Monday, May 26, 2008

To be a Poet Without a Book:

Lately, I've been feeling like that kid pressed up against the candy store's window unable to get inside because the front door just doesn't want to open up for me and even though there are probably 100 other means of ingress it just won't feel the same unless I get in through the front door. I see my friends and fellow poets in there having a blast. But I cannot share in their joy except perhaps vicariously. I've gotten wary of congratulating poets on recent pubs even though I truly mean what I say and fully acknowledge and revel in their mastery of the craft - feeling that I might inadvertently jinx their streak of good luck. (Not only is my muse not accepting my calls - the number she gave me has been disconnected.) And I'm wondering how long I can go on with this charade. I mean how long can I pretend to be the "poet without a pub or book" who's on the verge? (On the verge to what?) I mean how long can I go on practicing my responses to Kate Greenstreet's interview questions about my first book?:

Kate: "How did you feel when your book first arrived from the publishers?"

Me: "Yeah, (subdued laughter here) I remember vividly when the postman left that non-descript brown box on my doorstep - I couldn't wait to tear it open but realised (much to my chagrin) as I read the address that I had mistakenly been sent Paul Guest's books and had to send them back. (unabashedly balling my eyes out here)"

This circle of friends that is this online poetic community has been very good to me. Scratch that - they have been very accommodating and welcomed me with open arms. And even though some of my staunchest supporters have turned their backs on me as of late - silently and unnoticeably deleting me from their blogrolls - I understand that in the PoBiz you're only as good as your last pub. And since my last serious pub was a couple of years ago - I figure it's put up or shut up time. Or should that be "put out" or "butt out" time.

The truth is that I really haven't been subbing much and that 2007 has been (at least for me as Peter Pereira aptly called it) an "annus horribulus". (2008 - so far - hasn't been going according to plan either.) But there are no excuses made here and I am done whining. So you can pull your earplugs out.

But I also must admit that I had ostensibly abandoned this creation I called my "blog" before I even knew what it entailed and how its hungry little mouth always yelped to be fed. My recent time away from blogging did give me some perspective. In the midst of all the soul-searching that I did while away - which I must admit can be a very thirst-inducing business - I realized that all the stats regarding the status of my blog that I had been so meticulously referring to every day just seemed to melt into oblivion. I was getting so caught up in this blog's Technorati's "Authority Quotient" and my Blogshare's market value & the Holy Grail of stats: my overall “Hits & Blog Visits". I mean what did all these stats mean anyway & how were they really relevant to my poetry. This was just becoming a popularity contest of sorts. I realized that I didn't need this to show me who or what I really was. And even though I wasn't blogging my hits went up. (I'm not joking here.) So I figured maybe they're trying to tell me something - maybe if I don't blog for a year before you know it I'll pull in thousands of hits. (I'm joking here.) (Asides provided for the humorously challenged.)

So where does that leave me? Hell - if I know! I suppose that the fact that I'm still here means something. The fact that you're still here means something too. I'm just not sure what. I'm dense that way! So hey if you've got a sure-fired way of getting my manuscript published - short of making death threats to publishers - let me know. Otherwise I'll just be puttin' out the same old - same old and ride out into the sunset.


Collin said...

Nick, look around...fine poets are starting to self-pub their own work and I highly recommend it. You have nothing to lose. Your work is good and deserves to be out there. Get out of the submission and contest cycle of abuse and just DO IT. The fabulous Jilly Dybka just self-pubed her book and the response has been great. Check her blog.

Nick said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Collin. Although, I know that you're right ... it's just that that was one "means of ingress" that I was trying to avoid. :-)

Collin said...

What you should avoid is the myth propagated by academia that if you don't win a contest or have some snooty small press publish your book that you aren't really a "poet." It's all smoke and mirrors, Nick.

Nick said...


It appears that nobody else (besides yourself) really cares whether I publish a chapbook (or God-forbid a full-length collection) or not. I'm not even sure why I thought anyone would anyway. Thanks for being there though. Appreciated! :-)

Justin Evans said...


