Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shameless Hussy's Literary Advice

Dear Shameless,
I was running my magazine's booth at a recent literary festival and someone approached me with a fistful of paper, expecting me to read and provide feedback on his poetry on the spot. He asked very casually, as though this sort of thing is done all the time. I was very taken aback and assured him I was not the editor, just management--he seemed to want my opinion anyway, perhaps on the theory that I must have some lit cred, sitting as I was behind the fold-out table? I assured him I did not and eventually he moved on to the next mag booth. However, I later got to wondering...does this happen all the time in polite poetry circles? Should I have read it and said something? Sigh.


Dear Perplexed,
Was his hair slicked back? Was he wearing a devastatingly styled blue suit with narrow tie? Did he say, with some true sense of wonder and an alarmingly vacant smile, What a thing*! when you dared deny his want? I'm wondering because it sounds like you've encountered Pete Campbell. A version of Campbell is often found in a slightly updated suit, or adorable Nordic knit cap, hammering away at editors across the eastern seaboard. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this is how Hemingway greeted Stein, and we all know how that ended up.

The fantasy here is that you might have taken said poems read them, swooned, declared them brilliant, offered to take him to dinner, given him copious amounts of feedback, gelled his hair, shown him how to speak his poems with steady gravitas and/or jejune irritation. In short you might have discovered the next poet phenom. Or not. After all, what kind of poem, let alone person, can be read in an instant?


*or A thing like that

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