Yesterday, Holly Karapetkova's manuscript came in the mail. The title is Words We Might One Day Say and it's going to be published in a few months. Holly wants a book blurb. I met her several years ago when I gave a reading at Marymount College in Arlington, Virginia. I don't know her work well, so reading the manuscript comes with a few risks. Will I become excited by her work? What if I don't like anything I read? Will I send her an email and tell her I'm too busy with my own work?
I don't think so. I'm honored that Holly asked me. I also like to be around when poets give births to books. Giving a blurb is like participating in the naming ceremony or baptism. I hope I find Holly's work to be very different from my own. This is how I try to keep growing and learning. I'll read Holly's collection of poems several times before making notes and writing on the pages. I'll look for poems that are memorable and maybe different from what I've been reading the last few months. Finally, I will write a blurb that has some color to it. I work on writing blurbs the way I work on the introductions I give writers at readings. It's serious work - and it's good work.
Since the early 1970s, fifteen people have placed blurbs on my poetry books. Six people from this list are no longer living. Four never wrote a poem. Four would be considered literary critics, twelve are African American. One is a television personality. Eight are women.
I guess people blurb and move on. Only one person on my blurb list of fifteen have I seen in the last few months. I hope this doesn't happen to me and Holly. I need the poems, I need the book, but I also need the poet. It's a sad day when literary friendships are reduced to ________.