Dmitry Ratushny photo
Poetry with zero explanation for its content, title, even phrases, are poems with messages, stories, philosophies, they dangle words for a temporary muse with stanzas the poet sings with verses we may or may not understand. Poetry is freedom for writers who can’t resist metaphors in literary anarchy that only guarantees the poet his poetry until he or she can’t stand their own shadow.
So why does the poet who rarely earns enough money to pay the bills deserve the gamble to earn practically nothing at all? Edgar Allan Poe was a Boston poet of gothic dreams and one-eyed cats. He published The Raven in 1845 and earned nine dollars for the gem which remains on the syllabi in American schools and other parts of the world.
Independent poets, most often anyway, do not escape the exemption of the irresistible verse. Santa Barbara poet/publisher, David Starkey, earns a living as a college professor, as well as a poet. Starkey also owns Gunpowder Press with Chryss Yost, who mainly earns a living at her career University of California Santa Barbara.
Gunpowder Press began in 2014 when an unpublished poet named David Allen Case passed unexpectedly. Case sent most of his poems by email The press holds the Barry Spacks poetry prize. The winner(s) are awarded a publishing contract with Gunpowder Press, guaranteeing the poet a full book of their very own published poetry.
However, indy poets are not alone when it comes to alternate sources of income. Poets like Jack Kerouac and Sylvia Plath—American poets of the mid-20th century—wrote novel books of prose and ubiquitous verse. Kerouac, or the Messiah of the Buddha loving beat poets, found fame with his novel, On the Road, in 1957. And Plath’s only novel, The Bell Jar—published in 1963, a month before sweet Lady Lazarus’ suicide. Both novels are generally categorized as “poetic,” by readers, critics, scholars, and of course me.
But even poets in the big leagues offer unique exceptions. T.S. Eliot, the author of a world of influential poems, like The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915). But success didn’t stop Eliot from taking a job as a bank teller from 1917 to 1925 when his income he desired disappointed.
In all due respect, Mr. Eliot, a poet shows an indifference to topics—such as money for instance—material items almost never derail the primary interest of a poet. The next line, stanza, verse, erases the obsession we, often money—green paper with portraits of certified slave owners, lathered in poop and/or drugs—and confronts personal and world issues with a beyond-the-surface-attitude. Novel words and phrases bring solace to an aspiring poet, not a hefty bottom line.
Furthermore, over the years, this literary art form metamorphosed into a free-verse style that dominates popular poetry. Rhyming still exists in the twenty-first century, sure, and it always will, but particularly in rock and hip-hop music, rather than the typical stanza’d poem. Take Bob Dylan, who is known for his hard-to-ignore lyrics that sprouted in the 1960s. His 1966 gem, “I want you” Billboard Music listed as one of his “most beautiful lyrics”:
The guilty undertaker sighs
The lonesome organ grinder cries
The silver saxophones say I should refuse you
The cracked bells and washed-out horns
Blow into my face with scorn
But it’s not that way, I wasn’t born to lose you
In the 21st Century, hip hop musician Kendrick Lamar impresses the world with his own raps and spoken word poetry, beats to adorn the detailed declamations. His song, Wanna Be Heard says:
That’s kinda random, but my humor sometimes
strays, like a dog in the night
Twenty-four hours in a day but only take five
to grab a pad and a pen, then send your dog
I spread love like a Hippy, but I’m a (Black)
with Jesus Christ passion, I swear on the bible
Tabernacle to all my rivals, I ain’t mad
So to make money as a poet, particularly a poet who rhymes, bears a possibility Poetry is a drug I frequently abuse like heroin melted on notebooks that lack purpose. The poet’s low-paying craft is something I don’t lose sleep over. A poet dreams truth but might not understand it themselves. And if the reader isn’t sure of what the verses say, depending on the jargon of the poet and their will to starve like dogs, poems make people see what they may not.
Jon Vreeland is a writer of prose, poetry, plays, essays and journalistic articles. His memoir “The Taste of Cigarettes: the memoir of a heroin addict” will publish May 22, 2018 on Vine Leaves Press, Australia. Vreeland lives in Santa Barbara and has two daughters, Mayzee and Scarlett. Vreeland has not touched heroin in almost 4 years. You can read more of Vreeland’s work on his website.