Saturday, September 02, 2017

Lee Rossi On Money In Poetry/Exclamation Abuse/Poets in Journals/David Madgalene's Hoodoo Girl/Writers in Journals/Petaluma Poetry Walk/

Money In Poetry? 

Essay by Lee Rossi

 
Recently on Twitter I came across a statement by a well-known poet that sounded like a truism but that on further reflection seemed more and more problematic. What the poet said was that he was divided when it came to giving free poetry readings. On the one hand, he wanted to do it, but on the other hand considerations of self-care and financial security suggested he do otherwise. I’m sure my thoughts on the matter are colored by the fact that in 30 years of writing poetry I have earned something less than ten thousand dollars. Poems, reviews, readings, books—less than ten grand. Not that I’m complaining—that almost ten grand is, to borrow Ray Carver’s deathless term, gravy. 

Also, I never expected to make my way in the world by writing poetry. There was always a day job for that. I sympathize with those without a day job and those whose day job pays so miserably that they don’t have the time, energy or peace of mind to write. I was lucky enough to be able to pay myself to be a poet. 

It used to be thought that a performer, a singer or an actor, would enhance their value by refusing gigs that were beneath them. Once he was an A-lister, no B-movies for Clark Gable, no coffee-house sets or open mics for Madonna after “Borderline.” 

I wonder though if such a rule obtains with regard to poetry. People who wish otherwise complain about the fact that poetry is a gift economy. Why don’t poets get paid, they say, for all their contributions to the culture? It’s a good question, the answer to which involves an examination of our society’s “skewed,” “perverse,” “inhuman” priorities. I leave that to folks who are angrier than me at the current state of affairs. (Not that I’m not angry, just not angry enough.)

The fact is, if a poet wants to make a contribution to the culture, i.e. to all those other human beings who are living, working, and worrying alongside her, she could do a lot worse than participate in free poetry readings. At its leaves-of-grass roots, a poetry community is just a bunch of people who like it and try to write it. Some of them are good, some not so good. Some are getting better, some will stall out, trapped on some plateau hospitable to rants or limericks or self-exposure.

I think the best poets among us have an obligation to get back to their grass roots, the local poetry community which nourished them when they were baby poets. If you’re a transplant, I think you still owe something to the locals, encouragement certainly and the daring of your own example. Why put up barriers to what is potentially your best audience?

Of course, there are circumstances where I would agree with the Twitter poet. If someone in a foreign land wants to hear you read, somewhere farther say than a half-hour’s drive, then yes, that someone should at least pay for gas. Cross country, they should pay airfare, hotel, and something to eat. The fact is, people will not pay 75 or a 100 dollars per seat—what they’ll pay for a Grateful Dead tribute band—to hear even our best poets. Someone has to subsidize the reading—the NEA, P&W, the local university, the local arts council. Yet that money exists because at least some of our fellow citizens recognize that poets do indeed provide value to the culture, which like sunshine and rain are necessary but hard to price. So, my recommendation is: if there’s cash, grab it, otherwise remember where you got your start and do what you can to make sure it’s still a healthy place to grow.
  --Lee Rossi
 
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Performing Hoodoo Girl

from David Madgalene's Call Down The Angel.  At Occidental Center for the Arts a couple of months ago.  My grandson Justin Coletti is on guitar.  Watch the You Tube video here

 

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 Exclamation Points and Then Some

The Alarming rise of exclamation point abuse

I’m waging a lonely war against a rampant punctuation mark.
A year ago, the New York Times wrote forebodingly about the decline of the period, which now signifies a weighty intent if used while texting. But I am far more disturbed by the rise of the exclamation point. Everywhere I look, I’m bombarded by this tall, pointed signifier of overwhelming emotion.

Has this punctuation mark become ubiquitous because our discourse has risen to a fevered pitch? Or because we’ve co-opted a mark of astonishment or severity to instead convey solidarity, friendship or friendliness?

I took my concerns to two language scholars who both tried to persuade me to give up the fight.
Exclamation mark avoidance is just as much a fetish as its abuse, said Geoff Nunberg, a linguist who teaches at University of California-Berkeley. Overuse is particularly vexing to writers and journalists who have been trained to use them with restraint, he said. Perhaps that’s true, but I argued that those of us who use it sparingly are on the right side of language.
Relax, Nunberg practically exclaimed at me. It’s not that there’s a proliferation of exclamation points. It’s just that we see a lot more casual conversation in the form of texts and tweets. And people attempt to reproduce the rhythms and contours of natural speech in their conversational writing, he said.

That’s true, I agreed. But I suspect there’s more to it than that.

The president himself is a lover of the exclamation point, more likely to use multiple marks in a single tweet than anyone I know personally. Philip Cowell, of the BBC, writes that in 2016 alone the @realDonaldTrump posted 2,251 tweets using exclamation marks. He’s far more likely to end a tweet with a shriek than not.

“Overuse of any punctuation mark tells us something about ourselves, in the same way overuse of any object does. How you punctuate your sentences might have something to do with how you punctuate your life,” Cowell writes. Drawing attention to itself, the exclamation point is the selfie of grammar, he noted.

To Read More, Go Here Now


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Sonoma County Poets and Writers in Journals

On a monthly basis I publish the names of poets and writers who have had work published in literary journals during the previous month.  The posting is at Sonoma County Literary Update
Just go there and follow the directions for this category.  It will place you in touch with me, and I'll be pleased to include your information.  Essentially, I'll need your name, title of the publication, its URL, and the names of your poems or pieces.  I look forward to hearing from you.

2017 Petaluma Poetry Walk

And while we are looking at the SF Bay Area, I strongly recommend that you attend the 20-year old Petaluma Poetry Walk on Sunday September 17th from 11AM until 8PM at venues all over town.  The slate of poets and musicians is particularly strong this year.  Here's a brochure