One Leuchtturm down…

In early June 2019, I finished a Leuchttrum – I use these for drafting poetry. This one took about exactly one year.

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The “Table of Contents” for the just filled Leuchtturm notebook, starting with Patronymic, which I was writing in June 2018 when I started this notebook, and ending with Wend, which finished in June 2019. (As of today, about half of these pieces have been published or accepted for publication. Half of them were written this year – 2019 – so it’s still a little early yet for many of them to be published or accepted for publication.)


It’s a bit of a momentous occasion to fill a notebook. I celebrated by signing with a flourish, as you can partly see in the image above, next to the “6/3/19” date. I also  celebrated by getting a new notebook!

In this case, and kind of by chance, the draft for “Wend” was finished on the very last page of the old notebook, so unlike last year, when I kept writing the draft of “Patronymic” as I switched notebooks, this time the new Leuchtturm was just totally blank and waiting.

A blank notebook can be a little intimidating (as well as exciting), but in this case, my usual work process helped out – and maybe it will help you. 

I don’t have a lot of time to write, and I tend to work on only one piece at a time. I keep a list of ideas and phrases separate from my drafting, so I can go back to them when I’m ready to start another piece. (You’ll see one exception to that process in the image above, when I stopped writing what was then tentatively titled “Cosmology” to write “Beauty for Ashes,” and then returned to “Cosmology” which was finished as a piece titled “Object Permanence.”) Those lists of words and phrases are there to help me when I’m ready to write.

Even more importantly, when I faced the blank notebook, I stopped to “mine” the old notebook for any phrases or ideas that I had been using in prior drafts of poetry, that didn’t make the final cut of those pieces. As I started writing these ideas and phrases in one place in the new notebook, an idea started to gel for the next piece, which I have since begun. Mining the old notebook paid off! The place-holder title for the piece I’m now working on is “Numeracy.”

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Ideas and phrases from the just finished Leuchtturm, including Shakespeare quotes, scriptural phrases, single words, ideas and concepts, etc.


And so it continues. I’m excited to see what pieces will be written between June 2019 and June 2020 as I use this new notebook. (It’s exciting to look at the “Table of Contents” in the first image above and realize that a year ago, none of those pieces existed – and that I have since had the joy of discovery in writing them and bringing them into this world and getting to know them.)

And I’m excited to see what life holds in store over the next year. On with the adventure!

2018 in review: Submissions and rejections

As I mentioned, I set a goal to have 100 rejections of my poetry submissions in 2018. I just counted, and I didn’t quite make my goal.

Getting the final tally is a little tricky, because some of the sites I submitted to didn’t use Submittable – which means rejections may have been by separate emails. I think I got it right for my summary count – or at least I am very close.

Here is the list of rejections:

Total rejected poem submissions in 2018: 81 rejections!! I didn’t quite hit 100.

Most rejected poems that were never accepted: A tie for “the author of elements” and “Inquest,” both of which were rejected 11 times each! I like these poems, but decided it was time to share them here at underwhelm, where maybe only my mother might say she loved them, rather than continue to try to help them find the right venue. Together, these two poems were about 25% of the total rejections for the year for all my submissions 🙂 They never found a home, so I brought them back here.

Most rejected poem before being accepted: “Patronymic” was rejected 10 times (!) before being accepted (one verse was accepted) for publication. It was picked up at the fabulous Junto Magazine, where a terrific editor has now worked with me on revisions of both “Fractal” and “Patronymic.”

Least rejected poems before being accepted: “Gamos” and “Third Watch” were both accepted the first place they were each submitted. They are the exceptions, for sure. “Gamos” was also unique as the first poem I ever submitted and heard back – which was an auspicious start! This is an important reminder to me of really trying to understand what a poetry journal is about and what it is looking for, and selecting the best venue for submission for each individual poem.


I thought the only way I’d ever see any of these pieces accepted for publication would be to have lots and lots of rejections. Setting a goal helped turn a potentially unpleasant experience (rejection) into a positive part of the journey.

Because it is a journey!


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And the good news?

In 2018, I had 10 pieces accepted for publication! I never saw that coming when I set a new year’s resolution last year to write and submit a poem a month. What an encouraging start!

What is your goal in 2019? How can you turn rejection into a positive experience on the path towards achieving your goal or reaching a dream? It’s worth thinking about. And it’s never too late to start!

So now, on to 100 rejections in 2019!



Rumination (the most unlikely favorite poem)

On May 4, 2018, I realized that my stream of consciousness upon waking was a poem. I wrote it down straight as I thought it as I woke up.

