Auld Lang Syne

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Support your local poet(s); a teeny tiny rant

Today I am going off the rails a bit to complain. I don't like to do this, but sometimes one must.  A complaint can sometimes seem like (or be) whining. I am not a whiner. But I do think I want to speak out.

I am what I like to think of as a poet's poet. I have been told this by not just a few people. I support poetry in many ways, not the least of which is buying poetry books, either for my personal library or for giving away to others or to public libraries and schools. I attend readings and book launches whenever I can. I particularly like to buy directly from poets at readings and book launches. If I cannot do this, I order them from publishers or find them in bookstores.

I think this is what ought to happen — because unlike someone with a film, a novel, or a memoir, poets do not get huge sales for their books even when they do sell them, unless they have the good luck to become nationally known. Even at readings, it is rare for poets to sell many books. There is interest in reading poetry, just not so much in buying it. I have noticed a phenomenon that is, frankly, quite disturbing. Some people attend readings and go up to speak with the poet afterward, but instead of buying the book from the poet, they will ask the poet to email a copy of a poem or provide a printed copy of that "special poem I loved so much which brought me to tears." I'd love to have a copy for my sister whose ..... can you send it to me?  I am amazed that some people think poems ought to be free, where they would never assume a novelist would give away a chapter. I've considered putting out a tip jar at readings, the way musical groups do at cafés and coffee houses. Suggested donation, $5. Maybe a "free" poem for your donation. By the way, at my readings I always have a door prize or two, usually one of my books.

We who write work very hard at our craft. To poets, every word is critical: right word, right place. Writing poems is not a matter of taking nice sentences and breaking them into lines (or it shouldn't be that). Poems are mirrors. They are magic boxes. They are clues and answers to the riddle that is humanity. So we who write them are careful. We know that the wrong word can change everything. It is a big responsibility. We FEEL that responsibility when we write.  The truth of the matter is that most poets are the starving artists we hear about in clichés. No, I am not starving. I am fortunate to be supported by a loving husband who is happy to feed me, and then some.

I am a writer, an artist. This is not a hobby. It is something for which I attended school, for which I earned two degrees. I am a professional. So are all of us who write and make books.

So if you have a book, I will buy it. If you hold a reading or a book launch, I will do my best to attend if I am in town where you are holding your event. I will buy your books there too.

OK, I am done now. I will keep this short because I have to dash off to get my free root canal.

No comments:

Post a Comment