Last summer I decided it was time for people to read what I wrote. By then I’d written at least two or three things I didn’t hate. Chief among them: a piece drafted immediately after my family and I trespassed on sacred indigenous lands in northeastern Vermont. I spoke to God and/or the auditory hallucinations of my dissociated mind and/or a dragonfly which told me to climb onto a dead tree hanging over a cliff and hold on for dear life. I did and I didn’t die and I had a renewed appreciation for life afterwards, for a while. Then I wrote about it. Then I decided I was a genius for it. And everyone should know my name.
I did some Google front page research and discovered, indeed, there are many blogs seeking young and exciting unpublished authors – the literary equivalent of hot singles in your area. I was drawn to a regional indie magazine, Monadnock Underground, promoting both poets and psychonauts in the Twin States, on a rolling submission basis. I thought, sounds like me, and, okay, and wrote up an email to the editor and fired away.
One can wait days, months, years, for a rejection letter from these under patronized validation factories I quietly craved. While I waited patiently for mine, I discovered a whole community of writers my age who also craved the validation that their best tweets say something funny and profound about the state of humanity. What’s more, some of the journals they Instagram followed and Twitter mentioned were cool! They had simple witty bios and irreverent self aware branding and one even had a skull for a profile picture. I wanted in. I also knew it would be easy. Those suckers would see a wonderbread white former gifted child writing about life and have no choice but to validate me. I’m a young and exciting unpublished writer. And a genius. Obviously.
But these magazines, I knew, were way too cool to trifle with something as plain as nature writing, divine dragonflies or no. So I sent out my edge-lordliest pieces: the horror movie set at an influencer camp; the soul-baring Internet search history set to prose; the alternate reality version of Charlie Brown who wears a MAGA hat and keeps Snoopy stuffed on the mantle and saw Linus get his scalp blown off in the Gulf War. At the same time, the dragonfly piece was accepted, by none other than Monadnock Underground, home to poets and psychonauts like me. Phenomenal, they called it. Stunning and original. Thanks, I said, like, tell me something I don’t know.
The cool journals did instead. I wasn’t the right fit, they said – the literary equivalent of go get psychiatric help, you tactless lunatic. Luckily, self awareness and rejection arrived simultaneously. Even stinging freshly, I saw the poetic irony clearly etched in the blue light of my tablet. A mere hint of validation had gone straight to my ego. Meanwhile, the one story I hadn’t written with to mythologize my sense of self, the one about doing what the dragonfly tells you, no matter how uncomfortable and/or terrifying, was sitting in an editor’s inbox, possibly awaiting publication, probably forgotten. With all my egotism dashed, and nothing but a little regional literary journal under my feet, I waited and waited with no response and wondered if, this time, the limb would hold me.
It did. What The Dragonfly Wanted became my first and only journal-published essay and I am thankful to bring it into the world with a collection of poets and psychonauts behind it, no matter the size. Not because it strokes my ego or validates my pride. Because it was what the dragonfly wanted.