My poetry collection, When Figs Fly, is on the brink of release, so this feels like a good time to revisit an old poem.
The poem plays on the old adage oft thrown around in academia, the one about surviving only if you get your work into print: publish or perish. But what if it’s not a matter of ‘or’ and the little word transforms into ‘and’?
What if you do get published and nothing good comes of it? Beware the black hole of indifference! Better not to step in that direction…
‘Publish and Perish’ was first published in 2007. It took me more than a decade to talk myself back into the idea of approaching publishers about a collection.
Publish and Perish
Do I want to be published? You bet!
A slim volume, subtle cover
nothing glitzy, mind
But there was another rejection
the other week
impersonal and final
A blessing in a way
Do you read the reviews on Saturdays?
Words slicing right to the heart
mauling some poor writer
A Big Name no defence
just more to get the teeth into and rip
Only one thing worse
Published – and ignored
Have you ever tripped over a remainder basket?
Books shoved out on the pavement
to be scanned by commuters
rummaged through by the bored
the unemployed and housewives
and left still at $6 or 4 for $20
Those unread words were someone’s pride
Let that happen to my work? No way!
No, I’m not a silly fox
those grapes up there
the ones I cannot reach
are far, far too sour
[First published in Poetry Monash, Issue 77, 2007].
Feature Image: An illustration by John Rae from Fables in Rhyme for Little Folks, 1918, showing Aesop’s wily fox in the bottom right hand corner contemplating the lovely grapes he cannot, for the life of him, reach. The origin of our little stub of a retort: sour grapes!