Posts Tagged ‘poetry reading’

The Joys of Signing

CewDC4BWEAAyGYYSomeone at yesterday’s book launch for Barrier Island Suite asked me what the pay-off is for publishing a book of poetry. I didn’t have to think about that much! My first thought was “events like this.” Writing a book in isolation is one thing, getting poems in magazines and working with your publisher to put the book together is another, but having a reason to get together with friends and colleagues — even strangers — is the best part. It is what keeps you going through all the other stages.

Most poets don’t expect to make a fortune selling books, though I was thrilled yesterday that we sold quite a few and I signed for over an hour straight, except for when I was reading. But even that thrill is less about the financial rewards than it is about getting the book in the hands of others. Poetry lives and breathes when it is read aloud in public. It thrives when books pass from one hand to another, when it sparks discussions, when someone reads it late at night or early in the morning. A book is never finished until it is read. Writing a book is that long process of honing language until it is ready to go out in the world. Publishing a book is the long process of making a product that can do the job of taking those poems out into the world. Both are rewarding. But the pay-off is when the poems are in the ears and hands of others. Talking to people and signing their books as you pass the poems on is the greatest reward.

Oh yes, and if you’re lucky there’s also cake…CewDC4lWIAAYWRF

Good Poetry Week

Sometimes things go in cycles, and this week my poetry cycle must be on an upswing. First, I heard from The Texas Review that they are accepting 4 new poems, and then I heard from Louisiana Literature Press that the proofs of Down to the Dark River were ready for review. I have one poem in this anthology of Mississippi River poems, and felt blessed to see all the names of other poets I admire in the table of contents, several of whom I have been fortunate to meet over the years.

Then tonight, I had the good fortune to attend a reading by Terrance Hayes, who is arguably one of the best poets writing today. The reading was fabulous — Hayes made the reading comfortable and accessible, as if we were all just sitting around in a living room talking poetry, not in an auditorium. I loved that he talked syntax with he crowd of mostly students, and that he told about coming to poetry through art and basketball — a basketball scholarship took him to university, where he first studied art before landing on poetry — and that he counted rap and hip-hop artists, as well as Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Hayden, and John Keats among his early influences. I’m sure he inspired more than a few people in the room to follow their creative bent.

All this reminds me how important it is to cultivate the good creative times when you can. Go to readings or other art shows. Write and follow your creative muse as far and as long as you can. Be around other writers whenever possible. Like any cycle, there will come times when you feel like you’re writing on your own or that the successes are few and far between. Let the momentum of the good weeks carry you through the dry times.