Friday, December 11, 2015

Moving On



When I was on my first trip to Alaska in 1974, I pulled my 1966 Ford Falcon window van of the SE ferry into a little waterside hamlet called Haines, where we bought some groceries and sandwiches for lunch. Now before I go on, please understand that up until that point, I was an Indiana-born-and-raised landlubber. I was infatuated with boats from an early age - particularly power boats. When I was 12, Dad took me to the north woods near Sioux Lookout, Ontario to fish for walleye and northern pike. When he asked me, "Wanna steer?" the 25-horse Evinrude, I was hooked. What was it Toad said in Wind in the Willows"There is nothing--absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." That has been my philosophy ever since. 

So back to Haines. I had heard of commercial fishing, but thought that enterprise died out with the steam engine. I had no idea of or connection to the rich history of the west coast commercial fisheries, and was stunned when after asking a local what all the rusty, beat-up looking boats were about I was told "That's the commercial fishing fleet." I had seen yachts and sailboats. Never had I seen work boats. I immediately began walking the docks looking for a job. Dressed in my farmer/hippie coveralls, camera over my shoulder and my shoulder-length red hair and scraggly beard advertising my political leanings, I never had a chance. Not one skipper looked at me twice. It was the first of two times Haines would turn me down for a job. More on that later. In my wanderings, though, I snapped a slide of Snuffy abandoned on the gravel beach near the harbor, a favorite of mine ever since. 

Time moves fast when you're not paying attention to it. After that trip, I went back to the midwest for one more winter. I ended up moving to Kenai in the summer of 75, after being offered the "possibility" of a job as a reading teacher in Haines over the phone if the person they offered the position to didn't take it. I was living in Janesville, Indiana and working across the Ohio River in Louisville as a Special Ed. teacher at the time. The spot we were in was idyllic - a three-story farmhouse on 25 acres bordering a reservoir, chickens, garden, the whole works. It was a tough decision, but I finally decided that i "couldn't not go," if the position was offered. It wasn't, but when Kenai called to offer a job three weeks later, the decision was clear. I was moving north. Just for a little while, to check it out.

I stayed 23 years. Divorced, remarried (it stuck this time), raised two kids, became a fisherman, taught Special Ed, English, journalism, yearbook, photography, drama. Left. All in the blink of an eye.
Another two blinks and I'm here, in Olympia, retired, writing, still photographing, living on the periphery of the fishing industry, spending time remembering and writing about things like that day in Haines. Writing this blog. All this is to say, things change. Sometimes they change right in front of you, while you watch. Day-by-day Snuffy rotted, broke apart, maybe someone came and chainsawed off her cabin as a playhouse for their kids, the kids grew up and left, and one day the last plank slipped off the beach with the outgoing tide. You passed it each day, never noticing, or maybe every now and then wondering when it got to the point it was until it was gone, never thinking about it again until someone posted a photo on Facebook and you nodded your head, saying, "I knew that boat." And the twenty or thirty or fuck me, forty  years that are behind you feel suddenly like they are sitting right there next to you, just out of reach.

Like this blog. It feels like an old friend I don't want to leave behind. But Gillet Dreams is just migrating to a new rendition. Fiberglass instead of a wood hull. Maybe I'll return and poke around here again. For now, look for me to write on Gillnet Dreams version two. If you're subscriber to this one, you can sign up on the RSS Feed to be notified of my posts and follow me over there. Or you can just follow me on FB or Twitter, and you'll be notified every time I post, which isn't really all that much (though I do sometimes challenge myself to a poem-a-day for a month). I look forward to seeing you on that new beach.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

On Submitting Your Work for Publication - Dealing with Rejection


KB Imle, a friend of mine on Facebook and a wonderful poet, PM'ed me today to ask advice on getting published. About halfway through the reply, the thought came to me that this might be a good blog post, so here it is:

Hi KB. You really should try to send your stuff off and get it published. I'm happy to give advice and suggestions, but please don't think of me as an expert. My rejections outnumber my acceptances easily 5 to 1. You need to know that you can have the best piece ever, and it won't be right for what an editor you send it to is looking for at any given time. Not taking rejection personally is the biggest obstacle I face each time a "No" clatters into my inbox. So thicken your skin, and most of all, believe in the work. You're good, KB. Very good, and you WILL find a home for your work.

