Tuesday, September 22, 2009


THANK YOU SFState Creative Writing Students for a deliriously-wonderful event last night. As your prof, Bob Gluck noted afterwards, You All Are Smart Peeps! With wonderfully-smart questions!

So, I hope you got that a poem is a Doorway Into Something Else, which means there's limited significance to publication -- hence I finished my presentation by tearing up my book! (Always creates a little frisson in the audience that makes Moi giggle...)


Partly reflecting budget cutbacks, the class was over a hundred students, the largest that Bob says he'd seen of this course. Which is wonderful if your book is an assigned text, like Nota Bene Eiswein. But I happen to think it's not a 1:1 student/book ratio -- I signed one book to two names because it was being shared by two students (I feel bad for these cramped student budgets...).

Certain of my recent books -- like the BRICK and the SON OF A BRICK -- are unlikely textbook prospects just because of their prices; Nota Bene Eiswein, at $16, is among my cheapest recent books. Just getting real here -- Nota Bene Eiswein tends to get a positive response, but it did get this textbook assignment because it was relatively affordable vs my other books (which I would have thought might have more meat as "educational" tools, the BRICK in particular...). But that's why contest books are often within a certain page count range, right? It'd also make prizewinning books more affordable for the college text market that right now has a significant share of volume poetry sales...

Anyway, this reminds me to do a side-rant on certain poetry bestsellers. There's one list in particular that used to impress me, but the choice of "bestsellers" is mostly based on which book gets picked up as a textbook (i.e., which book gets crammed down students' throats vs which book gets bought by a poetry lover). So if you're not plugged into the academic (including prize) circuit, you may write a faboo book but it's unlikely to get picked up. Which means that, yet again, attention gets skewed in terms of which books are fabulous reading as there are plenty of books out there that will never get assigned and yet, IMHO, are likely to present a better read than those being assigned. (By doing Galatea Resurrects, I hoped to circumvent that...). I say this as someone who has benefited from this poetry textbook system, but truly hope for an audience who comes to the poem ultimately for a different reason than that it was an assigned task. Which is to say, because poetry is part of their lives -- these are the most discriminating readers of poetry, btw, so that it all circles back critically (pun intended)...

(Not that my reading habits are some sort of determinant but, as someone who does read a lot of poetry books because of the ambition to read every single poem ever written, I can anecdotally share that so-called prize-winning books have not been competitive for holding my interest...)

One hope I got last night that this bankrupt distribution system won't have the last word in poetry dissemination is hearing from Bob that the COLLECTED SPICER (you go, Kevin K!) has sold over 80,000 books to date! Now that's a true bestseller -- not these lists that sometimes hype up the temporal hipster.


At literally the last minute before I left the house, Mom canceled on accompanying me. Her blood sugar levels were really down and she didn't feel up to it. It's something-that-turns-me-speechless: watching a parent weaken right in front of you, and knowing that it's not something that can be cured since aging is not something to be stopped. For Mom, she seems to focus a lot on what she discerns as my "achievements" as a poet (like getting invited to lecture at a school). It gives her much comfort, it seems, to know that people are reading my books -- if that be the case, that would certainly rank among the best *uses* of my poetry. And I then I begrudgingly throw over a Thank You to Ye Poetry Angels With Wingtips All Filthy From All Your Gambling...

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