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Hot selling poetry book due to Mad Men mention

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Old 10-29-2008, 09:15 AM
Lin
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Default Hot selling poetry book due to Mad Men mention


Apparently the TV show "Mad Men" mentioned the poetry book "Meditations In An Emergency" by Frank O'Hara in a season premiere show and included a verse as voice-over narration.

The results were pretty startling for a book of verse in the modern United States (especially one by a very minor poet from the fifties): the book shot up to Number One on Google's "Hot Trends" list and amazon.com sold out of it within hours.

So what? I point to two conclusions from this:

1) The more obvious one, media attention can sell your book. Being a "best selling book" isn't some intrinsic quality, it's a matter of presence in the public mind.

2) The oft-culturally maligned American public actually DOES like poetry and not only WILL read it, but will seek it out enthusiastically. They are kind of waiting to hear about something they like. They are not willing to wade through the jungle of ingroupish, self-indulgents, precious little tomes out there, and not willing to accept the word of teachers and pundits of what is "good". But exposed to something they can relate to, they will buy it with the ready appetite that made people like Browning and Lindsay and Service and Frost household names and as recently as the sixties made Rod McKuen and Kahlil Gibran best sellers.


So. Aside from what this says about the inbred, overly academized, trivialize state of poetry and its failure to connect to the reading public, and the denigrated potential of an accessible, wise poetry book to gain a major audience, there's this:

You could take this as a metaphor for the current wave of self-published and small press books. It's not that people won't buy them. It's not that they don't trust things that don't have an editor's stamp of approval on them. It's that there is the vast jungle of stuff out there and they don't have the time or inclination to navigate it. If your POD book from lulu.com gets mentioned on Oprah or American Idol next month, it will suddenly be a best-selling book for those famous fifteen minutes. And provide a platform for further sales.

This is NOT saying, Rush out there and try to get your book "As Seen On TV!". What I'm talking about is that the market value of a book is totally relative and exposure-subjective, and that nobody should assume that any given book is not in the "seller class". And to think accordingly.

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Old 10-29-2008, 09:49 AM
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Definitely option one: they are trend-whores, glued to their TV and willing only to read/do what the latest TV show says is "cool." Only then is it ok to read what is otherwise extremely lame, i.e. poetry. But if the Idiot Box says it's ok, then it must be ok.

Sorry to inject cynicism in here, but admit it, that's sorta how it is.
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Old 10-29-2008, 12:00 PM
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It does say a lot about the value of media exposure! However, "trend-whores" are more likely to buy what they're told to buy... as in Oprah's book club. As far as I can tell from Lin's post, no-one on Mad Men said "Hey, go buy this book!" It sounds more like they featured it, then people liked it and sought it out.

I'm leaning toward Option 2... most people I know will say they hate poetry, but their clear preferences about it, and the way they respond to good poetry, suggest that they like it. It's just that "poetry" has such la-dee-da connotations. My sister says she doesn't like poetry. Yet, when I read her something she likes, she says: "Now that's a poem!" Hmm...
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Old 10-29-2008, 12:55 PM
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Exactly. People love poetry. That's why it's around. It's just that what the word and image suggests anymore is too rarified for the average person's taste and experience.

They actually WANT a book of poems they can enjoy, read to lovers, give to friends and families, etc. They just don't see it out there for them. When they do, they buy it.
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Old 10-29-2008, 01:23 PM
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Must. Find. Media. Exposure!

Hmm.
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Old 10-29-2008, 03:08 PM
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Yeah, sorry bout my earlier post. Been watching too much CNN & co. lately. Leaves me feeling negetive. Just the same, I don't think it's totally wrong, what I said.

I will give you that people's idea of poetry is some hard to read Shakespeare they were forced to read in school, or sugar-sweet Hallmark stuff, and so write off (no pun intended) the whole of the art-form.
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Old 10-29-2008, 03:24 PM
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Both Shakespeare and Hallmark find more favor with the general book market than does the "main stream" of contemporary poetry.

THAT really sucks. And it's not "their" fault.
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Old 10-29-2008, 03:48 PM
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Well, Shakespeare is/was a genius. It's just hard for an introduction for poetry appreciation, turns people off. But that Hallmark succeeds so well really does suck, I agree.
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Old 10-29-2008, 08:24 PM
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I don't see why Hallmark should draw scorn. It's a commercial product that people seem to like. I don't know why it would even be dragged into a poetry discussion actually. It's greeting card verse.

Shakespeare's PLAYS are like, historical. Not really part of this discussion.
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Old 10-30-2008, 06:04 AM
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They're relevant because those are what people are most exposed to when it comes to poetry.
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Old 10-30-2008, 07:08 AM
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A bold generalization. I'd hazard the guess that MANY more people are familiar with Browining and Keats and Fost and Nash and even Ginsberg than with Shakespeare's poems.

And again, if you want to consider a greeting card "poetry", I guess that's up to you.



My point is that people like poetry, but are denied the opportunity to enjoy it. When it's presented in their paths, they respond.
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