Yesterday I came home from having a delightful lunch with my good friend, a lovely and gracious poet who also lives in Arizona. Even though we live the same city, we are both so busy that getting together outside of work or our writer's conference is always a special occasion. We met at a local French restaurant and always reserve 3 hours to talk. Our conversations cover a lot of ground--poetry, the business of poetry and health and shared friends and jokes and make-up and husbands and so forth.
So after our lunch, I went home. I stopped by our neighborhood's collective mailbox station which is ubiquitous in Arizona and specific to our community. It was really warm day for March--about 98 degrees--somewhat early for this kind of heat in Arizona. After collecting the contents of my overstuffed box, I sat in the car and I opened my mail.
There was one piece--which I almost mistook for junk mail--I don't know why--maybe it's because I am a member of a lot of writers' organization and they always solicit me for donations and the color of the envelope looked like one of those solicitations-- which I almost tore up before reading. Somehow, I guess I decided to open it up before I threw it away . Anyway, I wasn't paying much attention as I scanned the letter...
which began "Congratulations!"
Now you have to understand that, as a writer--especially a poet-- one doesn't get a whole lot of letters that began this way. Not serious ones, anyway.
Another poet friend of mine once, half-jokingly, commented to my students: "If you are interested in mental health, don't become a writer. Because there is a lot of rejection and you have to learn to deal with it without it hurting you or your work."
And clearly, she has a point.
Rejection letters and learning how to deal with them are just part of the business. One needs to understand that. As I tell my students, rejection letters for one's writing never feel good.
However, yesterday was not one of those "figure-it-out-and-move on" kind of days for me.
This letter began "Congratulations!" and it went on to inform me that my book, High Notes, was chosen as a 2011 Paterson Poetry Prize finalist.
Elizabeth Alexander won this year's award for Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems, 1990-2010. You may remember that Elizabeth Alexander read at President Obama's inauguration. And her list of awards and honors are many. For example, she was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and her work was one of the American Library Association's "Notable Books of the Year."
There are just a few finalists for this award. In the past, the finalists list often would reads as a "Who's Who" list of poets.
In addition to this honor, I have been asked to read with the winner and other finalists next April as part of the Distinguished Poets Series.
So...I am thrilled!