How Are Your Book Sales Going?

One of my current least favorite questions. One capable of triggering doubts, second-guessing and negativity. My favorite answer to this least favorite question is— Think of the Zen koan - What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Alternately, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, might said tree someday get another chance of being heard via a book?

Because, indeed, life is short; art long (ars longa, vita brevis), neither of which sales numbers address. I am nothing but happy to have Rocking Like It’s All Intermezzo: 21st Century Psalm Responsorials out in the world. And I have received some comments that have meant a great deal to me.

Beyond that, publishing one book seems to have flipped my stuck brake switch! And made it easier to imagine doing additional books. The poems in Rocking address interior struggles and temporary rapprochements. They are not the satirical, angry quasi-polemics I’m so fond of, recently, some of which can be found online or at locations referenced on this website. But if seen as a group, they make a more coherent statement and complement the Psalm poems perfectly.

As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, reform is needed. Reform is normal, i.e., has happened before in the church’s long history. It is our church. We bear corporate responsibility to ensure substantive change. No bloodless apologies or insipid window-dressing. A real metanoia is required. To this end, I put together a 10-poem sequence addressing the domestic church reality, as I see it. The best of the poems that I’ve been writing all along. And This Can’t Be Good, Ten Poems in Praise of Reform has joined Rocking on Amazon.

At this point, it is available only as an ebook. I think it works, with one glaring exception. The need to use long lines in these somewhat cerebral poems (or maybe I just like long lines) conflicts mightily with the small phone screen. Maybe phone readers turn their devices horizontally automatically. I hope so; otherwise; the lines can get quite confusing. The longer I worked on adjusting everything, the worse things got, so I took the first available sweet spot and immediately uploaded to Amazon.

The book can be downloaded there for $2.99.. As a participant in the Kindle Select Program, it is exclusive to Amazon, at least for the next three months, and must not be priced below $2.99, except for some promotional days. I plan to reduce the price whenever I can to $.99 so contact me for more information, if interested.

I have to say, other than the frustration over how to preserve lineation in some of the poems, the process was interesting and enjoyable. Amazon’s software is easy to use, and the site has good instructional help. The Cover Creator program was intuitive, fun, and I liked the result very much. In addition to the book creation technology, Amazon provides marketing programs and, here in this halcyonic slice of time before the publishing industry is totally destroyed by their model, makes it easy to publish work and connect with readers. It was great, and now I have two books, which, incidentally, I hope might come to clap hands together in the forest soon!

Can You Stay Focused?

I doubt it. I left my comfort zone a long time ago. But I’m grateful that my book Rocking Like It’s All Intermezzo: 21st Century Psalm Responsorials will soon be available from your favorite sources, including Wipf and Stock and, of course, Amazon. More details later, when I have them.

I am thrilled with the beautiful Foreword by Sofia M. Starnes, and so grateful for the wonderful endorsements from Mary Ann Miller, Nathaniel Hansen, and Angela Alaimo O’Donnell. I have felt the support of these generous, accomplished (and busy) poet-editor-scholars throughout the entire process.

Equally exciting has been taping the audiobook version of the book at Overit Studios in Albany, New York. I decided it was important to read the first and the last poems in my own voice, however quavery it sounds. Deborah Thorne Mazzone read Sofia Starnes’ wonderful Foreword and most of the poems. She was joined for four key God poems by Charles “Chip” Bradley. To be clear, the poems in God’s voice in the book version are italicized, but we needed a sonorous voice to differentiate the oracular voice in the audio version. I know; I’ve already been asked, “Does it have to be a male voice?” No, of course, it doesn't. Nevertheless, let’s say hello to the newest God in town, and he does happen to be a man.

There is much work for an author to do to promote her book, and I will be doing my best. But satisfaction comes more from writing than from book promotion. Sorry, Rocking! Fortunately, I am working on an exciting project (that will probably take me another ten years, says my inner critic). A series of acrostics based on the names of 20th Century religious figures or philosophers. Very work intensive, and probably not accessible or interesting to audiences who don’t already know these figures. (You can guess what part of me made that prediction.) I am researching figures in whom I’m interested, their work and their biographies, and daring to project the Eureka moment of their passing. Persona Death Poems, shall we say?

My thanks to Sarah Law, the editor of Amethyst Review, a journal of new writing engaging with the sacred, based in the UK, for publishing one of this series, Simone Weil.

Why Should Not Old Men Be Mad? Part II

And Old Women. Thank you, kindred spirit Yeats!

As I thought more about the Sean Reynold - Dobie Moser analysis of participant reaction to the ongoing church crisis, "How are grassroots Catholics responding to the sex abuse crisis?” which appeared online in America Magazine (see my April 9 blogpost), I realized that my poem, “Excommunicate,” published February 4, 2019 in TalkingWriting, describes the flight of the Absolute Doubters from a somewhat despairing can’t we see what’s going on vantage point?

While we are on the subject of “Excommunicate,” it contains an etymological leap that I didn’t address in the poem, or elsewhere. If you studied properly for your SATs, you know that the Latin word for wall is murus. Mun can only mean wall through the verb munio, to fortify or protect with a wall. As happens in every language, the root expanded with prefixes in Latin, with the result that English dictionaries take a short cut and use communis, meaning common as in sharing a wall, as the source for excommunicate. Whew! Believe it or not, I actually try to explain the convoluted historical evolution of some words in the etymological series of poems I’ve been writing. I bet you’ll believe this— it doesn’t work. When I reread the more accurate, easy to defend from a linguistic point of view poems, I get lost, think, what are you talking about? Worse, and why are you talking about that? So I cut to the chase with ‘excommunicate’ and have always hoped for an opportunity to explain. Done.

At least the poem is available online. “Apology” is not available, other than in the print version of Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry (2019). If I'm going to stand by the poem in its double Yeatsian madness, it is only right that I make the poem available to anyone who wants to read it. Almost done. (The formatting was a challenge.)

Beleaguered Church Hears the Call for Apology

Long history, that one. Greek, ye olde -log, word,

with apo-, away from. Think Socrates, charged

with not believing in the right gods. Fending off

the accusation, with a little help from his friends. 

Plato. A po LO gi a. How cool does that sound. 

Followed by centuries of let’s-call-them-erstwhile 

Christian apologists, defending the newly-right-God 

against any objections. Using evidence, hard and fast 

like they like, and a long line of each other. 

If you’re catching my drift, you’re noticing that word 

changing horse midstream more than once. Check

out Shakespeare, where good apologies started

to depend on regret, till now when apologizers and

apologists have fully parted ways. Although really,

don’t they still need each other? Our newly sainted

John Paul got on a roll. Apologies: Come one 

and all, you we burned at the stake, sacked with

our Crusades, sold into slavery, stole with legislation,

converted, persecuted, ignored when you needed

us most. We’re sorry. Mistakes have been made.

Are we missing anyone? Oh, them. Of course.

Papal apologies come to town regularly on their 

honking-big camels, struggling for breath through gagging 

halters, nose pegs, buckling under saddles, weighted 

down with bags of gold and Renaissance art. Not as 

much as you might think. The apologists are there to help 

them pass through the eye of an excruciating needle.