So here goes: First of all, get a small, trusted group of writers you know to read your work. Preferably folks who won't placate you about when a piece (or part of one) needs work or deletion. Are you a member of a writer's group? I highly recommend trying one or two. Mine have helped me immensely. Does Austin have a Poetry Society, Club, Group? Go to their meetings, meet folks who do what you like. Ask if they're in a group...yadayadayada. Then take them the good as well the questionable stuff and get feedback. Practice sharing...open mics, etc. See how the work lands. Join this group for opportunities on fiction, nonfiction, poetry: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/crwropps-b/info. They send daily lists in your email that have contests and calls for presentation. Most accept work online, either though email or submission services like Submittable.

Whew. Ok. Just getting started here. As for individual, finished pieces, triple-check for spelling errors that aren't deliberate (you ARE a poet, after all. Some things you can stretch.). Make sure you read every guideline the editors have there - more than once. Get it all right. Don't double-space if they want single, etc. Write a Bio that speaks to your accomplishments -  where you've been published, etc. Keep it under 100 words. I'll post mine for you.

Patrick Dixon is a retired teacher and commercial fisherman who has been published in Oregon Coast, The Journal of Family Life, National Fisherman, Cirque, Oberon and others. Mr. Dixon has been a featured reader at the FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon for 18 years. He recently edited the seven-book anthology of fisherpoetry, Anchored in Deep Water. His work may be seen at www.PatrickDixon.net and www.inthetote.com.

Cover letter is no more than "Hello. Please find attached the piece "Sea Wolf" for consideration in your contest/issue on Sea Stories. Thanks for taking a look." Many publishers these days don't want your name attached, unless it's specified on the name of the file. Sometime not there either, but attached to the form in a separate document. Many contests are read blind, meaning they don't know until after the jurying, who the author is. All this is to say that I'd work at getting individual pieces published as stepping stones to putting together a collection. Once you’re out there, there’s no looking back. I think for many people, the fear is in knowing you’re going to get rejected. That doesn’t translate into “The work isn’t good enough.” That’s the hard part when you’ve put heart and soul into the work, you know it’s publishable – that it NEEDS to be out there, and you’re SURE this particular publication will love it…and they don’t. No lies here: that stings. It sucks that they don’t get it or want it, but it also can rattle the cage you’re in so you don’t want to try again. Don’t go there. If you believe in it, then keep trying. Get more critiques, work it over again, or don’t. If it’s where you want it to be, turn around and find another place to send it. Do your research: read pieces in the publication – often found online – and see how you fit their style. If you’re not sure, send it anyway. If the publication accepts simultaneous submissions, send it out to several.  Just be sure to notify the other publications when it gets published elsewhere.

KB's poetry (on her blog) can be found at http://kbimle.blogspot.com.



Next Installment: collections of work.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Earth Day 2015 – the coming years

My writers' group yesterday discussed an article in The Guardian about the choices made by the Oxford Children's Dictionary editors that set me off, so I wrote this today.

Formosan Clouded Leopard












Earth Day 2015 – the coming years

The Oxford Children’s  Dictionary
edited out words like acorn, otter,
blossom and walnut from the most
recent edition – in the editors’
esteemed wisdom these words were
no longer relevant to today’s children.
Instead words added included celebrity,
broadband, database. Database this
for relevance: remove northern white
rhinoceros from the lexicon – do it soon –
there’s only one breeding male left.
Erase mountain gorilla, predicted
to disappear this year. We are on the edge
of a mass extinction event say the experts.
For the clouded leopard, it’s already
too late. Wipe its name from the slate.
Delete, delete, delete: Hawaiian crow,
last seen in 1999; Pyrenean Ibex, 2000;
spotted green pigeon, 2008. Never say
their names. They deserve better than
to be categorized by the species that
supervised their destruction. Remove
them from the discussion. Other names
rise to  the top of the list, replace what
was lost, next to be forgotten.  Keep
the newly added word, endangered.
We’ll need it in the coming years.



