It was such an astonishing story--this whale roaming the world searching for another who speaks its language--that I kept repeating it as an anecdote to whomever would listen. Somewhere along the way I realized there was more here than just a story about the literal whale; this was a story about all of us.
I have to work diligently. I started writing poetry in 1968, I’m now 70 years of age.
The art has become a commodity; why is your voice any better (or different) than that writer’s? How do you get heard amid the roar? How do you keep your spirits up when everything tells you it doesn’t really matter if you keep on or quit writing?
So editing it just the worst thing. Ever. I want to just write a story, have it come out perfect, and be loved by the entire world overnight. Is that too much to ask? Yes, yes it is.
My approach to writing very short prose is varied. Sometimes it’s a matter of distilling a much longer story into one substantially shorter in length than the original, through a process of culling and refinement again and again until I’m satisfied that the story can’t be any further pared away at without consequence. I enjoy that challenge of crystallization, which involves thinking deeply about the reader, imagining what she may fill in with her intelligence, intuition, and empathic imagination and invention.
I once counted over three hundred rejection slips and notes in the box where I kept them until I had become reasonably “established” and burned the lot in a fireplace while I sipped a snifter of Cognac. I guess the process was, keep trying. When a poem came back, I’d revise it again and send it somewhere else.
Poetry came in my late teens-first, as a requirement for an amateur writing workshop I was selected to attend at age 15 then a few years later when a friend asked me to edit a poem he wrote for a girl. I became jealous of this use of a powerful but shorter art form and decide to try it.
Patty Yumi Cottrell is a Hamline alum with a Bachelor of the Arts in English. She'll be returning to campus this month to read and discuss her novel Sorry to Disrupt the Peace. The reading group is open to students, alumni, faculty, and staff members Thursday, April 13th from 11:30 am - 12:30 pm. A public reading will take place at 7 pm later that day in Giddens Learning Center 100E with a reception following in the GLC Art Gallery.
Always a bridesmaid and never a bride. You see, I was a finalist in WAY too many competitions Violet Reed Haas, Pine Press, Ronald Wardell Prize, RopeWalk Press, Paumanok, May Swenson, Philip Levine, Snake Nation Press, Paris Review, Zoo Press, Akron Press, University of Illinois Press Poetry Award, Hayden Carruth, New Issues (twice), Ann Stafford Prize, and Anhinga Prize (twice). It was sad and frustrating and expensive. The entry fees nearly killed me. To come so close and still end up with nada? My vision as to how things would go is that I would, ideally, win the Yale Younger Poets Prize and sail off into eternity. The reality was more sundry. The reality was exhausting. There were student loans and rent and bills to pay. I was struggling and failing on so many levels. Yet? After nothing and then nothing. AND THEN MORE OF NOTHING. Poof!