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Nin Andrews
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Last winter, Nicole Santalucia, published her first book, Driving Yourself to Jail in July, a delightful chapbook full of the spunk and spirit and incredible life stories. After its arrival, Nicole wrote and asked me, How do I get my book out there? Do I have to become a little prick? No, I wrote back. You have to become a big prick. A big self-promoting prick. Since then, I have thought a lot about the pressure poets feel to promote their books. To tweet them, to Facebook them, to blog them, to Tumblr them in order to get them reviewed somewhere somehow, and to find that illusive key to success. You have to build your social platform, a media-savvy poet informed me. But how? And does it work? Especially if we are all doing it at once? And aren’t we all a little tired of the endless selfies and narcissistic posts about our latest moment in the sun? Am I the only one who feels nauseated by it all? It’s as if we are supposed to become our own personal advertising agencies, selling books as if they were common household goods. But really, who, but a handful of other poets, are our interested buyers? This isn’t Avon we’re selling. Or Tupperware. I had one editor suggest I join a church or the Y in order to find more people to buy my poetry. I am not sure whom among the reverent would purchase books like Why God Is a Woman, Spontaneous Breasts, or The Book of Orgasms, but I suppose anything is possible. I had another editor suggest I move to New York City because, well, who buys poetry books in Poland, Ohio? In New York, he said, I would meet the right people who would give me the right readings, write glowing reviews, and invite me onto the stages where real success happens. (If only such success were as simple as a move! If only I could move with a snap of my fingers!) I had another editor insist I retake my photo for the book jacket because my photograph wasn’t pretty. Should I go to Glamour Shots? I asked. He answered simply, Books by pretty women sell better. Clearly the presses are as desperate as the poets. I’ve had fellow poets show me contracts from publishers in which they have had to agree to review other poetry books by their publisher—as well as provide readings and audiences for poets published by their publisher. I have had friends tell me that that their editors have asked if they could guarantee book sales. And I, like most of my fellow poets, have filled out pages of information for my presses that might, just might help them sell my books. And afterwards, I have felt pathetic. Like a lost cause. Or an ugly teenage girl at a high school dance. I am not, alas, a social-media personality. I try from time to time, but I stink at it. I am naturally... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
I suppose I am the garbage collector in this tale. My mother, who will not be with us much longer I think, has been trying very hard to get rid of books. Everyone else has shown no interest. I have now a complete Shakespeare collection from the 1700s, a signed Faulkner, and a lot of very peculiar mouldering volumes. Last time we were all gathered, and my mother once again begged everyone to search the books, I made my pile, and suddenly everyone suddenly became jealous. Some of these old books are so strange, it is hard to explain their value. Language is used so differently from one century to the next, and history, too, changes--the same events told in 1900, for example, are not at all the same at all. But I do pity whoever comes after me.
The three letters, AWP, give me the willies, but I will look for these books in 2012.
I'd love to see a photo of these poppies on the the black armbands when they played their "friendly." I love that, term, "friendly," as opposed to a regular game, of what, a hostile?
