the goddess.

In another form, she is also Karunamayi, or one full of kindness.

Ripley catches up the Alien's head in her claw

Durga : In Hinduism, one of the forms of the goddess Devi or Shakti. The wife of Shiva. Born fully grown, created out of flames that issued from the mouths of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and other gods. She embodies their collective energy (shakti). They created her to slay the buffalo-demon Mahisasura, whom they were unable to overcome. She is usually depicted riding a lion or tiger, each of her multiple arms bearing a weapon.

She uses the tools at hand to keep her enemy at bay.

She throws the invading Alien/Demon down the airlock, to exorcize it

The enemy at the heart of the film Aliens are profoundly terrifying creatures. The gory possessions, devourings, consuming of human bodies in order to live point allegorically to possession and exorcism stories, but with absolutely deadly results – no human ever survives an alien possession.

Enemies in horror films have to be absolutely other, yet embody something of ourselves that we are frightened of. The absolutely instinctual nature of these mucus-soaked creatures, whose nested jaws speak to some horrifying devouring appetite, some horrifying devouring reproductive nature . . . draw whatever metaphorical conclusion you will.

Monsters like this are the closest thing to a demon our atheist culture cops to. Our heroine, Ripley, warrior-queen, embodies Durga, that aspect of Shakti who is the original demon slayer, a goddess from a religion tended to by millions in India.

Alien hangs on to Ripley's foot, attempting to avoid her ejection (or exorcism) from the ship into space

She hauls herself up from the edge of the void, against the pull of the void, and prevails.