Poems and Poetry

The First of the Year | A Poem by Donal Mahoney

Anyone who has had poetry published by an editor over the years has a
relationship with that editor whether one knows it or not.

Sometimes the relationship is lukewarm, other times bordering on
friendship, occasionally deep. Over time, writer and the editor notice
mannerisms in each other that are often never discussed since these
insights have nothing to do with the work and time may be important to
one or both. That’s happened to me with editors over the years but
never with such impact as happened in an incident that occurred not
long ago.

This editor has accepted my work on a regular basis and has kept his
distance, a safe place to be for anyone dealing with writers, most of
whom know how good they are. Every once in awhile, however, he would
tell me that my writing reminded him of some author I had never read.
I had always heard of the authors, some of them alive, others recently
dead, all very good writers by the standards of this era. He would
usually recommend a book or two by each author that he would say I
should read. This was the only time he would border on the imperative.
Otherwise he would sound as if he had been reading The New Yorker
since birth.

This kind of response from an otherwise detached but intelligent
editor is invigorating. To be compared to a good writer one has never
read has a double benefit: One must be writing some things well. And
one must not be subliminally plagiarizing the style of the author
mentioned since he has never read him or her.

In the last couple of months, however, this meticulous editor hasn’t
published a new issue, something he has done every month in the years
since I first encountered his site. I had no idea what might be the
matter. Stranger still, I had heard nothing from him and he was always
one to respond.

I began thinking that maybe his failure to write might have had
something to do with the last two pieces I had sent him. The content
of both would be politically incorrect in his eyes but not in mine. I
sent the pieces because it’s good at times to get a reaction from
someone whose taste you admire but who may not agree with you on the
issues of the day or on the bigger issues of life.

Not hearing from him on the controversial pieces, I decided to send
him a short story and a poem I thought he would like. Not too hot, not
too cold, perhaps just right. Maybe he needed copy. Maybe for some odd
reason submissions to his site were down.

A week later he wrote back and apologized for the delay in getting
back to me. He said he liked the work I had just sent, did not mention
the controversial pieces, and added that he would be putting his site
on hiatus till “after the first of the year.” Then he said, almost as
a casual afterword, that he could not recall if he had told me that he
has Stage 4 cancer. The email ended on that note.

No, he had not told me that tremulous fact and I mentioned that in my
reply. I took a chance and said that if he ever simply wanted to sound
off about something, I’d be happy to hear from him. I knew nothing
about him or his life so I might be a safe place, I thought, for him
to air whatever goes through the mind of someone with Stage 4 cancer.

So far he has not written back.

It will be hard waiting for the “after” that I hope comes “after the
first of the year.”

Visit Donal at http://booksonblog12.blogspot.com/.



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