I Have It on Good Authority…

I have it on good authority that the the gal we know won this last night. (Link is mildly not safe for work.)

Honestly, I had no idea poets had such interesting careers. When you hear folks being all “The average poetry book sells 38 copies,” it makes you imagine… well… not that naked people will be sitting around reading your stuff in public and declaring it awesome.

You know, not to get side-tracked by this (oh, hell, we’re about to get sidetracked), but it makes me wonder if the tensions between “genre” poetry and “literary” poetry might not be pretty much the opposite of what they are in fiction. In fiction, it’s kind of presumed that you’ll find a wider audience if your book is more “literary” than “genre” (I’m putting these words in quotes because I find them to be kind of bullshit). But poets with a strong voice who deal with a certain worldview probably do better than 38 readers because when someone says, “Whoa, what Mary Oliver said about nature blew my mind!” that reader knows he’s going to turn the page and get another poem about nature that might blow his mind.

I don’t know. It’s just a thought. And I am so excited for McClellan and completely agree that she is the emerging writer of the year. Emerging from what, though, is the troubling question…


6 thoughts on “I Have It on Good Authority…

  1. Elias, the awards-givers don’t seem to care about who’s actually writing words people read, if those books are in declasse genres. Hence Margaret Atwood occasionally throwing hissy fits about being called sci-fi, because there are better awards for her if she’s categorized as “literary” rather than “genre” even though her most famous work is pretty recognizably a near-futuristic dystopia.

    Betsy, I think you may be wrong about genre poetry – folks on the inside say the split tends to follow the genre/literary snottery that we see in fiction. I’ve collected more snoot poodle anti-genre sentiment from journals accepting poetry than I would like to see. I think genre poets and those who consume us just are more fannish, because our subculture is a fannish one — hence things like Shira Lipkin’s poem at Expanded Horizons going viral through Tumblr, through a chain of folks often linked in social media by their shared interest in things like sci-fi and fantasy, whether specific fandoms or just general interest. We are used to geeking out over what we like and not giving a damn who looks at us funny. You don’t hear about “fandoms” for non-genre works in the same way. There is probably a whole sociology thesis in here I’m missing.

    Oddly, my work for the Naked Girls Reading is not genre, as will be apparent when the poem is published on their site, as it will be soon. But genre haunts my work even when I’m not writing about space witches and Greek gods set loose on modern Nashville, just in the way I shape metaphors – there’s lots of the moon in this one, for instance.

    And thank you, Ms. Betsy, as always, for the accolades. :) I am trying to do Tennessee proud in my own strange little artsy way, and I am SUPER stoked about the Naked Girls Reading award. <3

  2. Thanks y’all! Elias, you weren’t rude at all, and I think I may have misread your comment the first time. There are more people reading some genres than are reading literary fiction. But in terms of accolades and finding the next publishing contract, the awards arm of it matters too, which leads to the tensions Betsy was talking about between genre and lit, the tensions that cause us to forget the idea that a damn good poem/story is a damn good poem/story whether it’s about leaves or elves. :)

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