Poets, like prophets, have always been socially suspect. They have a nasty way of telling us truths we’d rather not hear. Historically, prophets have even been tortured and killed. Isaiah, according to legend, was sawed in half with a wooden saw Jeremiah was cast into a miry dungeon and eventually stoned to death.
Poets usually don’t risk their lives to tell us there is no hope and we’re all going to die, but they don’t get rich, either. Most of the time they don’t even get published. The market for truth is slight. Poets who don’t marry money usually have to get a Ph.D. and teach at a university—which tends to ruin their poetry.
But one group of poets is fighting back against a profit-driven publishing industry. A fellow in my writing group bought a volume of poetry from a Borders store and found a card on which an original poem was printed—with a web address on the back. Guerilla Poetics is a small group of poets and friends whose mission is: “Returning poetry to the people by subversively putting it into their hands.” They print their poems on cards and send them to secret operatives in the US and some foreign countries. Operatives slip into bookstores and insert the poems into books—probably poetry books—to be discovered by unsuspecting buyers.
What a way to share your message with the world! It reminds me a little of how some Mormons write their testimony in a Book of Mormon and leave it on a doorstep, in a hotel room, or on public transportation. Kind of fun to imagine who might find it and have their life changed.
And I see a practical application for myself. I’m thinking I might self-publish my novel, stash copies of the first chapter (with my web address and ordering information) in books and magazines at bookstores, and see if sales take off. Wonder where I can find a worldwide network of operatives to help me