Sunday, April 19, 2015

Eleven Days














Eleven Days

clock ticks,
sun rises, crosses
sky, sets. i used to
call your name each
day: here. we promise
to visit: let me know. we
never do. not once.
no big deal. we were busy.
until today. i was told 
the crash was eleven
days ago. in my mind you
were still alive, smiling,
eleven days longer.
somehow i missed 
the news, missed the 
service, miss you. wish
we had kept that promise.
sun sets, crosses 
sky, rises. clock ticks.
i call your name.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Connected

Day 17 NaPoWriMo. Tonight's installment was inspired by a message from eBay and a note from a friend whose father-in-law passed.


Connected


eBay says it’s shipped
the gift I bought for Ella.
I discover old friends
have passed away
via Facebook. My wife
PM’s me from the family room,
and my sons rarely call: it’s
all about texting emoticons
these days. To feel grounded
I sometimes drag out old shoeboxes
(yes, really, shoeboxes) of Mom
or Dad’s letters. Seeing their handwriting
reaches parts of me the wired world
cannot. I sense the mood of the words
from written gesture, color of ink, a word
scratched out, underlined three times.
As I read I hear their voices in my head.
With the immediacy and evanescence
of  today’s connection, what shoebox
will my sons  open tomorrow? How will
they fit the sound of my voice into their
hearts? What of me will reach them
once my number is undialable, my server
forever disconnected?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Forecast Redacted

This is my first ever "Erasure Poem." Find some text, then erase words until you have something else. More concerned with form than message, I decided to have fun with a local forecast. Tomorrow I may try some political piece.


Forecast redacted:

Maximum umbrella usage,
the real rains may knock off
most of remaining cherry blossoms.
April showers keep flower power. Gusting
lets us know a wedge of cool,
but likely result is Confidence Clouds
in the evening stray breezes die.
Likely to wait until well after midnight
when chances rise just enough to make
pavements slick. Break up in the pop up,
mainly south of the city.
Remain light thanks to intervals.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Letter to Mom

This is a rewrite of yesterday's poem, with a new stanza. Hope that counts. Feels like a new poem to me. You be the judge. Better or not?

Letter to Mom, 2015


The mid-April air is sweet.
Lilacs have their turn now,
magnolias a forgotten dream;
spring wind strips away plum blossoms,
sends pink snow swirling into gutters.
Azaleas and rhodies kick their heels
at the street– Can-can dancers
raising their dresses:  pinks, reds, oranges,
whites, purples all in a line. A few frogs
still chirp at dusk, remind me of cicadas,
long, thick evenings bottling lightning bugs.

Another lifetime I brought you hand-picked
bouquets of May flowers; you cut lilacs
for the kitchen table, the one where we still
gather for good food, games, conversation.
I can’t bring myself to throw away the ladder-back
chairs we said grace upon– bless this– they collapse
in the shed, fall apart like faded letters, brittle,
last year’s blossoms.

Can I drop into those games again? Or the meals,
with talks full of broken dreams, this, the year
you’d turn 100? What do you have to say to me
on my 65th birthday? I already outlived you.
How do I reach you now to hold, look into your eyes,
see love hiding, blurred behind the years? This: I place
lilacs in the old vase. Set it on the table, lean over,
breathe deep.

Letter to Mom

Veronica says this needs more. Probably. For tonight, this is what I have. Thanks, Tele, for the FB post that brought this around... rewritten now, several times.


Letter to Mom, 2015


The mid-April air is sweet.
Lilacs have their turn now,
magnolias a forgotten dream;
spring wind strips away plum blossoms,
sends pink snow swirling into gutters.
Azaleas and rhodies kick their heels
at the street– Can-can dancers
raising their dresses:  pinks, reds, oranges,
whites, purples all in a line. A few frogs
still chirp at dusk, remind me of cicadas,
long, thick evenings bottling lightning bugs.
Another lifetime I brought you hand-picked
bouquets of May flowers; you cut lilacs
for the kitchen table, the one we still gather
around. I can’t bring myself to throw away
the ladder-back chairs we said grace upon–
bless this– they collapse in the shed,
fall apart like faded letters, brittle,
last year’s blossoms.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

fill the gap



sleepy tonight,
have been all day.
lids droop, leaves without water;
limbs sag, stick,
thoughts pummel me to bed,
drop me on the couch,
pin me to the chair.
take the easy way out:
close the eyes
fill the gap.