Saturday, February 20, 2016

Etiquette for Soliciting Poetry Readings by Guest Blogger Joe Weil

 
This week, I’m happy to introduce (or re-introduce) you to poet Joe Weil.  If you're a long-time blog follower, you may recall Joe's previous blog contributions (click on the titles below to read):



I’ve known Joe since 1981 and have long admired his amazing poetry, his quick wit, and his uncommon intelligence.

Joe was born and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey and has been described by The New York Times as personifying that town: "working-class, irreverent, modest, but open to the world and filled with a wealth of possibilities." After atttending St. Mary of The Assumption grade school and high school, he worked the graveyard shift at various factories for more than 20 years, mainly at National Tool and Manufacturing in Kenilworth, New Jersey. During this time, he became involved in hosting poetry readings in both New Jersey and New York, and founded the literary magazine Black Swan Review. He is currently a lecturer in the creative writing department at Binghamton University. He and his wife, the poet Emily Vogel, have two children—Clare and Gabriel (Gabriel is my godson).

Often, when I conduct workshops, I’m asked how poets go about getting readings. Readings are important to those of us who write. They offer opportunities to share our work "up close and personal" and to connect in real "poetry time" with our audiences. As a reading series director since 1998, I think I've probably "seen it all" when it comes to poets looking for reading venues. There are definitely "dos" and "don'ts."

When I saw that Joe had written something about exactly that, I knew I wanted to share it on this blog. So … here it is, with my thanks to Joe for his permission to post it. 

Enjoy, learn and, hopefully, get some readings going.

 ____________________________________

Etiquette for Soliciting Readings by Joe Weil


1. Before sending a brochure online or hard copy of what you have to offer as a featured reader, it's always good to get an email address and send a query letter to the host asking if he or she or they wouldn't mind getting a brochure or packet via online or hard copy. These are materials. A simple packet may include:

a web site address where they can behold your glory, or, if sans web, a packet of sample poems, brief bio, a nice JPEG, list of previous readings and name of the book you may be trying to sell. You can also include press clippings, an actual video of you reading, anything you think will impress the host. But first inquire. Don't bombard anyone. As a host of readings for over 20 years I hated the hard sell. The poets who were good never pressured me. Remember some series are booked a year in advance (this seems to be the fact of funding and organization), so, if the host does not book you right away, be patient, and, if the reading is near you, why not go and support it? Do the legwork. If there's an open, read a poem in it—one really good one. Half my readings came from initially reading in the opens.

2. Make sure, if you're doing several readings in an area that, you don't book in such a way that you diminish one series for another—in short, try not to read within 20 miles of the same series at least three weeks before the gig. If you're reading in Philly and New York City, or some other place crowded with readings, then that's a different ball game. Show up early. Don’t pull the “show up late and therefore be the headline feature.” I hate when poets show up late for their own gigs. It's all too often a power game. They want to control the event. If you are late, call and let the host know you're lost or brain dead or whatever. Don't just flutter in with your three names and your Ezra Pound cape.

3. If possible stay for the whole event. Be gracious if there's an open, stay and listen. What you receive for your graciousness and presence exceeds any snobbishness or loathing you might experience. I HATE snobs whose elitism exceeds their talent. If you're truly a genius, I might tolerate it. Otherwise, I'll never have you feature for me again because you took off and left the people who came to see you high and dry. If you have to leave early, please be slavishly apologetic about it. I love slavishly apologetic. Even when it’s insincere, I prefer it to "Sorry. Have to go! See you later!"

4. Never, ever, over-read! Under-read by about a minute. If someone gives you an hour, they've made a pact with boring. Can you honestly hold a crowd for an hour without the little coughs and groans mounting? Never, never, say: “Four more poems!” or “Two more poems!” or anything other than "This is my last poem." I hate when I'm sitting there and my attention span is already stretched into transparency and I hear: “four more poems.” NOOOOOO! Don't do that to me (or to any other sentient creature).

5. Practice your readings, get an idea of how much time each of your poems takes, including intro, chit chat, etc. Good chitchat is part of the performance. Bad chitchat (such as a five minute speech before a haiku) is awful. If you're going to riffle through pages looking for a poem (and we all do that sometimes) be coy and flirtatious and as attractive as possible while doing so. Adjust your glasses, take a sip of water. Use that space to center the audience. Don't just fumble.

6. If possible, include one poem by another poet—a favorite, preferably one you know by heart. Dylan Thomas filled half his famous readings with the works of other poets.

7. Keep a log of how your set went. Keep track of how many books you sold. Observe the crowd. Old, young, academic, townspeople?

8. Right now, people underplay reading, but it’s the best way to reward your publisher for putting out a book—get out there and sell it.


________________________________________________________


Joe's books are available via Amazon.com—
no poet's library should be without at least one! 

