On How to Survive Publication




Louis Daniel Brodsky



Caveat: having your work published can be exhilarating or embarrassing, humbling or humiliating, akin to Christmas or being buried alive.

When a poem you've written is given public exposure, it can open you up to adulation and garner you a personal invite, from Lorne Michaels, to fill in for Mariah Carey or Smashing Pumpkins, on Saturday Night Live.

But more than likely, publication will subject you to undeservedly scathing criticism, moral condemnation, and a fatwa from Muqtada al-Sadr.

And if neither of these extremes occurs, your poem will attract absolutely no attention whatsoever, from the twelve and a half subscribers to the magazine in which it appears, typo-warts and all.

Just remember, once in print, you're fair game. And if your self-esteem is not shrouded in Kevlar body armor, you'd better find a place to hide, either from your detractors or your disillusioned psyche.

Regardless, while in your cave or padded cell, DO NOT, I emphasize, DO NOT, AT ANY COST, STOP WRITING. Rather, keep telling yourself that the world is a raving, ignorant lunatic who watches American Idol and couldn't appreciate a cow turd, even if sculpted by Michelangelo himself, or a "There once was a lady from Wheeling . . . ," even if penned by Shakespeare himself.

Let's assume the best: your work appears in a magazine and you're bombarded with e- and snail fan mail requesting your sagacious advice about the path you took to getting your poem published. Naturally, you must be prepared to sound profound, prophetic, existential, visionary, messianic, and hip, knowing, all the while, that your good fortune was nothing short of a fantastical fluke — your instantaneous celebrity, that is, on having a poem actually chosen for publication, a poem you dashed off, on a sanitary napkin, while going through the security concentration camp at O'Hare, using your girlfriend's shoulder as a desk, hoping no one would find the grass stowed in the battery compartment of your laptop. In your newfound fame, reeking of self-aggrandizement bordering on the obnoxious and preposterously abrasive, you set about composing a sardonic, tongue-in-cheek how-to, hoping to draw prospective poets into the Poetry Powerball Lottery of editorial arbitrariness and condescension.

And if you decide that you're too important, too damn good, to be bothered by requests for insight into your dazzling success, then just tune out, turn off, and drop in . . . into the battery compartment of your laptop.



March 2008








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