who do you write for?

"I think that a lot of the time we get caught up in the illusion of importance, making what you do be wildly significant or relevant.  Henri Nouwen talks about how people often have three major illusions.  People want to be relevant, spectacular, and powerful.  In our context, it’s really easy to get caught up in that.  We tend to think on the macro, rather than the micro.  Maybe that’s good for some people.  It’s not good for me.  It makes me ill.  It makes me anxious and frustrated.  I’m hoping when people do something like Making Manifest, they feel like the woman who drops the one coin into the box at the temple.  Like, This is what I have to offer today.  This one coin is not going to make a massive difference in the life of any person, but it’s going to allow that woman to see the world in a genuine way, because it’s her real offering.  It’s a distinct and genuine offering, you know?  And if we prepare ourselves to do that every day, then we start to see the world differently.  We begin to see how our small offering makes a difference in that world.  It can be something small."
 - dave harrity, interview 

thursday my family and i had the opportunity to go out to breakfast with the school's visiting poet speaker for the day--his visit being a large part of the creative writing english department event i'd been planning for a year--and we had some time before the next event on the itinerary. we'd finished our oatmeal and chickenbiscuits and scrambled eggs, and zu was moderately occupied, playing with the scrunched up straw-wrappers littering the table.

so i wanted to know what he thought. tuesday i found out my book, my first poetry book, is going to be published next year. i hadn't (and still haven't) had time to fully sit and absorb this information, to process what this means--something i have wanted, book publication, since i was a small child, finally achieved. editors having enough faith in and love for my words that they're willing to put time and money and their name behind it.

my book is coming out through a small press; i read so many poets that i admire who got their start, at least, with small presses--mary biddinger, jennifer k. sweeney, george ella lyon, and, yes, todd davis, to name just a few--yet when i got my acceptance, i was worried that it wasn't enough. i'd just revised my manuscript yet again. this was only the 4th press that had seen this new version. should i wait to win a big fancy contest, for a huge university press?

who are your readers? who are you truly writing for? he asked. are you writing for these people?

no. of course not. when i picture who i am writing for, it's for my children and their children. i imagine a great-great-great-great grandchild--sometime far in the future--digging through a box of keepsakes in the attic and coming across a little book of poems. and reading it, and knowing me in a deeper way than some people will ever know me.

he said later, in a class he taught that day, that when he gets to heaven, he wants to lay these works at the savior's feet--these little poems of praise, rejoicing, questioning, interpreting the mystery of God's created world--without shame, his small offering.

what he does not want to offer--poems written because he knew they could get published, poems written because they are trendy at the time or timely at the time, the sci-fi novel he knew he could make money off of, the article he wrote to be impressive.  what would i want a university press or big fancy contest winning for, really? not a teaching job--got that. not a book tour--don't want to leave my babies. pride, and that's it; and after confessing that, i was able to fully rejoice in this wonderful gift God's given me this week, a dream come true for me really, to see years of work come together with a spine and binding and typeset print.

i'm thankful God had me reading MakingManifest--a book that has challenged my thoughts on writing as devotion--and had my path cross with this older and wiser poet at this time of my writing life, this particular week. it was convicting and...a re-alignment of sorts... for me. i needed to be reminded of why i write, of who i write for.  my distinct and genuine offering.


  1. I love this: "he said later, in a class he taught that day, that when he gets to heaven, he wants to lay these works at the savior's feet--these little poems of praise, rejoicing, questioning, interpreting the mystery of God's created world--without shame, his small offering."

    What greater responsibility is there?

  2. Beautiful, beautiful post.

  3. Anonymous12:20 PM

    YAY! I'm so happy to read this!!

    I've actually been feeling the same way about book publication lately, feeling like I "need" to win a contest to impress my former classmates, old faculty, etc. It'd be nice to win one, but I also don't want a book tour nor do I care to get a job at a college now or ever really. It being from a huge press isn't going to make me want to work for a college anymore, but it might open up some options. I don't know. We're all on the same journey!