Last year I put together a sequence of prose-poems, 64 in total, called "The Book of Random Access". It's got precisely 16,384 words in it (64 x 256). Not long after writing it, I decided that I'd wasted my time, that the piece wasn't up to much, and almost hit the delete key. I didn't, and now some sections have been accepted for Great Works and the Hamilton Stone Review, and I've had positive responses from friends who've seen it. So naturally, I feel more well-disposed towards it now. What's interesting about this is that it's an experience that keeps happening; work that I really want people to like and publish, usually doesn't turn people on. Work that I feel indifferent to, sometimes I even feel slightly hostile to, is often the stuff that people like. And after time, I come to agree. That's why the sense of a readership, however small, is so important. For myself, I find it very hard to gauge the quality of my own work until someone else has seen it; then, sometimes even before I know their reaction, I seem to be able to evaluate it more objectively, as if I can now see it through their eyes.
As to why work I'm indifferent to is often the stuff that works for others, it's hard to say. I think it must be something to do with the 'willed' quality of work - the less willed, or consciously directed, the better. I don't think it matters what type of work it is; whether it's nature-poetry, witty aphorism, cut-up, flarf - the state of mind required to produce good work seems to be the same. The artist doodles on a scrap of paper while mulling over a masterwork, then finds the doodles are far more interesting than the painting. Maybe that's what poets meant when they talked about being visited by the muse. Jack Spicer's poet as radio, receiving transmissions from outer space. Or in Buddhist terms, "emptiness" - the state of mind in which we don't identify with the products of the ego.
All of which is a complicated way of advertising my prose-poem. Or passing the time on this winter's night. Snow and ice outside, a glass of mulled wine in my hand.