Friday, March 4, 2011

Branding Poems

As a kid I loved westerns--in print or on television. (We couldn't afford movies.) Every Sunday evening at my grandparents' house Aunt Dot, Uncle Bob and cousins Ralph and Margie would join us for ice cream while we watched a handsome guy on a horse round up the bad guys. Often enough, he also rounded up cows, and we saw the calves cut from the herd, roped, thrown to the ground and bawling as a red-hot branding iron marked them for their owner. In the days of open pasturage, the brand assured--more or less--that come fall roundup the owner and the hands brought in the right critters. Rustlers were hanged for having in their possession cattle with the tell-tale brand of a wronged rancher.

Branding poems is less dusty, I don't need a horse or rope, and so far no one has been hanged for corralling another poet's dogie. Poets and writers are now urged to market their work by branding it. This means  using a consistent head shot, creating a company name, and publicizing the work through readings--where the audience learns pretty quickly what to expect from a poet. One needs a "presence" on line. No longer is it enough to write well and throw the pages into the air with the hope that someone will catch them. Independent bookstores like Shakespeare & Company, which championed James Joyce when no other vendor would touch him, are few, and even the mega-stores, e. g. Borders, struggle against the tide of online opportunity for books and writers to garner attention. Well, I fought with this idea because it felt like bragging, but finally it has taken hold. So here I am brandishing a red-hot iron with my initials on it, stamping every poem as it lies with my mark. Rustlers beware!

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