Kate Greenstreet, who has her own first book coming out this fall, has started interviewing poets about their experience with first books. Stacy Szymaszek, whose first book I discussed a while back, is the first up. Her book is great, so you should read it, but you could start by reading the interview.
The first book is an odd experience. My own reflections appeared in an anthology last year from the Banff Center Press. Two things made the book more fraught than usual: one, that it came out weeks after 9/11, and two that I had recently moved to the US. Cut off from my people, and as a non-citizen, effectively silenced in the US during a time of extreme mourning and anger, was very odd indeed. But first books are odd, and I think the process is largely fraught, whehter you have the luck of having a first book that is immediately lauded or not. And I say luck because I think that's what it is, and not necessarily good luck either. I think good poets settle into the fact that they can write their whole life and still have a relatively small audience. Every time I meet a poet with a lifetime of work behind her, that I don't yet know, I am reminded of this.
At her peak, Woolf made the equivalent of a civil servant. That was one year...but I think it was only one. And she never knew whether she would have an audience.