Category Archives: Song of the Middle Manager

Song of the Middle Manager

Kalos

I’m happy – hey, more than happy – to announce that my third book of poetry, Song of the Middle Manager, has been acquired by Kalos Press. Publication is expected to be in 2017.

The book talks about two themes that I think are under-reported in contemporary U.S. poetry – life in corporate America and God stuff. I’ve been in business for 30 years, and that includes six years in four different hi-tech startups during the late 1990s. Very strange times, those. Powerful, tortuous and sometimes wonderfully surreal. I’ve tried to capture that in the first section of the book. Other poems talk about Catholic saints, the uneasy balances and trade-offs we make in life (our economies as it were), and the marriage between art and faith.

Kalos Press was founded in 2011 as an imprint of Doulos Resources. Their mission includes “a desire to see books with a high degree of literary excellence in genres and on subjects of interest to Christian believers.” My book will be their first volume of poetry.

I’ve found that most poetry manuscripts take several years to find a home, if they ever do. Song of the Middle Manager was completed at the end of 2013, and I’ve sent it to almost 50 publishers. So if you’re a writer out there (or anyone trying to make a mark), take heart. The editors of this world say no all the time. It’s a necessary and valuable part of their job. No after no after no after no. And then they say yes.

Opening Prayer 4 of 4

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I don’t know if Opening Prayer is going to be my last book, and maybe that’s the best way to proceed. It seems that I have to live the books as I write them, and every lurch forward involves some sort of sacrifice, a giving up of what I no longer need, assuming I ever needed it to begin with. Last year, I decided to burn my notebooks, starting with a little gray journal I kept when I was 12 and solemnly declared in secret that I was an atheist. The stack was almost two feet high — Big Chief notebooks, school folders, loose-leaf binders, fancy little Moleskines, you name it. I’d already dredged through the lot when I wrote a memoir a while back, and I knew that the entries were mainly just grousing and existential agonizing, familiar stuff to most writers. Still, it represented a lifetime of diligence, a sense of self. I started burning the oldest one first, then the high school pieces, then college. After 20 minutes, I still had most of my adulthood left and the ashes were filling up the fireplace, so I put the rest in garbage bags and left them on the curb for the weekly trip to the landfill. “Wet garbage” as they say in recycling. Earth to earth.

 

That was a good feeling, getting rid of all that paperwork. I felt lighter, unburdened. You’ll notice fire as a theme in this book, and I keep in mind that creation depends on some sort of destruction, a tearing apart or reconstitution, as in cooking, carpentry or religious conversion. To be reborn completely, we have to die completely, no fudging. I’m 65. I’ve given up being a writer several times, and I keep trying to reach the silence that makes a place for language, that allows it to be understood, and a language that points to silence. At times, I think I’m making real progress. Then something happens.

Opening Prayer 1 of 4

The next four posts will be taken from the preface of “Opening Prayer,” my third book of poetry. I’ll be explaining what  I’ve been trying to write over the past four decades as a poet and how the three books follow, for better or worse, the development of a spiritual career.

 

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Over the years, two themes have emerged in my writing. The first is how we make a living — money, work, business, corporations, and everything we mean by “trade.” The second is the inner life, which in my case has included poetry, painting and a religious conversion. Their ongoing development, including their complex, uneven marriage with one another, is much of what this present book is about.

 

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I wrote my first book, The Glass Children, when I was trying to lead the ideal writer’s life, at least my notion of what that was. I lived on day jobs and little grants, delving inward to escape relationships or any responsibilities whatsoever beyond a dedication to the page.

 

When I stand at the brilliant edge of the roof,

There is always the man who continues forward

Without hesitation, slipping smoothly out of my skin

And I’m lost, watching the back of his head,

His strong arms spreading open as he steps

Soundlessly over the edge.

 

That seemed like a kind of courage at the time, but I was trying to make a religion out of art. Why not? Like so many young writers, I wanted to astonish. Beyond that, I felt there was something at the very core of things that I could reach if I only wrote well enough. At times, transcendence made a brief appearance. The book’s last poem, “In New York the Women Are Dreaming,” served, I thought, as a grand prelude, a kind of announcement of a new life, but the poem’s energy, a feminine energy, was all the greater from being checked, contained and forced inward. The book began with an image of limestone caves and ended with an emergence not yet achieved. Art was a beautiful shell. I was listening to music I couldn’t hear.

 

Pentecost

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I was aiming to finish this by the 50th day after Easter. Late as usual. I wanted to put Mary’s flames in the middle, but somehow that didn’t work out. Perhaps we all burn equally bright before a loving God.

I’m thinking that this painting might be included in “Opening Prayer,” a book of poetry I recently finished.