Commerce and Poetry - A VRB News Report
Redknott’s Art Leaves Profit Watchers Edgy
By Boniface Himmelforth
A Vrzhu Research Bureau Exclusive
Lobscouse Island, Maine — Paul Redknott has never released a book of poetry that was not a commercial and creative triumph, and his 10th book, “Waywardscape,” is looking to be no exception — at least artistically.
To the extreme irritation of the Knoughlin-Hifflin, however, two important business camps — Wall Street and Anaconda, the online shopping behemoth — are notably nervous about “Waywardscape.”
The book, by the 78-year-old Redknott, features dazzling poems that evoke the works of Hopkins, Geoffrey Hill and Barrett Watten. Like Redknott’s American Book Award-winning “The Limestone Wall,” there are stretches of fragmented words, even phonemes. A few poems are rendered in white on white typeface.
Some poetry watchers, a few of them still griping about the hefty $2 million advance that Knoughlin-Hifflin paid Redknott for “The Limestone Wall,” are fretting about the book’s commercial potential, particularly when it comes to benefiting other Knoughlin-Hifflin efforts.
Robert Bluespan of Galactopoesis Research downgraded Knoughlin-Hifflin shares to sell last month, citing a poor outlook for “Waywardscape” as a reason. “We doubt the average reader will be that excited by the book,” he wrote, adding a complaint about the lack of a poems with sexy themes.
Mr. Bluespan is alone in his vociferousness, but not in his opinion.
“People seem to be concerned about this one,” said William Oscars, who follows Knoughlin-Hifflin at Casusbelli & Company. Brad Yogsothoth of Eldritch and Company, a business affiliate of Anaconda, said qualms ran deeper than whether “Waywardscape” will be a success — he thinks it will — but rather whether Redknott can deliver the kind of mega-success he once did.
“The worries keep coming despite Paul’s track record, because each book he delivers seems to be less accessible than the last,” Mr. Yogsothoth said.
Tony Eigersanction, Knoughlin-Hifflin’s chief executive, responded, “We seek to publish great poetry first. If a great poet gives birth to a franchise, we are the first company to leverage such success. A check-the-boxes approach to creativity is more likely to result in blandness and failure.”
The print run for “Waywardscape” is about 500,000, on par with other Redknott titles. “Waywardscape” will not arrive in bookstores until April 30, 2009, but Redknottistas — nudged along by the publisher, which has been posting poems on its site — are already effusive.
“Sophisticated, mature, poignant,” wrote Red Sky At Knott, a blog that chronicles everything Redknott. The New York City Tribeca Literary Festival is so excited about “Waywardscape,” that it slotted a reading with Redknott on its prestigious opening night, a huge promotional platform that has never before gone to a poet or book of poetry.
Adjusted for inflation, Redknott’s books have generated a combined $2.65 million in domestic sales, a spectacular showing. “Binge and Purge” in 2003 was the high point, generating 905,000 in hardback sales.
Redknott’s last two books, “Limestone Wall” and “Wankel’s Engine,” have been Redknott’s two worst performers according to Poetry Mojo, a tracking service. Sales of Redknott’s books have dropped sharply over the years, suggesting that price inflation helped prop up overall dollar figures for “Limestone Wall” and “Wankel’s Engine.”
Knoughlin-Hifflin marketers had hoped to curtail the it’s-not-commercial reaction to “Waywardscape” by breaking with past practice and widely publishing individual poems from the book online, and in newspapers and magazines. Inside the publishing house, executives are bullish on it, particularly because focus groups have responded favorably. The company added that it does not expect every Redknott book to become a franchise.
Perhaps Wall Street would not care so much if Redknott seemed to care a little more. Redknott said in a recent online question and answer session with reporters that the book’s commercial prospects never crossed his mind. “I write poems for myself,” he said. “I’m kind of ornery and selfish that way.”
Arthur Frockpru, head of Knoughlin-Hifflin’s poetry division, routinely says in interviews that marketability is not a factor in decisions about what books and authors to pursue. Instead of ideas that feel contemporary, he aims for poems that are rooted in the ages.
“Quality is the best business plan” is one of Mr. Frockpru’s favorite lines.
“We wanted more Eliot and less McKuen,’ ” Mr. Frockpru said. “In certain parts, it’s more of a feeling we’re going after than linear narrative and accessibility.”
Protect your reputation with...
