A few months ago, my favorite online literary site Shelfari, and my not so favorite literary site, Goodreads both became part of the Amazon Empire. As I have a pretty fabulous group on Shelfari, Better than Starbucks, and as I lived through the boom of MySpace (yes, I am still on MySpace, but i dont even know the long in to my account), and hated Facebook, and then I realized everybody had moved to Facebook and no amount of technical advantage was going to save MySpace, nor any of the virtual worlds we had built there. In this disposable society, it was a disposed galaxy spinning off empty and dead. (now i live on Facebook)
Back to my point, to protect BTS from the same fate as the universes of MySpace, I thought it was time to open up a little “Shop” on Goodreads. So I did. But i found Goodreads to be as cold and lonely as at least the moon, if not mars, but my friend, Mark “Marconi” Heyne told me that there were some interesting and active discussions under book titles. I found a few and it warmed up to arctic like environs, then I heard something on NPR or read something on one of my online news sources about a group called Poetry! that ran a contest every month and the winner’s poem was published in the Goodreads email newsletter, sent to all 16 million Goodreaders!
I joined the group, found several new friends and an active poetry critique group, with decidedly two camps, one group proved to be very helpful to me and anyone else who would listen, while the other camp seemed to be in awe of native talent, believing to tamper with a poem as in to rewrite it is to destroy art. I have dabbled in the first camp for many years, but in the last decade or so, i have come to appreciate that poetry, like all writing, is generally improved by rewriting.
Of course I submitted a poem for each month that I have been there, but the June contest (voted on in May) I got into the finals! The 6 best poems, according to a panel of judges.
Of the 6, I hoped mine was the best, but there were three others, and especially one other I thought might beat me out. No problem, its an honor to be in the finals… And then it hit me 16 million viewers? Wow! I wanted to win. I mean even if it is at the bottom of the newsletter, and even if half the people throw about the email without opening it and even if half of those people who read it dont make it to the bottom and even if of those 4 million or so who get there only one out of 40 read my poem, it would still be 100,000 readers of my poem!!!!
My wife say I extrapolate too much…. whatever, even though I have been published in several mags and eZines and so on, none have offered this much exposure. Fortunately, the election was only for two days. I was on edge, obsessed my wife says. Then miracles of miracles, I won, beating the other poem that i thought was really strong, by two votes!!
I watched and waited and celebrated in small ways. then the unthinkable happened. After the polls closed, two of my votes disappeared. not sure how, but they did. So I contacted the host of Poetry and asked her what she was going to do. I hoped that because the polls had closed, it would matter, or worse case she would decide to publish both poems.
Nope. she opened the poll for another day and invited those who had not already voted to add their votes. They did, the vote totals doubled. I won by 10 votes! I checked my emails, and sure enough the May newsletter was sent on May 3, so I began to count down to when I would become famous! June 1st I checked my email about 100 times, same on the 2nd, the 3rd, the 4th and already this morning a few times, no newsletter. I am becoming obsessed again:)
So I am either a soon to be world famous (for 15 seconds) poet, or not, but here is the “winning”: poem:
Union Line Cemetery
In a graveyard in Mississippi
Lie the bones of a woman I loved
And those of a man I did not,
Though I am more like him than her.
Down a paved road off the federal highway
Slicing diagonally from Mobile,
The road turns sharply as if
It was meant to dead end.
But as if someone moved the gates
The road bends goes on precisely south
While the sun goes west away from the graves.
Marble benches wait through the undisturbed dust
For me to stop to pick sand spurs from my dress socks
And prick my fingers and remember I am alive.
While under clumps of low growing weeds,
Neat green grass and bare spots
These dead people rest in a Mississippi summer quiet,
As they do in winter beneath a midnight ice storm.
Dead, yes, they are dead,
But I am alive and they are why I am so.
They keep us, our families, ourselves alive.
I wonder if in a few years when I am dead,
Ashes tossed in the Mississippi,
Will I hold anyone connected or only be dust,
Forever blown about where the delta turns to sea?