The other day, I briefly mentioned that I have a poem in the Yellow Chair Review’s anthology, A Prince Tribute: …Only Wanted One Time to See You Laughing. Well, I finally received my copies in the mail, and they are beautiful.
If you are interested in owning one of these, you can buy it here. It’s about 150 pages of great Prince-inspired writings compiled by editor Sarah Frances Moran.
So yes, it’s exciting to have my poem (which, by the way, is titled “TPOTCB”) in this anthology. But the funny thing is it almost didn’t happen.
The day Prince died, I wrote a tribute as part of National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMo, but it wasn’t any good. Believe it or not, even though I had been a longtime fan of his music, I had a tough time trying to articulate why this artist was both brilliant and controversial. I ended up writing eight lines that were filled with great imagery but didn’t really come together as a cohesive work. (If you’re a member of Scribophile, you can view the original in one of the Poetry Critique Circle threads.)
After I posted it, I didn’t really plan on doing anything more with it. Two weeks later, I saw a tweet from the Yellow Chair Review, saying there were looking for Prince-inspired writings for an anthology – but the deadline was the following week. At first, I had no plans on submitting what I had written during NaPoWriMo. I also thought a week wasn’t enough time to write something new, workshop it, and then revise it multiple times, so I wasn’t going to submit.
The next morning, I changed my mind. After all, Prince took a lot of risks with his music, so the least I could do was take a chance.
I got to work. First, I tried to expand my original poem. I managed to make it twice as long, but it still wasn’t coming out right. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking. Then I remembered something I learned from one of my fellow Scribbers, Ani Keaten, during NaPoWriMo: quaterns.
For those who are not familiar with this lovely poetic form, quaterns are made up of four stanzas, each with four eight-syllable, unmetered lines. They don’t have a rhyme scheme, but the first line needs to be repeated in different places in each stanza. (You can learn more about quaterns here.)
For someone like me, who writes mostly free-verse poems, quaterns are a good way to get into more traditional poetic forms. They kind of force you to focus on the overall “story” in the poem and make you think about each word without having to worry about meter. Plus, both songs and quaterns use refrains, so it only seemed appropriate to write a tribute to a musician using the form.
Anyway, after rewriting my poem in a quatern, Ani gave me some suggestions for improvement, while my wife Lori helped me with the title. Less than 24 hours after submitting it, I got my acceptance. A couple of weeks later, I was informed that the anthology, which was originally supposed to be a digital edition, was now going to be printed. So in less than a month, I went from having a half-baked eight-line poem to having a polished quatern in a print publication.
There are two points to this story: First, if you really write for a certain publication or anthology, you should do it. You just need to stay focused, especially if the deadline is less than a week away. Second, as writers, sometimes it’s necessary to experiment, try new things, as I had done with the quatern. Because, to quote the Purple One, we’re here “to learn, to go down those paths, and eventually, you may have gone down so many paths and learned so much that you don’t have to come back again.”
Till next time.