Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Who's Getting Published?

Tuesday is usually confession day, but I'm thinking I will pass on that, because I'm thinking of some other things.

I've been plowing through books of poetry lately, some good and some bad, but I've enjoyed soaking in the interesting voices. Finished John Ashbery's Planisphere yesterday, and while it wasn't quite as delightful as I wish it was, I'm still turning it over in my mind. Hoping to finish The Eternal City by Kathleen Graber tonight, which I'm liking a bit more.

Reading books of poems makes me think about the qualities that got them published in the first place, especially since I sent several batches of poems out and submitted to several chapbook contests last week. I honestly think my chapbook, both the pieces and the sum of the parts, is good and I'm hopeful about it finding a home somewhere this year. But then I look at Planisphere and feel like Ashbery is resting on his laurels because, well, he's Ashbery, of course, and he's put out books that are freakin' genius and if you read poetry, like him or not, you know who he is. No magazine editor or publisher in their right mind would turn him down because having his name there will guarantee sales.

And I think about Billy Collins, too, and I don't know how he got to be so famous, except by being accessible to people who don't read poetry much, maybe haven't read a poem since high school or a lit class in college. Reading Nine Horses made me think not so much that it was bad, but it was like reading with training wheels. Each poem does one thing, but it does it completely and thoroughly, and when you finish reading it, you're quite certain what the point of it was. I wonder if it would be possible to study Billy Collins's work and teach yourself to write like him, and thereby become famous and frequently-published. I don't think people read him because they think he is unique. His name and brand are recognizable, so his work sells. Who is going to be the next Billy Collins, and are they going to sound just like him?

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