I will certainly buy any book you put out, as I suspect many others will as well.

For me, 2007 was the same as fou you. I had three poems appear in 2007, but they were all acceptances from 2006, mid 2006 at that, and I must say that from June 2006 or so, until April 2008, I did not have a single nibble in the acceptance department.

O am not trying to show you up, but rather show you that you are not alone. I have had several people 'cool' away from me as well. It hurts.

I have decided to give my book the once-over and send it out and around one more time, and if nothing comes of it, then I am going to go through Lulu. I need to put that manuscript behind me and that's about the only way I will be able to if I can't get anyone to like it enough to send their money putting out into the world.

So, if you have already gone through the roll of presses for your chapbook, go ahead and put it out yourself. And if you don't like that, I'll let you use the Hobble Creek name and we can come up with something that works.

Collin said...

I agree with Justin. More people will read your book/chapbook than you think. You know I'm a fan and I'd help spread the word.

Nick said...

Guys, I sincerely want to thank you for your supportive words and kind offers. Justin, I’m speechless. Collin, thanks for offering to give lip service to anything I might eventually publish. I may take both of you up on your offers.

I guess when you work on a MS for several years you get to the point where you really start to feel (whether accurately or not) that it ought to be published. Then, when you get a couple of good pubs in respected journals, you figure that it's just a matter of time before your MS sees the light of day. When that didn’t happen I started to question my poetry. I suppose that I'm just not persistent or patient enough. Things might well eventually have taken care of themselves.

But the truth of the matter is that I have no connections other than the internet to the poetic community and lately I‘ve been turning away more and more away from this community. I’ve been losing touch - getting out of the loop. If I don’t publish soon I may just lose all incentive to do so. Perhaps that’s a blessing in disguise – at least for the reader.

Still, Justin, I’m seriously considering sending you my MS and you can decide for yourself whether it’s publishable or not. Perhaps, I’m simply missing something in the editing process and the collection of poems is just lacking the necessary narrative or conceptual arc that would make it “hang together“ as a chapbook. I’m not sure. So, I think I’ll back-channel you and send it on over by e-mail if that’s okay with you.

Once again – thanks guys!

Justin Evans said...


My e-mail is on my profile page. Go ahead and send it out to me, and I'll take a look.

If I think it fits in with HCR, I'll start looking into what it would take to get something going. I can certainly use Lulu to print them up and expand HCR and create a store front on my web pages there.

Nick said...


I'll send it out with no strings attached. Actually I think that if you have the time to comment on it - that would be more than expected. Thanks in advance for your efforts.

Brian Campbell said...

This is the way that connections are made, and I'm glad to see you're making them. My own MS. is making the rounds, and being turned down, mostly unceremoniously, although I've had a few kind words. It includes several good publication credits & poems that were shortlisted for a major award. Joyce's "Dubliners", I'm told, was rejected 27 times before it found a publisher -- frankly, in Canada, I doubt there are 27 places to send a poetry book manuscript. Such stories abound but somehow we find it hard to believe when we start living out those stories ourselves. The thing to be brought into question is not your poetry but the presses and publishing process themselves. If you wish to publish a Chap under Sky of Ink, we'll certainly consider it (that is, Raphael B. & I). If we love it enough, we'll do our best to hone the poems if required. This is an artist's label, with all that implies; to see an example of what we do, type "Nina Bruck" into the search bar on my blog.

Nick said...


Thank-you for providing me with another pleasant surprise. I really hadn't expected individual offers to publish my book when I posted this. I was really just venting. But this is great. Presently. I'm collaborating with Justin on how best to package my MS. I'm trying to see if I might just not have one or two poems that have not been published which I might include in my MS. But I do really want to thank you for the offer and truly hope that your own MS gets accepted soon. Merci beaucoup!

Anonymous said...

I don't think death threats make publishers warm to you, Nick... then again, I haven't even started to shop around a manuscript yet...

Anonymous said...

I just read through the rest of the comments. Looks like being nice to your friends is far more effective than being mean to strangers. ;)

Nick said...

You got that right. ;-)