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I thought I would close this week of blogging with the amazing Nicole Santalucia with a few parodies . . . Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
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Why bitch? you might ask. Indeed why? Especially when the word, poetry, seems at odds with the cultural landscape. Especially when the label, poet, is often synonymous with some kind of annoying and pretentious buffoon, much like those that appear in Kenneth Koch’s story, “The Lockets.” Especially when even the best poets feel pressured to become ceaselessly self-promoting on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and whatever else is new out there, as they seek glory in cyberspace. For comic relief I turn to reviews like DMQ, Gargoyle, Praxilla, Triggerfish, and Plume, and to poets like Peter Johnson, Mark Halliday, Mitch Sisskind, Kenneth Koch, Russell Edson, Henri Michaux, Denise Duhamel, Salvatore Attardo, and of course, the one and only Nicole Santalucia. (There are many others as well, thankfully.) I have to laugh, for example, when Peter Johnson rants and raves in his latest collection Rants and Raves. Consider the opening of his poem entitled “I’ve Tried to Like Poets:” At issue in many of Peter Johnson’s poems is an underlying discomfort with expressing what he actually thinks or feels. (We poets shouldn’t have these bitchy thoughts, right?) Peter Johnson’s poems remind me a little of Henri Michaux, especially the poem, “My Pastimes.” But Michaux, unlike Johnson, has no qualms expressing his emotions. A similar and funny Michaux poem, “The Man Launcher” has been animated and can be seen at the link http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/~jima/manlauncher_almostfinished.mov Also entertaining are Mark Halliday’s essays and poems, such as “Shnordick’s Butterfly,” and “Vexing Praxis/Hocus Nexus,” in which he parodies the fickle and absurd nature of poets and poetry criticism. Then there’s Denise Duhamel . . . I can never resist Denise Duhamel’s poems. I’ve written fan letters and odes to Denise, and I sometimes wonder, where would the world be without Denise Duhamel? One of my favorite poems is her poem, “Buying Stock.” Admittedly, it is not a poem about the toxic aspects of po-biz, but metaphorically speaking, it almost could be. The rest of Denise's poem can be found at :http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15333 Also memorable are the many poems that celebrate bad poetry readings. Who among us has been spared the experience? I took my friend, S, to his first poetry reading in Cleveland last summer, and he announced, mid-reading, he found the poetry and its delivery to be truly nauseating. Me too! I said. Among my favorite poems about bad readings are Szymborska’s “Poetry Reading” in which she writes: “O Muse where are our teeming crowds?/ Twelve people in the room, eight seats to spare/it’s time for this cultural affair.” And John Brehm’s poem, “At the Poetry Reading,” in which he talks of how “he stopped listening some time ago.” How the reader is “from the Iowa Workshop/and can therefore get along fine/without my attention.” (I love a good snarky line.) Instead of listening, the poet begins having sexual fantasies about the reader’s wife. (Always good to keep a good fantasy in mind. You just never know when it will come in handy, especially if you are a regular at... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
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Bitching with Nicole is one of my favorite pastimes. I know, that sounds odd. How can I explain this? Maybe a story will help. A story about the day the bitching began. It was a Tuesday in October, 2009. Nicole and I were having dinner at the Café Loup with G, a literary agent, who told us we should write a book that sells. We could still write our poems on the side, sort of like a hobby, maybe like knitting, baking bread, or crocheting . . . Instead of objecting or running to the defense of poetry, Nicole immediately responded in a way only Nicole responds. Okay! she said. I will write The Bitch. And that bitch will sell. But someone has already written a book called Bitch, G. objected. No, Nicole said. No one has written THE Bitch. No one knows THE bitch. Because I own THE bitch. And I will write you the bitch, which will sell like no other bitch has ever sold. G. grinned and sipped his martini. Yeah? he said. Okay then. Send me the bitch. Ever since that day Nicole has been composing poems and essays about THE bitch. We have sent each other countless emails, poems, parodies, rants, raves, elegies, essays, comics and laments. All about the bitch. There’s nothing like having a partner-in-crime, especially if that partner is Nicole Santalucia. So for the next week, we will be bitching together on this blog. Or bitch-blogging. I will start with a comic of the first bitching poem Nicole ever wrote, and then with my response to the poem. I will close with a meditation on finding your inner bitch, in case you are having trouble relating to the topic. http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2009/03/bitch-by-nicole-santalucia.html Analysis of Nicole’s “Bitch” The title of Nicole’s poem might easily offend you. Whatever this title means, you might assume it has nothing to do with you. (After all, who would call you a bitch?) Maybe you have never read a poem like this. So clearly, it is addressed to someone else. And is not compatible with your role of spouse, citizen, and upright pillar of society. Clearly, you should never be seen in the company of a poem like this, a poem that is radical, irreverent, uncouth, a poem that flings it’s bare arms in the air and dances like an infidel in the pristine sanctuary of your mind, urging you to seize the day, change your life, get drunk, stay drunk, on wine, virtue, poetry . . . Or bitching, as you wish. Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
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Nov 2, 2011