365 Days from First Draft to Publication: "La Gioconda"
About a year ago I checked in at writer's retreat at an undisclosed location in the Pacific Northwest on the US/Canadian border. Once I was settled in (bags unpacked, bed made, electric fireplace ignited) I began writing a poem about Leonardo Da Vinci's most famous painting, The Mona Lisa.
It took me most of a morning to bang out the first draft, which I had decided to compose in 3rd person. After a few days of tinkering, it occurred to me I might be able to change the "she" to an "I," making what I considered a bold move from third-person distant and cool to first-person direct. I doubted I could pull it off, but it turned out to be fairly easy to change she/I in a series of revisions over the next few days. By January 2012 the poem felt good enough to read in public, which I did at the University of Washington for Richard Kenney's Writers on Writing class. My lecture focused on my writing process, for which I created a Powerpoint slide show featuring early drafts of several poems, including "La Gioconda."
The poem felt done, but it took another nine months (and at least six rejections) before receiving an email from Timothy Green at Rattle: A Magazine for the 21st Century in early August letting me know that "La Gioconda" had been accepted for publication. If you are not familiar with Rattle, it is about the most gorgeous literary magazine out there, with stunningly beautiful glossy covers, a very stiff binding, the most luxurious card stock, and, most importantly, a wonderful mix of poems in all styles and voices, showcasing the widest array of perspectives. Instead of focusing on a narrow aesthetic, the editors at Rattle eschew a narrow lens for an extra-extra wide and all-encompassing one. Needless to say, I was stoked!
I learned a few weeks after acceptance that my poem was on an accelerated path toward appearing in print, having just made it for the Winter 2012 issue. Hell's bells! This meant my poem would actually appear in just four months from the date of acceptance, virtually unheard of for print journals.
I received my contributor copy about a week ago, and what a thing of beauty it is. Authors and titles are available at the Rattlewebsite. In a few months, each of the poems in this issue will be featured at Rattle.com a day at a time,but for now the poems appear only in print. This issue features a dossier on speculative poetry. Poems by Jeannine Hall Gailey, Charles Harper Webb, Kristin Berkey-Abbott, and Eloise Klein Healy, among others, will light up your brain. There are also thought-provoking interviews with Timothy Steele and Rhina A. Espaillat.
Those who write and publish poetry know how good it feels when a poem finds a good home, especially when the journey from draft to publication occurs within one year's time. Such a rare thing, and so very welcome. But does "La Gioconda" live up to its relatively speedy ride from first draft to publication? Have a look-see yourself by ordering your very own copy of Rattle today!
Like Anne Sexton, the business of words often keeps me awake. My favorite tulip? Queen of the Night. My poetry books are Blue Positive, What the Truth Tastes Like, and The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, and (forthcoming) Reckless Lovely. I also wrote a book of 366 writing prompts, one for every day of the year, with Kelli Russell Agodon: The Daily Poet, curate Beacon Bards, a 2nd Wednesday of the month poetry reading series at The Station in Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood, and serve as poetry editor of Crab Creek Review.