A living room. Where one could, say, sit in the sun and read poetry.
I’m going to say out loud something I have mostly only said in my head: poetry is a dying art. I don’t always believe that, but more and more, I do. In this world of blogs, tweets, and texts, we all have lost our attention spans. And poetry, usually, requires us to sit with things for a bit. It’s a hard task, and I wonder how many of us will still be sitting down to read poetry in ten or twenty or thirty or a hundred years.
Doing this blog all month, I have realized a couple of things about myself. I used to be a very dedicated poet. I inhabited that basement room where poets live: we were off the grid, into something a little off-kilter, part of what felt like a secret world, because so few others were in the room with us. And I loved it. I wrote many, many poems, some of which got published, many of which did not. I didn’t have to miss poetry because it was my entire existence.
Then, in 2004, when I cut out and went to travel around the world with my now-hubs, B., my relationship to poetry changed. When we got back to the States I decided I was going to write very seriously for a year, so we got a cheap apartment, I took a part-time job, and I wrote. The trouble was that I couldn’t fill the time. For me poetry happened in little fits and starts; I’d write all morning some days, and on others, I’d write for ten minutes. Or not at all. There was all that time. It was only natural that after a while, I started to write prose, which for me is something you can chip away at all day, all week (or for seven long years).
But I realized that I lost something when I stopped writing poetry: I had stopped slowing down and sitting with things in the same way. And I missed it. I still miss it.
I’m pleased to report that my long break from poetry officially ended when I started the postcard poem project with Mike Dockins. It ended because now I have an imperative to write a poem every couple of weeks. It’s not the same as it used to be, but it’s something. And it’s all coming back to me: that necessity of being slow, of being careful, even of being kind of frivolous and capturing a moment or an emotion without dogging it to death (as I do when I write, say, an essay). And I realized that the world really does need poetry, for that very reason. Because it slows us down, because it exists outside of our crazy world. It gives us a unique challenge. There’s nothing else like poetry.
Which is all to say that I hope I’m wrong that poetry is dying out, and I have resolved to help in that cause. Here’s how you can help, too.
Support Poetry Daily! It’s a great site, with a poem a day, and while I have not yet been featured there, I hope someday I will be. They’re in their spring membership campaign, and you can donate here.
Read poetry yourself. In addition to the many fine poets I featured this month, check out T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Robert Lowell, H.D., Lawrence Ferlinghetti, John Ashberry, Gary Snyder, Jorie Graham, Louise Gl?ck, Adrienne Rich, Cathy Song, Carolyn Forche, Joy Harjo, Carolyn Kizer, Heather McHugh, Russel Edson, James Tate, Dara Wier, Ai, David Rivard, Tomaz Salamun, Wislawa Zymborska, Adam Zagajiewski, Margaret Atwood, Rita Dove, Tess Gallagher, Marie Howe, Deborah Digges, Mary Oliver, W.S. Merwin, Charles Olson, Cornelius Eady, Matthew Rohrer, Matthew Dickman, Michael Dickman, Joshua Beckman, Cate Marvin, Brenda Shaughnessy….the list goes on and on. Who are YOUR favorites?
Finally, good news for me! I got a poem accepted for publication recently. It’s forthcoming in the journal Rock & Sling. Stay tuned.
VIDA: Women in Literary Arts has released The Count 2012, a look at the numbers in publishing as they break down along gender lines. Probably not surprisingly, many more men than women are published in some of the nation’s top literary journals and magazines. Check out The Count here.
This is, obviously, an issue that affects me. In college I wrote my senior thesis about the notion of the “woman writer” and anthologies of women’s writing. Is the moniker “woman writer” reductive, I asked? Did anthologies of women’s writing highlight and give space to women’s voices, or did they reinforce the idea that women writers are inferior (separate and thus, not equal)?
I never successfully answered those questions; I still haven’t. They’re complicated. My own publishing history is spotty, and I wonder if I attempted to publish as SE Meserve, gender ambiguous, whether I’d have graced a few more literary journals in my day. Quite honestly, I don’t think about my sex that much when I write. But when I look at The Count I feel more aware of the ways that the already uphill battle of being a writer is exacerbated by being female.
Woman Writer. Looking…shocked at the findings from VIDA?
Maybe this explains why I always get rejections from Boston Review.
Of course, one has to investigate further: how do these statistics play out in terms of numbers of memoirs published by women and men, respectively, every year? In literary fiction and poetry? Do newer, smaller journals do better at gender equality than Harper’s and Boston Review?
Next time you pick up a literary journal or a magazine, look at the number of women published in it. And in the meantime, I’ll try to get some statistics from the book publishing industry to share.
I know it’s clich?, and that the holiday has become little more than a period of greed, commercialism, and obligatory giving?but I love Christmas. I always have. I love drinking spiked eggnog, eating bourbon balls, and gazing at the Christmas tree. I love to light candles and listen to “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” I love being with my family when we’re all feeling easy and rested. And I love giving gifts. I admit it.
And so all morning I have been thinking about my 2012 Literary Gift Guide.
1. I can’t decide how I feel about Kindles and other e-readers, but there’s no denying that the reader on your list would probably love a portable e-reading device. And while I have complained about Audible.com in the past, I wouldn’t say no to an Audible gift certificate (3 months for $45).
2. What about a subscription to Poets & Writers Magazine? A few weeks ago, I got an email asking me to become one of “200 new friends by December 31st.” You can give a $35, $50, or up to $200 donation, and you get a year’s subscription. Great gift. In recent years, because of the Internet, P&W’s classifieds have become a little less relevant and important, but they have good articles about publishing, plus profiles and interviews with wonderful writers.
Thank you google images and pw
3. If it’s cold hard books you want to give, check out Tara Conklin’s popcorn post My Top Five Books for Fall. I haven’t read any of these yet, though the Zadie Smith and Junot Diaz are on my to-read list as well.
4. Or let your reader choose for herself: give a gift certificate to your local bookstore! This article in The Billfold says the independent bookstore is not dead; I hope not. This time of year especially, I really try to support my local bookstore.
5. Every writer needs a great notebook or journal. I thought this one was pretty cool, especially for a man who participated in MOvember. And apparently the maker of this one didn’t hear that unicorns are alive and well in North Korea.
6. Well, I couldn’t post this guide without a self-plug. Give the gift of Faith! I’ll sign it for you. You can buy it directly from Finishing Line Press, on Amazon, or directly from me?my price is $12, plus shipping. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
7. A subscription to a literary journal is always a good present. I like to support my friend Mike Dockins’s journal Redactions, based out of Spokane, Washington. And there are so many others…
9. A room of one’s own. Offer to babysit for your favorite writer who is also a parent. Or buy them some time at a local coworking space like Citizen Space.
10. Give the gift of support. No, I don’t mean bankroll your favorite writer for a year (though that would be a very, very nice gift). Tell her you love what she does and take her out for a pick-me-up when she needs it!