The Poetry Termination Toolkit!
“The 3 Critical Factors You Must Consider Before Terminating Any Poem”
Let me tell you about discarding and terminating...
Collectively, the Vrzhu Research Bureau has had a poetry career spanning almost 8 years, semi-professionally. During this time we've written good poetry. But, unfortunately, we've also written lots of awful poetry that just couldn't be rehabilitated no matter how hard we tried. Also, we've had to discard poetry because of other considerations: the danger of libel, violation of local “morals” statutes, coffee stains. Because of our unique career as "turnaround" poetry professionals, we've been involved in over 110,000 poetic terminations.
To make termination easier on you and the poem, the VRB has created a step-by-step system for terminating and discarding poetry: The Poetry Termination Toolkit! We would like to share this proven and unique system with you.
With this system, you'll have all of the procedures and options you need to make a termination go smoothly. You'll have confidence and peace of mind that you're doing the right thing.
Please take 5 minutes (or more if you want)/(or less) and read this informational presentation-like advertisement. I'll tell you more about how to properly terminate poetry.
How would you categorize your poetry? (Check all that apply)
If you marked at least one of these … then you need to know how to terminate properly.
Before terminating or discarding a poem, there are 3 critical termination factors you must consider. In this article, we will cover these in detail:
Once you decide to terminate, you must know how. You'll discover that terminating is much easier and less risky than you thought.
Let’s get started with the 3 factors…
Factor #1: Fight Or Flight… How The Problem Poem Will Suck the Soul Right Out of You
The problem poem always knows it’s “on the bubble” and may be terminated soon. This wouldn’t be a problem if the poem would take the hint and improve its performance and behavior. But, this seldom happens because a bad apple remains a bad apple. Instead, you’ll notice that its behavior will get worse. Your problem poem will either:
You’ll notice these behaviors match the “fight or flight” response you learned to use in school. If you recall, when an animal gets into trouble, there are just two reactions, fight or flight. As we’ve seen, your poem will react the same way when its status in your oeuvre is threatened.
In either case, your only recourse is to get rid of the poem as quickly as possible, especially if your poetry is facing hardship from the recent economic or talent troubles...
Let us cover each of these reactions.
In our experience, most poems will decide to “fight” and carry out an intimidation campaign. Sometimes these campaigns are subtle, but often they’re very public. Here’s what happens.
The poem wants you to suffer as much as possible. Its goal is to use up your time and energy on it until you can’t back off.
In this case, you only have one choice. You must show it (and your other poems) you’re the Poet. You can’t have a poem undermining your authority. Its malicious and ridiculous lines justify its termination.
Now let’s discuss the opposite reaction, “flight.” In this scenario, the problem poem shuts down and stops working. It refuses to change and hopes to have you stop writing altogether.
At this point, the poem has accepted that you’ll eventually get rid of it it. So, its strategy is to drain as much creativity and inspiration as possible out of you while providing the least possible return, often not even a stanza. In effect, it’s daring you to terminate it.
What do you do? You can try to rehabilitate it, but the poem is now too far gone. Your best choice is to terminate now ... but you need to do it right.
(By the way, this is also the best thing for the poem as well. It's clear that its not happy and productive. It's better to give it the push to find another niche that is better suited for it: prose poem, short-short, shopping list, pornography. You are actually doing the problem poem a favor when you terminate.)
In the next section, we will talk about the consequences of keeping a problem poem longer than you should.
Factor #2: The Problem Poem Will Destroy Your Morale and Results… If You Don’t Do Something About It Today
Suppose you decide to give the problem poem an extra chance and let him stay in your manuscript or active submission list. What happens to you and your good poems?
Let us give it to you straight. The poem will poison the poetic environment it comes into contact with, including book contests, workshops, journal submissions, other poets, and your long-suffering non-poetry friends, to the extent you still have any. This is a natural outcome to being an “on-the-bubble” poem and being bad.
Your poetry will suffer because you’ll be losing inspiration and places to submit… and because you now have to spend so much time rewriting just this one poem. Unfortunately, it may take you years to re-establish any level of interest from other people in your poems again, if ever.
Besides this, the poem may poison your relationship with your other poems. Your “good” poems will see it’s all right to read badly and not to fulfill their potential. Your morale will drop, and this will further erode results.
