In the interests of full disclosure, I also wrote a poem during that hurricane month of writing. On the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death, a plaque in his honor was dedicated in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. I got to wondering what Jack would think about this celebration of him and that became a poem, “Jack Views His Own Memorial.” (What-ifs are great springboards for poems and stories.)
I actually wrote the poem before I wrote anything else and I shot it off still sizzling to a literary magazine which has published two of my previous submissions.
After I submitted it, knowing this quarterly magazine wouldn’t publish it for a couple of years even if they did accept it, I sort of hoped they’d turn it down. I thought I’d rather make it available at the C.S. Lewis 50th Anniversary Celebration at the 2014 C.S. Lewis Summer Conference, July 21-31, 2014, Oxford & Cambridge, England. The conference will commemorate Lewis’ death and celebrate his joining the other illuminaries in Poets’ Corner. The poem seemed so appropriate for that venue I didn’t care if it got published.
When the executive editor of the literary magazine wrote back, she sent me the response of their poetry editor, Luci Shaw, whose work I love and for whom I have the utmost respect. Luci Shaw called the poem “really fine.” (The executive editor commented, “This is high praise from her, most poems are rejected.”)
She accepted it–conditional upon my “gently cutting some of the middle sections” to meet their length guidelines. “The rest of the poem says enough,” she added. “I like the parallel between the epigraph and the ‘stained finger pointing.'”
But the middle section she wanted me to cut includes Lewis’ actual words, which show his disapproval, even horror, of publicity that threatens to take focus off the Lord. Hmm. I thought the poem really needed them. And I would rather cut my own words than his!
So I took a risk. I thanked them very nicely, apologized for any inconvenience I had caused them, and said I thought I’d rather send it elsewhere. The executive editor wrote back, “You have caused [us] no inconvenience. This will not impact your relationship with [this magazine]. We appreciate the articles you’ve written for our pages! But do remember that it is high praise for Ms. Shaw to say your poem is ‘really fine.'”
Don’t I know it!
But the dye was cast. So I emailed “Jack” to Dr. Stan Mattson, founder and president of the C.S. Lewis Foundation in Redlands, California, telling him I give the Foundation permission to use the poem any way they want–publish it in one of their publications and/or run off copies to make available to attendees at Oxbridge.
Stan’s receptionist, who received the email, wrote back, “I read it right away; it’s incredible. Some of the word clusters and imagery you use are so strikingly beautiful. One of my favorite parts is: ‘Normans no longer strain to conquer but accept confinement with crumbled indifference.’ The image of ‘crumbled indifference’–and the close association in my mind of ‘crumpled’ and all that accompany those words–masterfully exhibits the crude reality of death, and the more miraculous affirmation of a ‘bodily resurrection.’ What a beautiful gift you’ve given the Foundation. Thank you for making my day!”
I wrote back, “You’ve made mine!” Because the passage which she quoted as one of her “favorite parts” was from the middle section of the poem I had been asked to cut!
Thank you for confirmation, Lord!
I haven’t yet heard from Stan. He may respond with “crumpled indifference” (crumpling it and throwing it in the wastebasket). When I know their wishes regarding using–or not using–this gift, I’ll post the poem for you.