Sunday, September 17, 2006

Also while I was at Carly's party, I talked with a poet who shared her book publication woes. Actually it's a pretty standard situation, one I've heard (with slight variations) a number of times. Some years back she won a "prestigious" first book prize, was reviewed in many places and sold out the entire 2500 print run. The press that published her award winning book asked to have first crack at her next manuscript. A couple years later her second manuscript was ready, the editor she worked with on her first book was gone and it turns out the press didn't ever publish additional titles by the award winners. She sent to other contests and non-contest reading periods -- often getting personal letters from editors saying they loved her book, it was wonderful and if only they had a spot . . .

Now it's years later and she still hasn't found a home for her second manuscript. What should she do? she asked.

I wanted to tell her to self-publish it, but she teaches in a writing program and that would probably be bad for her career -- and that's how she makes her living, so l had to be conscious of her particular situation.

So what is she to do? I talked a bit with her about micro-presses, something I'm guessing she wouldn't have thought she'd have to consider a few years ago (her first book was a big hit), but she was interested in hearing more. I told her about my press, my tiny budget per book, etc. She asked how I got word out about books -- clearly I'm not buying advertising space in print publications (does that work for poetry books?).

The conversation further affirmed my very firm affirmation that I'm not interested in getting into teaching and limiting my work's options for finding an audience.

Neither am I interested in sitting in weekly workshops or any classroom for that matter.

I reserve my exception for any visiting non-genius, simply-fabulous lecturer appointments -- you know, where I can stand in front of a room once a week and talk about myself -- that would be pretty cool. I'd probably do that for free.

But the teaching path means all the awesome online and micro-press journals -- with work I love -- I'd be discouraged from sending work to, or at the very least my "good" work because it wouldn't add much to my CV. Instead all the boring, dull, prestigious publications I'd be trying break into so I could "stand out" from the other 300 applications. Or look good for a tenure commitee.

I'd have to deal with the gatekeepers on a regular basis.

Bleh bleh bleh -- I've done stuff like for other non-poetry jobs so I could list those magic combination of words on my resume and yeah, that's part of life and if you want to participate and be successful, that's what you're going to have to do, but I don't want that to be part of my poetry. It's part of my life enough already.

People often ask me if I want to teach and don't believe me when I say no. The same friend asks every single time he sees me and politely listens to my reasoning why I don't -- and he knows me pretty well -- but even he doesn't believe me.

It's the old but you could do *that* and yeah, maybe I could (or maybe showing up to interviews in sequined hot shorts will ensure I'd never get hired). But I could do *this* instead and *this* is what I'm excited about and this is poetry we're talking about and if I'm not excited about it, I don't see any reason to do it.

And I don't begrudge those doing it for a salary, health care, home, electricity, food. That's important stuff. What's the saying, oh yeah, some of my best friends teach in university writing programs! Some of them are wonderful teachers doing important work. All I'm saying there are a lot of reasons for a poet not to go that route and believe me, it's not because I look down on teaching (I definitely don't), and it's not that I don't have any self-esteem about my work or myself (I'm quite smitten with myself). The teaching of creative writing and literature flourishes well without my participation.

Think of all the young, hot, impressionable students I'm not getting a chance to tap. More for you!

Coming soon -- new poems in the Fuckhole Review. Stay tuned.


At 5:45 PM, Blogger C. Dale said...

I like this post. I needed it today.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Jimmy said...

Fuckhole Review won't even take my calls...


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