In preparation for my September 17 reading at WKU, where I would prefer not to make an ass of myself, I have been designing some publicity–bookmarks, an invitation–and now must look towards a flyer that entices libraries to want me to come and read poetry for them.
Doing this requires an element of “I’m wonderful” and “listening to me is really what you need” and along with that, little voices that go “this would be clever, that profound, this will ring true, and that sounds so be here now.” I squirm. I duck my head. I laugh then hear the chuckle come to a pinched downturn and a little exhalation of air, “ugh.”
On the heels comes the combative side: “who does she think she is?” “Just wait till she does all this work and then no one responds.” Then we’ll be like, “She’s a failure” and “listening to her is better than Fox News, but so is having my toenails removed.” On and on the selves argue.
It would make sense maybe if I was a twenty-something emerging poet blazing a path for a new poetics, but I’m not. My publishing path looks more like one of those forced-air inflatable characters that rise up along the side of the road, usually in front of a local car sales lot, then fall to the ground, limp and formless until they arise again, arms shooting in the air, John Travolta (the Saturday Night Live JT) as cartoon. Publications, both laudable and so-so, usually come after months of my asking, “you like?” and hearing, “This is no reflection on the quality of your work,” but, no, they no-like-ee.
Virgina Woolf writes in A Room of One’s Own, “Think of Tennyson; think–but I need hardly multiply the instances of the undeniable, if very, unfortunate, fact that it is the nature of the artist to mind excessively what is said about him [or her]. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men [women] who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others.” Doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or 60, though I would like to think–I DO think–that with age comes wisdom, balance, perspective. My career no longer hangs on my publishing anything. Strike that pressure off the list. I do occasionally wonder what I’m leaving my children and their children, if they’ll ever read my poems and say, “My grandmother wrote that.” Or will it be more like, “that’s cute.”
Anyway, enough, I must promote my book. I do it for Casey, for myself, for the joy of sharing ideas, a beautiful image or two, some profound thought that lifts someone else, as it lifted me, and still does. So here’s the invitation. Let the flapping in the breeze begin.