Posts Tagged ‘Booklist’

So why write poetry, anyhow?

August 8th, 2010

The author in China, drinking tea with ground up turtle shell jelly.

Not for the money, that’s for sure.  Booklist and Library Journal ignored To Join the Lost, which is what I guess they do to titles not offered by the already bankable (I don’t think either of them regularly reviews poetry anyway), and without the imprimatur of those two gatekeepers one’s chance is greatly diminished of entering the literary Valhalla represented by a review in the New York Times or other national publication, and since it is reviews that spur sales one is stuck with whatever business one’s hometown paper can inspire (if one is lucky enough to obtain their notice, which I have been) and of course friends and relatives.  That stack of cartons in the living room, author’s copies, isn’t likely to get much smaller any time soon.

But it’s an itch I cannot help but scratch.  A college professor once told me, “Seth, words come too easily to you.”  True of prose, not of poetry.  Poetry is hard.  I can bash out five hundred, a thousand words of prose without any effort at all.  Ten lines of verse is a good day.  Is it the challenge?

Partly.  There are several kinds of challenge here.  There is the gamesmanship of working in form.  If you’re not thinking about form when you write, as you write, with every word that you write, then you’re not paying attention to the thing

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