PITTANCES FOR POETRY
I’ve long thought poetry hardbacks to be a silly exercise in cultural capital (even though they have value for library collections and other porpoises). Silly because, I bought two recently by Margaret Atwood and Robert Hass. Most poets’ books, of course, go immediately to paperback. I assume Atwood got the hardback because she’s also a successful novelist. Hass got his … actually, Hass got his deservedly, full stop.
But lookit—these hardbacks inevitably (and swiftly) go on the remainder bins. I spent $7.00 for the Hass Book which initially retailed for $34.99. I spent $5.00 for the Atwood which initially retailed for $25.00. Who are we all fooling with these hardback issuances anyway?
Speaking of more pittances for poetry, the rest of the purchased poetry books or books by poets in my new RECENTLY BOUGHT POETRY List below came from our local library sale. I purchased the John N. McDowell (a great read, by the way) for a buck. Then I purchased the rest on the sale’s last day which is one of those *Fill A Paper Bag With As Many Books As You Can Cram* for $3! This means the other 19 titles were purchased at about five cents per book! (No wonder I trade poetry!)
Well, Dear Poetry, I know you don’t really care (and I’m just amusing moiself with following your cash equivalents) because your valuation is so, ahem, difficult … precisely because you’re priceless! Anyhoo, so Moi recently bought:
THE APPLE TREES AT OLEMA: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS by Robert Hass
THE DOOR by Margaret Atwood
CLAY FEET / WIRE WINGS, poems by John N. McDowell
MARINA TSVETAEVA: THE DOUBLE BEAT OF HEAVEN AND HELL, biography by Lily Feiler
SYLVIA PLATH: A BIOGRAPHY by Linda K. Wagner-Martin
THE RING AND THE BOOK by Robert Browning with engravings by Carl Schultheiss
PRIMER FOR NON-NATIVE SPEAKERS by Philip Metres
NATURAL HISTORIES by Leslie Ullman
THE TULIP SACRAMENT by Annah Sobelman
SAINTS OF HYSTERIA: A HALF-CENTURY OF COLLABORATIVE AMERICAN POETRY, co-edited by Denise Duhamel, Maureen Seaton and David Trinidad
SELECTED POEMS OF RUMI, Translated by Reynolds A. Nicholson
THE SEPARATE NOTEBOOKS by Czeslaw Milosz, Translated by Robert Hass and Robert Pinsky
EROS: THE BITTERSWEET by Anne Carson
JOURNAL OF A SOLITUDE by May Sarton
CAMPOCORTO by Peter Meinke with drawings by Jeanne Meinke
SELECTED POEMS IN FIVE SETS BY Laura Riding Jackson
SAPPHIC SONGS: SEVENTEEN TO SEVENTY by Elsa Gidlow
THE MOON IS ALWAYS FEMALE by Madge PIercy
JEW BOY by Alan Kaufman
WOMEN OF THE BEAT GENERATION by Brenda Knight
DEADLINE POET by Calvin Trillin
HERE AND NOWHERE ELSE by Jane Brox
What a bounty for a nickel each, yah? (That Philip Metres is a revelation! So happy to have it!) But this also reflects how these mostly-donated books don't make it into the library collection. So librarians aren't putting these books (some of which were hardback) into the library (what's wrong with this picture?). I always pick up all the poetry titles because I don't want to see them languishing and I know I may just be the only customer for poetry; at least Galatea will give them a home...
Oh, but by the way, it’s kind of cool to go to a library sale and see one of your poems in play! That is, I and Nick Carbo collaborated on a fabulous poem that ended up in SAINTS OF HYSTERIA: A HALF-CENTURY OF COLLABORATIVE AMERICAN POETRY, co-edited by Denise Duhamel, Maureen Seaton and David Trinidad. Check out this anthology from Soft Skull Press—it’s really well-done, with notes on the collaborative process. So the poems are not just wonderful but the collaborative process notes are very useful and educational!