Here’s the worst part. You’ll lose your best performing poems. That one poem that “kills” at readings will be met by indifference, contempt and derision. The journals that previous took your work faithfully will now return your poems with a generic rejection slip and a subscription card. And your friends…well, you haven’t seen them lately, have you?
The problem poem is a malignant cancer on your poetry. This cancer spreads by turning good poems into bad ones and by forcing your best poems out. In either case, you must cut out the cancer at its source before it spreads further. The cancer.
In the next section, you’ll learn why cutting out the cancerous problem poem becomes much harder with every extra day you wait to terminate.
Factor #3: The Longer You Wait… The Harder It Is To Terminate The Poem
If you wait to terminate the poem, there is a good chance you’ll never be rid of it.
Let me give you two common reasons this happens.
First, if you decide to rehabilitate the problem poem, it will drain all the energy from you. You’ll find yourself spending all your time working on this one poem and fighting any damage it’s causing to your style. Eventually, it wears you down, but you still can’t leave it alone.
Why? Because terminating the poem is admitting that you failed. (By the way, if this describes your situation, I want you to know you’ve not failed, probably. Most problem poem can’t be saved regardless of what you do. Remember… a bad apple remains a bad apple.)
Second, by waiting to terminate, you’re giving the problem poem time to infect your entire poetry “career.” Its strategy is to unmask your weaknesses as a poet and magnify any mistakes—incredibly stupid mistakes a five-year old wouldn’t make—you’ve made.
So why do poets wait to eliminate a problem poem… when it’s obvious you should get rid of it right away?
The primary reason is most poets have never been trained in proper termination procedures… and they're afraid of making mistakes, of throwing away a perfectly good poem, or even a great one. But don’t let this hold you back. Really. With our system, you’ll discover an easy and low risk way to terminate even the most difficult poem.
Now You Can Terminate Without Worry
Although we here at the VRB are no stranger to terminating and deleting poems, We'd still like you to think we're much like you. In the past, we didn’t get rid of poems as fast as we should have. We let them walk all over us while giving them a “chance.”
Finally, sick and tired of being taken advantage of, it became clear the problem poem was taking advantage of us for treating it fairly… and daring us to terminate it.
We hesitated to terminate because we didn’t have a consistent termination approach. So we made up this wish list for our ideal termination approach…
First, it must have practical termination procedures and effective options you could apply in any mental state.
Second, it must have a method for knowing your risk before you terminate… and it must tell you what to do for each risk level. This method must be simple enough that an average poet can use it without needing to spend big bucks on the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. For example.
Third, it must give solid recommendations for handling difficult and tricky terminations especially when they are high risk.
“Necessity is the mother of invention” –Plato in the Republic
“He who hesitates is lost” –the Marquis de Sade in 120 Days in Sodom
Here is just some of the useful knowledge you’ll discover in the VRB's Poetry Termination Toolkit…
Like Talking To A Trusted Friend
The Poetry Termination Toolkit is the only toolkit available that takes you by the hand and shows you how to terminate poems. We’ve written the Toolkit in a conversational style to make it easy-to-read and use. It’s like talking to a trusted friend about your troubles over a cup of coffee, having them actually care, and getting a straight answer about what to do.
When you’re through reading the Poetry Termination Toolkit, you’ll know how to do the right thing.
You can easily follow these procedures even if you’re a new poet. Also, our termination methods work for poems of all sizes from one-word saroyanisms to sestinas to epic novels-in-verse, regardless of your poetics. This is a universal guidebook you can use wherever your attempt at a career takes you.
The Poetry Termination Toolkit includes the Vrzhu Research Bureau's proprietary and trademarked Poetic Risk Estimate & Guilt Avoidance System™. This system is unique. Nobody else shows ordinary poets how to find out the risk of deleting, withdrawing, and terminating poems.
Here are some other unique topics you’ll get in the Toolkit…
As you know, the VRB has loaded the Poetry Termination Toolkit
with tons of reliable procedures, effective options and practical
recommendations that apply anywhere, anytime, to anyone. But, we
haven’t covered everything so far. Believe us, there’s plenty more.
Let us give you a summary.
You'll get these tools with the Poetry Termination Toolkit:
We guarantee these tools will make your life much easier when you decide to write, or revise, or discard. They do the hard work for you.
The Vrzhu Research Bureau
Remember...The Vrzhu Research Bureau. "Poetry Solutions for Non-Poets. Poetry Non-Solutions for Everyone Else."