Eileen R. Tabios is a poet working in multiple genres and in-between. She also loves books by writing, reading, publishing, critiquing, romancing and advocating for them. This blog will feature her bibliophilic activities with posts on current book engagements and links to her books and projects related to books.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Spent part of my recent vacation reading (and annotating for a possible review) the 1955-1997 correspondence between Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg: I GREET YOU AT THE BEGINNING OF A GREAT CAREER, effectively edited by Bill Morgan. There are many gems innit, but perhaps because I include "poet-publisher" among my own roles, I'm focusing (at least this afternoon) on Ginsberg's opinions of Ferlinghetti's poems -- a section that made me wince.

I didn't wince because Ginsberg thought poorly of Ferlinghetti's poems (though he shared his constructive criticism) but because, as a topic, it was obviously not at the top of Ginsberg's list of concerns (this topic wasn't raised until page 153 of the book) and Ginsberg is a poet who pays attention to other poets. And Ferlinghetti was, at least, conscious of Ginsberg's lack of attention ... a few pages past p 153, Ginsberg offered some more notes on Ferlinghetti's poems but I got the sense (I could be misreading but I don't think I am) that Ginsberg was nicely (if belatedly) realizing that he should be more attuned to the fact that his publisher also writes poems.  Well, really, you should read this book to sense the nuances for yourself (and see if I'm being over-imaginative)...

since this is a topic that resonates to me as a poet-publisher.  As a publisher, I don't expect reciprocal attention to my work from poets I publish.  The focus in this publishing arrangement is the publishee.  But what does it mean when the publishee is indifferent to how his publisher is also a peer, also a poet?

So often, I've received surprise and/or a distinct, as if rare, pleasure as the reactions to a question I pose to my publishers or editors, "How's your work coming along?" and/or "I appreciated your work ___" followed by some question about it. This surprise is also why I don't expect my publishees ever to pay attention to my own work (though the majority, to my distinct pleasure, do).

Not sure, really, where I'm going with this.  Nowhere, I guess.

One poet-publisher once shared that it can be a tad aggravating when a publishee talks to the publisher as if the publishee was the master and the publisher a mere listener when the publisher is also a poet.  (Got that?)

I guess I'll stop talking now about this topic which is just grimace-generating, sadly because it partly bespeaks the limited attention given to any poet's works.


  1. nice work kiddo. it is a strange thing to combine writing and publishing. it is really easy, he says quietly, to think oneself into corners.

  2. this is very thoughtful. I would love to read that book and after I finish slogging through Eliot's letters I will put it on my library list. I have a true difficulty telling a poet I admire his or her work if I really don't. even if it is my own editor. even then. there is so little holiness in my life but this is one of those areas that are truly ARGHHH for me. I'll do it if I get paid for it though which I guess makes me a poetry whore but I've been one of those before too. one thing I try to do is when I read a poem in a journal that I get really crazy about I find the poet and tell her or him or I email the editor and ask to pass my bliss along. it doesn't seem like much but I think it makes a small difference in a big often indifferent world.

  3. Thanks jimbo! And Rebecca, I think your gesture of appreciation is not small at all -- and can make a HUGE difference, as in giving extra fuel while wrestling with the writing...

  4. There are peeps who have a hard time seeing someone as other than just one thing: they'll acknowledge you as either a poet or an editor but often can't seem to make the leap to accepting that you do both with equal seriousness. This is a problem that I've encountered many times over the last few decades. It can be maddening.