A lovely bit of news – I’ve been selected as the Editor’s Choice in the latest iteration of the Rattle Monthly Ekphrastic Challenge! Hooray!
And what makes it even sweeter is that it was the first poem I managed to write this year, so I’m choosing to take it as an omen of Good Writing to Come.
I’d come across the competition a month or so earlier, while perusing listings on Duotrope as part of my vow to Be Good and Get More Poems Out There. I’ve got a couple of ekphrastic poems that have yet to find their home, so that was part of my searching. Rattle is one of those magazines that’s been on my radar for quite a while, so I leaped at the chance. I had a read through previous winners, and really liked what I saw. A mixture of formal and free, a huge range of styles and themes. And there are actually two winners each month: an Editor’s Choice and an Artist’s choice, which seemed like a really nice approach – both parties are coming at the question of which poem to choose from different angles, and it’s been fascinating to see the differences between the two selections in past competitions.
My (likely-to-be-broken-but-hey-why-not-at-least-try) resolution for this year is to try and write a poem for each monthly chllenge. I’m sure I won’t manage it (and probably shouldn’t enter again, at least for a little while), but it’s a good thing to aim at.
In the case of this poem, I played around with various Ekphrastic and/or photo-based exercises for a bit, but wasn’t sure what the tone was going to be. (I did, at one stage, have it beginning “Come, all ye people of San Francisco, and see /…”) What eventually gave me the way in to the poem was a bit of research on the etymology of the word calendar:
calendar: Middle English from Latin kalendarium; “moneylender’s account book”, from kalendae “calends”, the first day of each month, when accounts were traditionally settled.
So it would seem that the idea of time being money has always been around.
This got me thinking about the way that we talk about time – we spend it, we waste it, we wish we had more. And how the passage of time is represented – leaves turning colour, falling leaves, pages fluttering, wrinkles and aging, and dust accumulating … I began to see the woman in the picture as some kind of magician, pulling extra time out of the air and trying to hang on to it by pinning it to her clothes. (Go have a look at the image yourself on the website – I’m not sure about the copyright issues of my attaching it to this page directly, so go and have a look. I’ll wait.)
I also had a lot of fun trying to work out what coin to use – florin was the placeholder, but krugerrand is perfect, both in sound and sense. (For those who don’t know and don’t want to go looking – it’s a bullion coin, something created to be a investment, not ever currency. Ultimate bling. And for my generation at least, the association of krugerrands with apartheid also adds an element of suspect morality which I enjoyed echoing in the bankers reference).
I originally had the poem ending with the first line, but I kept stumbling back to it. So eventually I gave in, and had to wrack my brains for a new way to end the flipping thing. (Always tricky when you’re working on a lyric – rather than narrative – poem. The story is no help to you.) I think I managed to get the ending at around 11 pm on the night before it had to be in.
Jokes aside, I really am thrilled about this. I liked the poem, but although it got positive – and slightly solicitous – responses from my husband and crit group (not the same thing), I wasn’t sure it would work for other people as well. I don’t write lyric poems very often. And I was waaay too close to this one to be able to judge it yet – forget about nine months in the bottom drawer, this one barely got nine minutes. So Tim’s enthusiastic response was gratifying and reassuring in equal measure.
Moral of the story: try, even if you don’t have high expectations, because the muse may just be watching …