It felt good to read new poems last night, though as soon as I opened my mouth my voice assumed a husky rasp reminiscent of Patricia Neal's in Hud. The place was packed, which was amazing, as I always expect a total of three people in a poetry-reading audience. I saw friends, and I listened to other people's poems: poems in Arabic, and poems composed by people who cannot read or write in any traditional way, poems about Labrador and Darfur and other worlds I have never entered. And then Tom and I walked home through the quiet city, and that was good too.
Now, this morning, I am thinking of potatoes and a pork roast, and of War and Peace, and of gray-green islands flattened against a reddening sky. Yesterday I found out that Chestnut Ridge was a semifinalist in a national contest, which is not as good as winning but is better than the usual sort of rejection. Who knows if the poor thing will ever see the light of publication day? That does not seem likely, at least not at the moment. But at least I know somebody out there actually read it.
Anyway, the poems are the poems, whether or not they appear in print. Writing them was the work and the reward. I used to think that successful writers invented such platitudes to make those of us in the trenches feel better about being ignored. Now I know better. Everything about writing is more complicated than I thought it was, back in the old days, when I hid under the rhododendrons and wished to be Dickens.