Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Remaindered species

White, middleaged male poet? No thanks, we're trying to give them up. About five months ago, I propositioned several publishers with my new collection of poems, thinking my brilliant originality, previous publishing record and good rep might just get someone interested. I'm still waiting. Some have pleaded a logjam of manuscripts, others say they aren't that into poetry any more. But one put it to me rather more bluntly in a reply e-mail: I have the wrong profile. I am not female, black, or beautiful, and certainly not young, and simply wouldn't work as a marketing tool. Thus the new South Africa.

Of course, many would say we've had our whack, the white male patriarchy, and should fold up our manuscripts and slink away. But any publishing sector that silences cogent voices for such reasons deserves its looming fate: good poetry is withering away here, with a few notable exceptions, mostly long-established writers that stuck around during the dark years instead of going into self-exile as I did. One thing has always been true of our poetry scene: leave the country and you might as well be dead.

So when the last publisher has sent polite regrets -- and there aren't that many who do poetry
-- I shall be faced with the option a few others have chosen, self-publishing. It isn't something I am inclined to do, for reasons of credibility, cash and a lack of spare time to become a book salesman doing the rounds of the dwindling number of outlets for verse. All that remains is magazine publishing, very unsatisfactory since they have tiny or non-existent readerships and besides, I want my body of work to have its full effect. And then of course, there is my modest blog. But even here I have a dilemma: I feel reluctant to thrust my work on my visitors in this manner, having essayed it a few times and felt uncomfortable; it feels like boasting or showing off.

I am in a very bad mood about all this. I must ponder my next move deeply. Guerrilla warfare may be inevitable. Ambushing strangers in shopping malls, targeting intense-looking girls with long hair and ankle-length dresses in the street to let them have it. Or join the buskers in the pedestrian mall where I work; God knows anything I do can't be worse than some of the crap they inflict on innocent denizens of the pavement cafe culture. All I need is a cowhide drum and I'm away.


Blogger First Nations said...

years ago a guy on the west coast started doing guerrilla poetry, sticking up masses and masses of his work all over public spaces everywhere. got him known! his name was Rod Mckuen!
truthfully, i am not a poetry person. i am a prose person. and tell you what...your prose SINGS. you are GOOD. i will be reading Hurricane in Eternity.

7:42 PM  
Blogger DavetheF said...

Thanks FN, but I don't know if you'll be reading it -- with any luck you might be seeing it on a big screen near you.

8:27 PM  
Blogger BiScUiTs said...

Good luck with that, I hate the way everything seems to be about the image and the marketing, rather than about the actual thing itself! Deary me.

10:22 PM  

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