Monday, October 01, 2007

In the Vale of Poem-Making

photo by babblingdweeb


Really. Is there anything more poignant in a ridiculous sort of way than finding your own book in a used bookstore? Unless perhaps it is finding two of your books, two different books, in a used bookstore. Unless perhaps it is finding two of your books, two different books, in a used bookstore and not even in the main store -- no, they are in some sort of annex, an annex where you had gone to look at other people's poignant and unsorted books.

You had gone there to wonder whether you could love those books more than the people who had abandoned them without a second thought, but instead you were staring at your own tattered orphans.

Reader, this happened to the strumpet not ten days ago at Green Apple Books in San Francisco and as she is ever desirous of affording you an accurate representation of her humiliations in the vale of poem-making, she passes on her little tableau. Enjoy it in good health.

Well, not an accurate representation, no: for to give you an accurate representation of her humiliations would get her booted out of poesy in a great hurry, possibly in a coffin. But be assured that she will strive to tell you whatever she can. Until she can't anymore, that is, and then all bets are off.

And actually the day at Green Apple was far from lost because she found (crisp and thrilling, in the real store, not in the shabby but endearing annex) this shiny thing:



and brought it home, where somebody loves it, and it is a wonder-cabinet. Which of many wonders to show you?

To a Muse

Give me a first line, you who are far away.
The second line will almost write itself.
In times of pain, I open the dictionary.

Like a girl in the last row who will not say
The theoretical part of the dream was herself,
Give me a first lie, you who are far away.

A student laughs: I died once. Red is gray.
Cheat me like a quote, deceiving Elf.
In times of pain, I open the dictionary.

You who tried to carve this family in clay
Skeptical and frivolous as a filthy shelf
Give me another line, you who are far away.

It's a small freedom on a revisionary day
As a jay imitates the human on an elm --
In times of pain, I open the dictionary.

And in ordinary happiness, I open the dictionary.
The words remain, but the guards are gone for help.
Give me a last line, you who are far away.
In times of pain, I open the dictionary.

4 comments:

Don said...

I think having finding your book in a second hand bookstore is a great. First of all, the book's circulation is bound to increase, exposing your work to more people. Secondly, second hand bookstores don't just take any books. I've had books rejected at Green Apple before so yours must have passed literary mustard!

Rachel Loden said...

Thanks, Don -- yes, have been hearing that Green Apple is a tough sell...

Simon said...

Myopic books here in Chicago has a massive used poetry section, which is fantastic in a kind of panning for gold kind of way. I do notice a lot of people I've reviewed on rhubarb end up on the shelves there. I'm not sure what I think about that, sometimes I have a sinking sensation that it's people selling their review copies (when I buy a poetry book, it's kind of for life, the ROI is very poor.) Actually, many of the books still have their press packet inside. (I would never do this, if I don't like a book that's been sent for review, I just give it away.)

It is interesting to see, though. I tend to view used poetry as -- apart from the review copy phenomenon, which I think might be your case Rachel -- as kind of a sad scene. Some publishers end up there with alarming regularity: mostly the contest presses, which I find are far more generous with review copies while at the same time often publishing a grade lower.

Rachel Loden said...

Hi Simon,

No press packets in these books -- The Last Campaign was published in 1998 (and only a tiny handful of review copies went out because it's a chapbook). Hotel Imperium came out in December 1999, so it doesn't seem like anybody'd be rushing out with review copies at this point.

I actually love used bookstores, although the pickings seemed to be better back in the day -- can't remember how many copies of Ace of Pentacles (John Wieners) I picked up at Moe's. Oh my. You don't see much like that now.