 Click on the titles to order.







Gabriel, Emily, Clare, and Joe


MORNING AT THE ELIZABETH ARCH 
By Joe Weil

The winos rise as beautiful as deer.
Look how they stagger from their sleep
as if the morning were a river
against which they contend.
This is not a sentiment
filled with the disdain
of human pity.
They turn in the mind,
they turn
beyond the human order.
One scratches his head and yawns.
Another rakes a hand
through slick mats of thinning hair.
They blink and the street litter moves
its slow, liturgical way.
A third falls back
bracing himself on an arm.
At river’s edge, the deer stand poised.
One breaks the spell of his reflection with a hoof
and, struggling, begins to cross.


(Reprinted by permission of the author.)

13 comments:

  1. Joe Weil is amazing! I've heard him read and I have several of his books! I have to order the one he and his wife wrote together. Thanks for the link, and thanks for posting Joe's "words of wisdom."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sandy! Joe is uniquely talented and a great human being besides. So glad you enjoyed this post.

      Delete

  2. I would be terrified to read a poem in front of an audience. I enjoyed reading 'Etiquette for Soliciting Readings', both informative and very funny. I love Joe's poem — MORNING AT THE ELIZABETH ARCH.

    Thank you, Adele and Joe.

    Below are some sentences that made me laugh.

    ~ ~ ~

    You flutter in with your three names
    and your Ezra Pound cape —
    I hate snobs whose elitism exceeds
    their talent. If you're truly a genius,
    I might tolerate it.

    ~ ~ ~

    If you have to leave early, please
    be slavishly apologetic about it.
    I love slavishly apologetic. Even when
    it’s insincere, I prefer it to "Sorry.
    Have to go! See you later!"

    ~ ~ ~

    Never, never, say: “Four more poems!”
    or “Two more poems!” or anything other
    than - "This is my last poem."

    ~ ~ ~

    Good chitchat is part of the performance.
    Bad chitchat (such as a five-minute speech
    before a haiku) is awful.

    ~ ~ ~

    If you're going to riffle through pages
    looking for a poem be coy and flirtatious
    and as attractive as possible
    while doing so. Adjust your glasses,
    take a sip of water. Use that space to
    center the audience. Don't just fumble.

    ~ ~ ~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Lewis! I'm very happy to know that you enjoyed the post, and thanks for sharing some of your favorite parts.

      Delete
  3. So happy to see Joe Weil here on your blog again. Thanks, Adele! I've ordered two of the books you list and look forward to receiving them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment, Rich! I know you'll enjoy the books!

      Delete
  4. I already tossed my cape. And late arrival? No. I always leave early. Helps avoid panic when an overturned car stops all highway traffic on the way. And yes, features should stay for the open; they listened to us, we listen to them. Thanks, Joe, for reviewing these points, adding more, and all in your articulate voice. Your poem was a bonus. Elizabeth should thank you for preserving its voice. Thanks, Adele, for reminding us of who we are and who we should be by posting this blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Gail! (I didn't know you had a cape!) :-)

      Delete
  5. A poem using only the words (rearranged) from 'Etiquette for Soliciting Readings' by Joe Weil

    ~ ~ ~

    Don't Do That

    Show up late, flutter in and if
    you have an hour take four more and
    try to control the whole event with
    your Ezra Pound cape.

    For 20 minutes riffle through the pages of
    poems by other poets that you don't read.

    Try to bombard the audience with a series
    of haiku poems about glasses of water and
    to the mounting coughs and groans don't be
    apologetic, say: "NOOOOOO!, I'm the headline
    feature and truly a genius!"

    Never, ever, practice your readings and as
    part of your performance underplay your host
    and the poems by Dylan Thomas —
    just fumble through your own gig.

    If the crowd don't ask for more of your poems
    or your email address say "you're all boring,
    brain-dead, lost or whatever!"

    ~ ~ ~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, how clever, Lewis! And what fun! Thanks so much for sharing this!

      Delete
  6. Good tips. I must get back into the habit of sharing the poetry of others during my reading. I used to do it all the time and somehow fell out of practice. Thank you, Joe, for the reminder of good courtesy and how to share the love of poetry.

    Since I first read it in The Great Grandmother Light, I've wanted to start a poem with a line like "The winos rise as beautiful as deer." That line is underlined in my copy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Michael! I couldn't agree more -- we all need a reminder now and then, and Joe's wit and wisdom lead us to where we need to be.

      That same line is underlined in my copy too!

      Delete
  7. Amita Jayaraman (Mumbai)February 26, 2016 at 8:52 AM

    Joe Weil seems to be such an intelligent and humorous person. Thank you for this post, which is both informative and a pleasure to read.

    ReplyDelete