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« On Amazon and in Your Local Poetry Store [by Bruce Kawin] | Main | Happy Birthday, Patricia Lockwood [by Anthony Madrid via Facebook] »

April 26, 2013


Having been published in high school, I never wrote "for the drawer" after that. I wrote poems because they came into my head, worked on them because I am an editor by inclination and apprenticeship, then sent them out because I wanted them to be published and thought they were good enough to be published. It helped a lot that after the first few poems, many of the other early ones were published by people I knew--that is, by the magazines and/or small presses of which they were co-founders. Knowing someone is important in "po-biz"--it gets you a more attentive reading. It does not get you a wide audience, though, and wide audiences continue to evade most of us. The technological advances that have made self-publishing so much less expensive than it used to be will also contribute to a major change in distribution. But, will your work be more widely read online than on paper? That remains to be seen. Poets still have to get out in public, give readings, present themselves as a commercial commodity in order to push book sales. Whether we're good at that or not (and I'm a good reader, I know), whether we like doing it or not (and I don't), poetry is still a hard sell.

Interesting. I have the opposite experience. I have written more than 7,000 poems in 600,000 lines over 25 years, and now the past 2 years I am writing an epic which is 62,000 lines of blank verse so far.

I have hardly ever been published, partly because I don't write modernist, collagist, confessionalist, conceptualist, or epiphanist, which are so popular with editors. Actually I wrote lots in all those styles, but once I explored the territory inherent in each style, I moved on.

The past 20 years I was a homeless street musician, and then I went to graduate school, started raising a family, and work as a cartographer, so I just barely have time to write much less spend all the countless hours required to submit thousands of poems to hundreds of journals.

I have started trying lately get only rejection so far. I self-published all my past work with lulu so I only paid for my own copies, and the books are currently for sale and will get printed only if someone buys one.

I do hope to get the epic published the traditional way, if anyone ever takes a chance on a series of narratives about Greek philosophers. If not, I will self-publish anyway. Perhaps because I have never been published I feel no pressure to accommodate anyone. I write purely for my own pleasure. I love writing poems and telling stories. I call my style cinemist, because I write them so it seems the reader is watching a movie.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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