As it turns out, you can’t even take the girl out
Of the South. A good porch is hard to leave,
& that’s the truth. Gardenias & a hand-rolled smoke.
A fingerbone of moon tapping at the screen door. Who
You’re looking for depends on who wants to know. You know,
I have a cotton dress & a closed-mouth smile for any occasion.
Many young writers hold the conviction that a day will come when they don’t have to do anything but write. When we speak about our “Work,” we mean our writing. We treat this work with reverence and hold it up as the work that makes us who we are: Artists. But beneath the surface of our art is a life largely spent doing other work: basement shifts, rent gigs, and adjunct positions whose earnings shore up our literary work. Day jobs are a mechanism beneath the business of literature. As such, they don’t just pay our bills; they’re what we do with most of our lives. Is there value to be found in a day job beyond its paycheck? Why are writers so eager to leave work behind?
“Over the course of the past year, I’ve found myself more and more excited to read each coming issue of the VQR, a university-affiliated journal founded in 1925 that bills itself as a’ national journal of literature and discussion.’ Every three months, a new, gorgeous edition (with almost no advertising) arrives in my mailbox; every three months, I tear open its plastic wrapper and sit down to read it immediately. Then I’m transported – often in ways that open my eyes – to Burma, Iceland, Somalia, or Bulgaria. I read even-handed, longform takes on topics as diverse as South Asian head-hunters, Peruvian gold miners, Kazakh victims of Soviet aggression, and Irish female boxers. I’m treated to hundreds of pages of poetry and photographs. I read personal, incisive essays on feminism. The months change, but the VQR remains the same: inspiring, thoughtful, engaging, and each time refreshing.”
Faced with the reality of our shrunken New York-area apartment, as well as a certain someone’s affinity for Bravo TV, we were just discovering an eternal truth: living with someone means mastering the art of evasion. No matter how much you enjoy another person’s company, there are times when one would rather be alone. This is doubly true for avid readers, and perhaps triply true for ones (like me) who demand silence when they read. It was impossible – despite more-than-fair compromises on both our parts – for me to monopolize the apartment’s noise level. I was simply unable to reliably read each of my subscriptions as I had initially intended. I needed isolation. Like Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, I found that, ‘It is necessary that every man have at least somewhere to go. For there are times when one absolutely must go at least somewhere!’ (Those times often coincide with Real Housewives round-table recaps, by the way.)
Publishers, writers, and readers alike really need to sit down and take this trend [the rise of self-publishing] seriously, rather than using the poetry.coms and AuthorHouses of the world as straw-men, scapegoats, piñatas, or other bludgeonable what-have-yous in the same tired and ineffectual arguments about how the Internet is ruining the publishing industry.
Poetry needs readers, not writers. But how many poets read any poetry but their own?