However, I do love getting new chapbooks. One of my favorite things in the world is coming home from the bookstore with a book full of poems. I will sit down and read it in a single sitting and just get high on poetry. I hadn’t had that experience in some time, so last month, in honor of national poetry month, I went to Barnes and Noble to browse through chapbooks and pick one out to come home with me. However, my fix was not so easy to obtain.
First, I looked for the poetry section. I went up and down the isles of books but as I get farther from literature and closer to gardening, I realized I must have missed it. It took me five passes to find the poetry “section.” I put section in quotes because it was not a section, it was a shelf. While fantasy, science fiction and romance each had multiple isles of books, including the newest offerings from star authors in the genres, poetry had one bookshelf smaller than the one that fit in the tiny two-bedroom apartment I shared with four people during my sophomore year of college.
“Well,” I thought to myself, “this is not what I expected, but chapbooks are small by definition. Surely there will still be plenty to choose from.”
Again, I was wrong. Easily three fourths of the single bookshelf was filled with ancient artifacts. There is a place for Homer in today’s world. There is a place for Poe and Dickinson and Wordsworth and all the greats that will forever speak to the human condition and influence the works of the future. I firmly believe that every major bookstore should sell each of them. But that shouldn’t be all. There are countless poets continuing to breath and work in today’s world, and some of them are even good. I am not a body builder. Those stick figures I draw of myself aren’t all that far from reality. I have trouble lifting plates into high cabinets or pouring from a full gallon of milk. Yet, I could have held all of the chapbooks by individual poets in my arms easily. Something isn’t right here.
In college, I was told that big book stores like Barnes and Noble were the lifeblood of our industry, that they were the ones that continued to give less mainstream authors a place to sell their work and that if they fell, all that would be left would be the brick-ish paperbacks lining the check-out lines at grocery stores, the best sellers that were terrible enough (or lucky enough) to be embraced by the masses.
Well, if that’s true, us authors have already lost the battle. Even if I manage to get a collection of my poetry published, there won’t be room for me on that one shelf, as I’m sure there already isn’t room for thousands of deserving poets whose take on today’s world might offer insights that are, dare I say it, even more relevant to the modern reader than Keats. But I choose not to be so fatalistic. People still read. They might not have picked up a book in years, but they read all the fucking time. They read on their computers and their phones during work and in their free time and while they are supposedly hanging out with other people in real life. Our society is becoming increasingly text-based. There has to be a place for good writing in that atmosphere, especially poetry, which can be read on fifteen-minute breaks or in lines or while you’re pretending to listen to your boyfriend. I just don’t know how much of what I learned of this whole publishing game is still true, or how long it will remain true.
I deal with change more poorly than a broken vending machine, but even I am starting to admit it’s happening. It’s scary to think that maybe the success stories of past authors might not be such good how-to guides five or ten years from now. Though I’ve been cautioned against self-publishing by people I trust and admire–and I am obviously not the best at marketing myself based on my dabbles in the practice. Buy my shit, by the way. It’s over in the sidebar to the right–and my dream still is to see a real paper novel or collection of mine in the hands of a stranger in a bookstore, I’m starting to wonder about the benefits of crowd funding, of virtually guaranteeing a major publisher won’t want a manuscript in order to give it a chance to be read by at least a few instead of rejected again and again. To think of anything but submitting query letters and waiting for form rejections is scary to me. I don’t know what rules to follow or what risks are worth it. It’s terrifying and exciting and intimidating and freeing. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s just another blank page.
Last weekend, the roommates and I went on a mini vacation to Houston and Galveston where we met up with Artist Friend. After a day of wandering around Seawall Boulevard and playing in the surf, we wanted to end our trip with some fresh seafood, preferably crab. We checked out several lower scale local eateries, but most did not serve crab, or were out of it, so we decided to go to a nicer place as a last hurra. We came straight from the beach, of course, and figured that since the restaurant was along the Seawall, half of its clientell would be in shorts and swimsuit tops and smeared with sand. We were wrong. While the place was far from black tie, everyone else was sitting with their spouses in polo shirts and slacks. We were definitely the most white-trash people there. However, we carried with us a secret weapon. Completely tuckered out from the excitement of his first trip to the ocean Tiny Roommate had fallen asleep in the car, and though he woke up when I removed him from the carseat, he promptly fell back asleep on my shoulder. When we entered the restaurant, the whispers that followed us weren’t, “God, why are those people in out restaurant,” they were, “Isn’t he beautiful?”
