First Sighting: Dots & Dashes!

| Dots & Dashes

When I first starting submitting poems to journals in the distant year of 2000, I loved going to check my mailbox. At the time, I lived in Annapolis, Maryland, in a ratty apartment on Cathedral Street, a block away from the local hospital. My place had no air conditioning, the windows leaked when it rained, and nights were punctuated with the blue-and-red flashing of ambulance sirens. My apartment ate up most of my salary. A big night out on the town was an iced latte and a scone at the coffee bar across the street, 49 West (amazingly, this place still exists).

When I wasn’t working, I stayed home, drafting poems and polishing my application materials to graduate school. And I began sending submissions to literary journals. This was back in the era of SASEs (that’s self-addressed stamped envelopes, for those of you in the Submittable generation) and clubby envelopes stuffed with tri-folded poems.

Everyday, I would go to the mailbox and open the little metal door, hoping that this would be the day I found an acceptance from a journal inside. I would see those self-addressed stamped envelope waiting inside the box, recognize my own block handwriting on the front of each one and, for a moment, I was all anticipation: holding my breath, my hands almost trembling. When it finally happened, when a journal finally said yes, my mother happened to be visiting me. I sat down on the curb outside my house and began to weep. My mother thought something terrible happened but began tear up too when I handed the acceptance letter to her.

It’s funny that I don’t even remember the name of that first journal anymore.

The mailbox is less exciting now that most acceptances are sent by email. But, today, I was sitting on the couch with Lola the Bedlington Terrier, when I heard a little thump at my front door. Fierce guard dog that she is, Lola immediately leapt up and began barking. When I opened the door, I discovered a large box sitting on the mat. And, inside that, were many beautiful copies of Dots & Dashes! Although this is my six poetry colleciton, I can’t say that the excitement of seeing one’s manuscript become book (the word made flesh) ever recedes.

Dots & Dashes doesn’t officially enter the world until the start of August. But, today, it feels real to me.  I am holding this book and turning its pages and am so grateful for the privilege of having helped to make this thing.