I've heard twice now in the last month that my book will be harder to sell because it's poetry. Two women (one fellow writer, and one bookstore owner) opened my book, scanned a page or two, and declared that it might be difficult for me to increase my audience beyond friends and family. "Poetry" is not at a high demand.
To the book store owner, I just smiled and replied that, "'I'm not poet. It's a book of short stories written in verse."
"And don't judge a book by its cover!" I'd wanted to audaciously quip.
Only, she wasn't judging The Notes...by its cover. She'd looked inside and read a few lines.
Besides, I'm relying on these women to help me promote my book.
I'm two book events in and looking forward to two more in the very near future. And many, many more, God-willing. I have to have a well- thought-out, persuasive response ready when people want to write my work off as poetry, and dismiss it. Because the popular view is that poetry is not for everyone. Poetry puts many people off. It can be elusive. Not everyone has the time to sit down with a good book and decode the words and analyze their meanings. Many readers just want to sip tea and be spoon fed beautifully emotive prose.
How do I convince people that my book is just that - real sentences, complete paragraphs, chapters. Okay, there are no chapters, but you know what I mean...
So I looked up the definition of poetry and found phrases like rhythmic composition, metrical form, elevated thoughts, and words like beautiful, imaginative, and then (oh no!) verse. Verse? Verse!
Not one to give up easily, it was time for me to look at the definition of prose. Here are the words I found:
Poetry it is, folks!
So then there's the other thing - the fact that The Notes They Played might be a hard sell because it's poetry. And, so the question remains: How do I describe this way that I write without scaring people away?
I'm a lover of poetry and would happily claim it, no matter how many people it would discourage from reading my word. But, even with the definitions above, I still cannot say with any confidence that I am a poet. Poetry takes a certain level of genius that I do not possess.
When I was younger, reading poets like Paul Laurence Dunbar and Maya Angelou enraptured me. They took me to a place in my reading life that no novel ever has. Ever could. Their works are the kind that absolutely are for everyone. To be read over and over and memorized. To be shared with children and spouses and best friends.
My only hope is to believe that my writing is suspended in a kind of middle place. Stuck between prose and poetry. And believe that putting it that way to prospective buyers won't sound so lofty that it's off-putting. And just maybe, if I'm lucky, one day I'll be able to think up a book full of brilliant poetry that would have made Paul Laurence Dunbar, himself, proud!