Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

New poetry by the reluctant poet

I wanted to share a couple of recent publications with you, poems appearing in Scapegoat Review and the interestingly named talking about strawberries all of the time. One poem in the latter is reproduced below, “Late realizations (after Uvalde).”

I’ve kind of dedicated the last two years to building up a portfolio of publications in online magazines, mostly to have something meaty to put in my bio for querying novels. As if that helps. (Doesn’t seem to.) But it’s gratifying anyway to see your work published in curated journals, if only to prove that it has some value and other people see the value in it. That’s a nice tonic for the frustrations that go along with the writing life.

But all of this reminds me of what it used to be like. If you’re younger than fifty or so, you never had to jump through the hoops of submitting to small magazines, which until the late nineties were all print outlets.

Do you know what SASE means? (Answer after the poem!)

Late realizations (after Uvalde)

Honor and heart are at stake, and love.
We find ourselves mounting guard
over the truth,
and there’s ominous pushback.

You’d think keeping a trusting eye
on the bright, reliable pole-star and
steering accordingly
would keep us on course.

It’s no longer true …

There was a time when we could agree
on what was a basin and what
was a helmet,
but now everything is upside down.

Opposites today repel, like
reversed magnets, and simple truth
gets gutted
in the process, shivering in

pieces on the ground and scrapped.
Arrested are certain attitudes,
but unapprehended,
and we appeal to commonsense,

even though we know it has died,
sacrificed for prophesied destinies
and forgotten,
like the contented mornings of youth.

It’s a new era | of rancid absurdism.

We’re collared, unable to breathe,
swelling with blueblack comprehension
of the end,
and praying for impossibilities.

Back in those days, you were expected to order a sample copy of the magazines you intended to submit to. It took weeks to get them, and then you perused the works and realized these journals are all about the same so why did they make you do the sample-copy dance? Then you prepared your manuscript according to the guidelines, which is to say you typed it out on a typewriter and made a copy (on a Xerox machine hopefully; otherwise you had to use carbon paper when you typed it up!).

Incidentally, we still refer to cc and bcc, which mean “carbon copy” and “blind carbon copy.” Why?

Then you mailed it off with your SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) and waited.

Back then, a lot of mags said no to simultaneous submissions, which meant that you had to wait weeks, sometimes months, to send that story to another place. I figured out somewhere along the way that it was safe to send multiple copies out at the same time because the odds against acceptance were astronomical. Still, I sent things to The New Yorker from time to time. We all did. Harper’s, Playboy, and Esquire too. Hopeless, but you felt like you were in the game.

Eventually, I had a few stories published this way, in mags such as Mid-American Review, The Webster Review, Crosscurrents, Berkeley Fiction Review, and River City. Some of these are now defunct. Alas. Where does your work go when the magazine disappears?

We also collected rejection notes, usually in the form of preprinted cards with polite language about the number of submissions the outlet receives and how few they’re able to accept. Keep writing, they often said, or, something like “Onward.” You got tired of seeing that sort of thing.

Anyway, I’m happy the internet came along and with it the birth of the e-zine. Everything is easier now, though I’ve come to see that it’s not much easier to get a piece accepted. You still have to do the legwork, and, most of all, you have to write the best stuff you’re capable of.


3 comments on “New poetry by the reluctant poet

  1. kingmidget
    October 10, 2022

    You’re doing good work, Kevin. I’m glad you’re getting published in a variety of places.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 10, 2022

      Thanks, Mark! Keeps me out of trouble anyway … 😆

  2. Audrey Driscoll
    October 10, 2022

    Good for you, Kevin, that you’re still sending work out. I must admit I pretty much left that space just about the time SASEs went extinct.

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This entry was posted on October 10, 2022 by in Writing and tagged , , , , .
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