Guest Post: Sea Change or How do you swim wearing weights? by Trina Gaynon

My definition of self is tied to my writing life. As an anchor it’s heavy enough, but its efficiency tends to depend on whether or not new poems are being turned out on a regular basis, without a great deal of added weight given to what the quality of the work is. Some poems need revision. Some fail. Some find a home in a journal or anthology. Yet the only tools I ever need are a pencil and a piece of paper. I appreciate their highly portable nature. Over the years I’ve written during breaks at restaurants in which I waited on tables, between classes while I was a substitute teacher, while driving, and while greeting the day on the patios of various homes. The only person I am responsible to is myself. There have been long spans of time during which I didn’t write. I used to see such a passage as a block that needed to be broken. Only recently have I accepted that there are times when other activities deserve to be given a higher priority.

Anna AkhmatovaMy identity undergoes changes as I commit to selecting, arranging, and editing Leaving My Shadow, an anthology of work, in English, from a number of authors in a variety of countries whose work is connected to or inspired by Anna Akhmatova, a Russian poet whose life spanned two world wars and a number of revolutions. This task finds me struggling to continue to write while I master the many electronic tools of the modern editor. It means entering the world of Facebook, updating my LinkedIn account, creating a webpage for the anthology, and sending calls for submissions to several websites. As a writer I used Submittable for free, as an editor I pay a monthly charge. Though I can, with my laptop, still work in a variety of settings, I am less comfortable when away from my desk computer with its WordPerfect software and familiar printer.

That printer does yeoman duty providing me with copies of submissions to read, for I have yet to cotton to reading on a screen. Sure an e-book is great for travel and turning a text into an erasure. But in this case, I annotate the texts as I read. Each submission and accompanying correspondence gets filed, both electronically in one big ocean of related emails and in paper by author’s name. With the exception of a handful of work received by snail mail, all this is duplicated at Submittable.

Besides turning me into an even bigger paper pusher, becoming an editor requires a major shift in where I center my weight. I am now responsible to and for the works of others. That makes me uncomfortable because I resist depending on or being depended upon by anyone. This becomes a major flaw in cooperative ventures. The only language I am fluent in is English. I am dependent on those who have translated Akhmatova’s work for my understanding of it and written responses to it. Those who, having read and written in Russian, traveled to Leningrad, and taught her poetry, sent me work and rely on me to complete the project I initiated.

 

 

Trina GaynonTrina Gaynon is a literacy tutor and one hell of a Mexican Train Domino player. She is currently editing an anthology of poems related to the legacy of Anna Akhmatova called Leaving My Shadow. Trina’s poems appear in The Great Gatsby Anthology, The San Diego Poetry Annual, Saint Peter’s B-list: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints, Obsession: Sestinas for the 21st Century, A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford, Phoenix Rising from the Ashes: Anthology of Sonnets of the Early Third Millennium, Bombshells: War Stories and Poems by Women on the Homefront, Knocking at the Door: Poems about Approaching the Other, and several WriteGirl anthologies, as well as numerous journals including Natural Bridge, Reed, and the final issue of Runes.  Her chapbook An Alphabet of Romance is available from Finishing Line Press.

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