The Last Blurb

The other day I received what I hope is my last blurb ever, and from perhaps my favorite poet in the world, Bob Hicok. Reading Bob’s work, particularly his most recent, you get the sense that there’s this perpetual stream of poetry flowing through his head 24/7, and that whenever he feels like it, he can just reach down and scoop up a cup of brilliance. The beginnings and endings are nebulous, as if they continue on through underground aquifers after the last line. And like any river, you can never step into the same Hicok poem twice.

What’s more, his writing process, as described in our interview with him this summer, seems very similar to mine. There’s a focus on the moment of creation, and a trust in spontaneity. We both like to start with a trigger, some line or image or idea, and see where it takes us.

Anyway, here’s what Bob had to say about American Fractal:

Looking for the order within disorder, Timothy Green would “wake the body from its only available dream.” Green appreciates how strange this order can be, and that the extraordinary is the hallmark of the individual. In these poems, a man auctions his forehead as ad space, cutlery rains from the sky, spiders devour their mother: in other words, here is life.
–Bob Hicok, author of This Clumsy Living

The blurb is definitely more descriptive than laudatory, but as my publicist (I’m calling Caroline, Red Hen’s Publicity Director, my publicist, because it’s fun) said, it’s probably a more trustworthy endorsement than someone calling me the next T.S. Eliot, which, obviously, I’m not. It’s not fawning, but you can believe it. There are a handful of poets — Li-Young Lee, Stephen Dunn, Jorie Graham, to name a few — who made me realize I liked poetry, and Hicok is one of them. So him just reading the book, let alone putting his name behind it, means a lot.

But I say ‘the last blurb’ for a reason. I’d really love this to be my last blurb. What an obnoxious enterprise, on every end — and do they even work? Have you ever bought a book of poetry because of a blurb on the back? Hell no! Why read a blurb when you can just read one of the poems inside in about the same amount of time? And doesn’t the poem tell you more?

Blurbs make sense for longer works, fiction and non-, where you can’t skim a page and get any sense of whether or not it’s worth reading. I think blurbs for poetry are a kind of vestigial organ for publishers, one of several that don’t really fit the economics and aesthetics of the genre. Another example is the book tour, which, being so much more expensive, both in a financial and a Darwinian sense, has all but disappeared already. When the number of books you sell doesn’t justify the gas and a cheap hotel, the answer is obvious. But blurbs cost only time and shamelessness, so they’re here to stay.

I should say that I’ve been stunned at the graciousness of the poets who I asked for blurbs — I assumed only half of those I asked would be willing to give me that much of their valuable time, but all but one agreed, and everyone said they genuinely enjoyed the book, on top of it all. As a result, I have one or two more blurbs than I really need. I feel guilty about it — what if Hicok could have written another masterpiece in the time he took reading my book? And because of me, the world is denied…

So yet another reason to hope this is the last. My next book, which is still percolating in the subconscious, is going to be much more consistent and concise than AmFrac. It’s a more tightly-woven near-sonnet sequence, so my plan is to just put my favorite poem on the back of the book, and leave it at that. That was Marvin Bell’s advice, and I’m going to take it.