A bookseller in NY, who makes a decent living reading poorly-written Ph.D. dissertations in the field of Education, wrote to me to ask for the SPD (Small Press Distribution) catalog, that I had slipped into my conference bag at the AWP in Atlanta. From his own funds, he plans to buy a selection of SPD books for spring, perhaps for Poetry Month. His sales are woefully meager, though his designs for bookselling are exquisite. He is a genius, a musical prodigy at age 3. He wrote, conducted, and produced his compositions for orchestra in Pittsburgh, while he was yet a graduate student. I say "yet a graduate student," because an auspicious debut, in a realistic world, would lead to a next life as a composer. Unfortunately, ours is an unrealistic world. With so much mediocrity in teaching & academe -- and who can deny it? -- the debut in certain very talented people is the finale.
I genuinely believe that poetry is better than that, that it is a better community, whether inside or outside academe, and that is probably why my prodigious composer friend has turned to it out of love. I happily gathered up catalogs I had gleaned at the conference. I took out a mailer, filled out the mailing sticker, selected the best materials, and prepared to ship them to him. I was full of useful happiness because I get to go to the post office on official poetry business today. I want to be a paid secretary in poetry (again -- ).
They laugh! They always laugh. I know who they are and they laugh. I say "paid secretary," and they think of nothing but laughter.