Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Fringe poet—putting poetry in the hands of readers

Last week I did a reading at Daytona Beach Community College. I had such a good time with the students. We hung around afterwards, talking to one another about poetry, writing and music.

Poetry is pure pleasure. My apart-ness is probably the primary reason I can enjoy it. I don’t have to answer to a university. I don’t have to publish or even submit unless I want to. As I toured with A Poetry Break, I spoke to truly diverse audiences, from children in economically challenged school zones to trade associations and organizations made up of educators on all levels. I read in saloons, at book club gatherings, at writers’ conferences. A special moment for me came when I read at the U.S. Library of Congress.

I don’t aim my work at a niche audience. The public is far more intelligent than many intellectuals believe. My book sold well, and is still carried in many stores. I hope the same will be true of the next collection. I’m in the final edit stages with that book. I’m talking to several different publishers.

A special moment during my DBCC reading came when students asked for a copy of one of the poems I read from the new collection, “Florida Aubade.” I wrote the poem for my husband. Coincidentally, South Carolina poet Jayne Jaudon Ferrer included that poem in her National Poetry Month Parade, and she was kind enough to let me know her readers enjoyed it.

I’ve followed a new poetry controversy, courtesy of a writeup in Poets and Writers about the Dorset Prize. This isn’t the first poetry contest controversy and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But every time I read about a poetry contest administered with questionable practices, I’m glad I’ve hung onto my money all these years.

When the publisher accepted 'A Poetry Break,' he gave me a modest advance and paid me industry-standard royalties. I worked hard to take the book to potential readers. It proved its merit in the marketplace.

That’s good enough for me. Meanwhile, I subsidize writing poetry by writing nonfiction for newspapers, wire services, magazines and Web sites. It’s a great arrangement.

Related Links

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer
Home pages for South Carolina poet Jayne Jaudon Ferrer

Dorset Prize Dustup
Kevin Larimer's article at Poets and Writers

Poetry Beat at The Writer magazine
Kay Day's column at The Writer online; premium content for subscribers only.


BLUE said...

I'm so pleased to encounter someone else who "gets it," and I'm thrilled to read your comments about taking poetry to audiences that are larger than just poets. I, too, subsidize poetry by writing for other "machines" (lol). Thank you for this post.

Kay Day said...

Blue, thank you so much for commenting. I've always thought too many poets preach to the choir!--best, Kay