I know a thing or two about struggling for my art. I have spent precious hours compiling submissions, writing cover letters, and addressing SASE’s for poems that are sometimes accepted, often rejected, and just as often disappear. It’s more than a little frustrating, but I do it anyway. I do it because, as a poet, I have no choice.
It feels sometimes like poets are on the bottom rung of the artistic ladder in terms of respect and opportunity, even though we work hard to get our voices heard. We don’t get the same kind of star treatment as, say, Jewel or Billy Corgan (both of whom have written horrendous books of poetry). There’s no America’s Next Top Poet for the likes of us. And if there were, who would watch? Episodes consisting entirely of people writing? Not exactly entertaining.But in each of us there lives a little dream that we will make it, we will be stars, we will change the way others see poetry. Can’t you see it? The packed stadium, cell phone cameras pointed towards the stage where Ani DiFranco (another star with a book of poems, this one not so bad) has just performed an opening act. The spotlights swing towards center stage, fireworks shoot off, and she enters through a cloud of fog to take her place at the solitary mike: Katie C., the rock-n-roll poet. The crowd roars, screams. Tears flow. She smiles and takes a breath. Well, that’s how it plays out in my head. A girl can dream, right?
Which is why I am excited to see the current D.I.Y. trend in the music industry. No longer do musicians or bands have to be “big-label” to earn respect or get exposure. Anyone can have a big fan base, courtesy of social networking sites. Songs can be purchased directly from ITunes, and the money goes straight to the artist. And the publicity, whether it’s a fan’s Myspace song choice, a Twitter message from a concert, or a simple email, is free.
Some musicians can grumble that Mp3’s and file-sharing will lead to the death of the music industry. I say bring it on. We poets have been D.I.Y.ers from the beginning, and we applaud the creative freedom and innovation that comes with such a culture. Also, the quicker the big-label dreams die for musicians, the faster they’ll get me up on stage.