I’ve been thinking about the word “generous” and how it can describe the well-known writers who responded to my letter pleading for submissions to Solace in So Many Words. After all, if you have prize-winning books to your name, you don’t need appear in a POD paperback edited by an unknown and published by an imprint with no track record. My guess is that they liked the theme of solace. But I know also it is because they are generous.
I won’t lie. I Google myself. A lot. And it is a good thing I do because I have watched one of my poems “Between the sheets” go a little viral. It happened again–showing up on a blog– just the other week. “Between the sheets” first appeared in the Spring 2004 issue of Willow Review, which is the lit journal of the College of Lake County. I submitted it to the journal, was glad it appeared, went to the reading, all that.
I don’t know how soon after that it started going viral. From what I can tell, it all began when “Between the sheets” was on a site called Casa Poema, Famous Poetry Collection. I wrote an email once to Judith Podron (which is the name of the poet associated with the web address) asking how she came by the poem, but I didn’t get an answer. I couldn’t remember if I had submitted “Between the sheets” to her ( my record-keeping isn’t always so great) or whether she had read it in Willow Review. When I didn’t hear, I just left it be.
Now “Between the sheets” lives on the Web, tagged as a poem about reading. When I checked the poem just now on Casa Poema, the site reports it has had 8,480,570 visitors since 10/31/2001. From what I can gather, now when you Google poems about writing and reading, Judith Podron’s site comes up; a couple of clicks later and “Between the sheets” is on the screen.
I would estimate “Between the sheets” has been reprinted in at least seven or eight blogs and a couple of myspace pages. It is in what I think is a Polish journal–Mjesec Poezije (Travanj 2009). Last year it came out in a textbook by Pearson’s called Everything’s a Text; the editors found my poem on the Web and tracked me down. “Between the sheets” is sandwiched between works by Sherman Alexie and Billy Collins. Hey, I’m not complaining. And I recently found it in a lesson plan called “The Growing Culture of Youth Readers.” That my name may be associated with homework is something I never considered.
At first I didn’t know what to think about my poem showing up places. I would prefer to know about publication and give consent; I would prefer to have control. But it is going to happen. And, in the case of “Between the sheets,” it turned out okay. The poem would never have had the readership, and it gives me a charge to think so many people like it. So my philosophy about my work appearing like this is evolving. I guess it is cool as long as: 1) the work is attributed to me, looks good (no typos) and appears in something that I’d probably consent to anyway; and 2) the publication is not making money off me. Once the dollar comes into the picture, I should get mine.
Now comes the time when I should wrap up the blog with some conclusion about generosity and virality, but I don’t have one. I guess I could say something about how with art, once you put it out there, it is not just yours any more. It is shared. And that is the truth. Or part of it.
But that doesn’t explain how I feel about the contributors to Solace in So Many Words letting me use their work. That they entrusted me with their words, that was generous.