Against the backdrop of my humidity-frizzed hair, neon green short shorts and the oversized black shirt covered in skulls I’d borrowed from Male Roommate to ward off the evening’s chill, Tiny Roommate’s powers of adorableness reached new hights. Suddenly, it didn’t matter that I looked like I really did live in a box, Artist Friend was wearing little more than a bikini top, Female Roommate had blue hair and fresh lip piercings, Male Roommate’s hair was three times the size of his head or that our group didn’t match the rest of the typical family units sitting around the restaurant. It was as if the cuteness of Tiny Roommate created a forcefield of invisibility, or maybe even acceptance, around the rest of us.
Which made me realize that Tiny Roommate may be an invaluable asset when it comes time for me to make the inevitable turn to a life of crime.
Yes. I think this will work.
I took Tiny Roommate to his first Easter egg hunt today. I mean, I think I might have hidden eggs two inches from his face on his first Easter, but he probably just kind of cried and slept at them. This year, he could both grab things and walk, so it was all on.
The eggs were just scattered across a grassy field, so I think it was more of a contest of speed than sluething, but with a little help he managed to get four, two of which he held onto, one in each hand, as he ran around the church grounds.
He didn’t care about the candy inside of the eggs, or that he didn’t get as many as the kindergarteners. He just cared that he had a blue egg and a yellow egg that he could hold above his head in triumph. Of course, his death grip on them loosened when he realized he could hurl them at the sanctuary floor and watch them bounce and role until a stranger would pick them up and hand them back to him–The church’s congregation was not as jaded about retrieving the things he “accidentally” and repeatedly hurled at the ground as Male Roommate, Female Roommate and I, so he played this to his advantage until I hid the eggs in his diaper bag and replaced them with a much quieter stuffed animal, or stuffed Cthulhu as it were. (Yes, I let him take the stuffed Cthulhu to Easter service. So shoot me.)–but the fact remained that he found joy in the inherent egg-ness of the eggs.
This makes me ponder several things:
1. How bitchin’ would the world be if a couple of handfuls of brightly colored plastic were enough to make us happy? If we didn’t try to crack every beautiful moment open searching for meaning, only to find cheap candy inside?
2. How terrifying would the world be if the price we had to pay for this happiness was that we would all try to walk up stairs via running at them until we fell over, and also, that none of us were quite sure how to use spoons?
Food for thought, guys. Food for thought. And happy Easter.
After much deliberation (and much unexpectedly having to clean my whole house last week–sorry for the delay) I have chosen the winner of On Living in Box’s first ever contest. It’s Becca with Finn Barrett! I like the sound of it, too.
Becca, you may leave me a comment telling me the topic you would like me to doodle about badly. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like, you may also email me your mailing address and I will mail you the original copy of your doodle. I understand if you aren’t comfortable giving your mailing address out to a creepy chick who lives in a box, but the option is there, and I promise that I probably won’t go to your house and stealing all the cheese from your refrigerator. Probably.
I would also like to name an honorable mention. While I didn’t fall in love with the name Haman, idiotprufs wins the prize for making me laugh out loud. You don’t win the immortality of having your name published *crosses fingers* in my novel, but you do win a doodle to be posted on this blog on a topic of your choice. Email me your specifications or post them as a comment.
The rest of you can also feel free to use this email address to send me your adoration, deeds to your firstborn children, etc… So really, we all win.
Congrats Becca and Idiotprufs! I look forward to reading your doodle topics.
The title says it all. This post is going to be short because I’m on a fifteen minute break at work, so don’t expect pictures and shit. (I don’t usually get to type “shit” at work. Tee-hee.)
But the point is, you only have until 5:42 CST today to submit your entries for On Living in Box‘s First Ever Contest for a chance to win a custom drawing and your ideas immortalized in the written word. That’s right. Screw tickets from radio shows and free cars from supermarket drawings. How many contests offer you immortality?
So, make sure to leave your name suggestions as a comment on this post. The rules and guidelines are there too, if you missed last week’s post. A big thank you to everyone who has already submitted. You are super cool. The rest of you still have time to be super cool, but not much of it, so get submitting!