I don’t consider it one of the composed poems like my others on this site and I don’t expect anyone to ever want to publish it. I don’t list it on the index of this blog. But I have to share it, because I really like it, even though it’s horrible 🙂

Here it is – straight as I thought it as I woke up – I hope it’s your new favorite, too 🙂



Today is my vacation day,

but I woke up hearing the neighbors

     dragging out their garbage cans.

I need to take out my cans, too.


Immediately my mind jumps to lists:

so what are my goals for today?


Maybe I don’t need goals for today?

I took a vacation day —

     maybe I can just be?


But I still have to take out the garbage.

Then I’ll ‘just be.’


Or maybe I’ll ‘just be’ in the moment,

     taking out the garbage.


Fully alive.

The journey of a thousand rejections

I set a goal this year to write a poem each month and submit it for publication. I only started writing again in October last year, and this goal seemed an important way to reinforce my rediscovery of my joy of writing.

At some point since setting this goal, I ran across the idea of trying to be rejected 100 times a year. Essentially, I decided to submit poetry like Wayne Gretzky played hockey – he famously said something to the effect of “you’ll miss every shot you don’t take.” I’ll miss every publication opportunity I don’t try for. So I’m trying for 100 rejections!

And, I’m happy to say, I’m on track!

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Poems that hadn’t found the right home – from my Submittable portal.

In July I had 8 or 9 rejections – that’s about the right pace. One of the poems above – Bereft – was later accepted and just recently published. And that’s the idea. As hard as it is to have a steady stream of rejections coming in, rejections are the path to acceptance (well, that and trying to write well, and with as much honesty and craft as I can). It’s a matter of trying to find the right outlet for each piece.

I love writing poetry – and have great personal satisfaction in completing each piece. I just hope they also can find the right home!

In the meanwhile – and along the way – it’s a journey of a thousand rejections.




I must be at least an honorary Icelander. I’ve never been to Iceland, but song’s like Olafur Arnalds – re:member really connect somewhere deep.

It’s like this: remember when you first heard “Grow ’til Tall” by Jonsi? Oh, wait – that was me. Remember when you first heard “Hrafntinna” by Sigur Ros, or “Old Skin” by Olafur Arnalds, or “Dark Water” by Agent Fresco, or “Waves” by Hugar? Remember the first time you heard all of these songs by these Icelandic artists (and many more)? Oh, wait – those were all me, too. Well, those songs all connected!

Anyway, the odds are good that you need more Icelandic music in your life – and you might as well start by listening to this lovely new song by Olafur Arnalds.

Olafur Arnalds – re:member

It’s like a little modern Goldberg Variation – not in it’s complexity or technical difficulty – but in it’s integrity, coherence, recursiveness, and regularity.  This is a gem. I hope to hear more like this.

And I still hope someday to go to Iceland, my honorary musical home.


The “First” Post

Welcome to underwhelm – don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Captain Spock (as portrayed by the late Leonard Nimoy) once wisely said: “There is a first time for everything.” I was staggered when I heard him say that. There I was, 8 years old watching “The Wrath of Khan,” and my little kid brain was blown. I had an epiphany I still remember: “Holy cow! He’s right – there really is a first time for everything!”

While Spock was correct about firsts, everything at underwhelm will be second. At least the poetry will be second, because this is where I will publish my poetry after it is has first been published elsewhere. There is of course a huge assumption there: that anyone will publish it somewhere first. This is after all poetry maybe only my mother might say she loved. This could end up being the world’s shortest blog.

Besides the second run on poetry, underwhelm will feature earlier drafts and annotations for these poems in future posts. “Behind the scenes” and “making of” extras are among my favorite things – so I’ll share mine here with you.

Someone just has to publish these poems somewhere else first, just like Spock said. And speaking of first…

Gamos was the first.

In October 2017 I wrote my first poem in about 25 years: Gamos. I’m excited to report that Gamos was just accepted for publication this week. My first poem and first acceptance! (Thanks, Spock!) I look forward to sharing it – and the story behind it – with you here. First, it will appear in the Fall 2018 issue of Inscape Journal from my alma mater.

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The first acceptance – screenshot from Submittable.

I made a New Year’s resolution in 2018 to monthly write a poem and submit for publication to reinforce the habit of writing. So far so good! Of course, I made that goal with the expectation of repeated denials and resubmissions. I’m happy to report, I’ve also had my first denial! (Thanks, Spock!)

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The first rejection – screenshot from Submittable

What a wonderfully apt title for a first rejection! I’ve already resubmitted Bereft elsewhere – and if it’s ever picked up for publication, I look forward to sharing it with you, too. Because that would be one more first: the first acceptance after rejection.

And that’s the “first” post. Welcome to underwhelm. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.