Dr. Back End

Posted: June 23, 2012 in Ink's Poetry, Misc

…or How I Learned to Stop Hating Myself and That’s a Complete Lie

Self-promotion has never been a strength of mine. I prefer self-deprecation, the ol’ “get the crowd laughing with you while you’re laughing at yourself before they do so without your leadership” routine. It’s all about self-deception. I’ll admit, I’m a pretty damned good poet (better than many, worse than most…in truth, there’s just too many god-damned poets out there), but good poetry and a good speaking voice are only one tenth the sum when it comes to drawing a crowd. Having friends willing to hear the same shit you’ve been spewing at open mics and other venues accounts for another tenth, but a poet can only depend on those kind souls so much. The poet needs to be able to draw in actual fans, not pity/kindness.

When trying to draw a crowd for a featured poet, another tenth is the lure of an open mic. Open mics are a draw to people, mostly because everyone wants their turn. I’ve said it before, and it’s been proven every single Feature + Open I’ve been to, too many poetry readings have turned into an incestuous orgy of poets reading to poets. I say “reading to,” because while poets are nowadays the most likely to actually listen to poetry, those same people are usually just as eager (if not more so) to show off their poems in hopes of trumping the feature or proving their own work’s worthiness at the same podium’s spotlight. Not to say I haven’t seen an open mic-er trump a feature, because I most definitely have, but said instances are rare if you know who you’re going to see. All in all, adding an open mic to the end of a program is a pretty effortless way to fill seats. The remainder requires massive amounts of effort and is where poor self-esteem is naught but schizophrenic buggery.

Marketing is  7/10 of getting arses in seats at literary events, poetry readings in particular, and that requires boasting. The venue needs to boast its poet’s prowess via all available avenues: physical (street) and virtual (Web) storefronts, customer email lists, physical flyers, newsletters, newsgroups, and the myriad social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, G+). The poet needs to get the word out to fans via the same social media outlets as well as their own accumulated email lists, websites, and plugs (advertisements) for the upcoming event at any other even slightly similar event attended before then. Most importantly, however, the poet needs to know how to sell themselves so that they may be sold to a continually apathetic public. To overcome my inherent inability to publicize myself, I’ve mastered the art of self-deception.

Even getting out to open mics is a chore for me. It’s something I’ve realized I have to do, whether or not I actually enjoy the event itself. Don’t get me wrong; I love poetry, written/printed and oral. But there is no cure for self-promotion blues, and reason throws a wrench in the works of my rationale every single time. So as not to be a dick to those I legitimately enjoy hearing, I came up with a way of tricking logic: convince myself it’s not all about me. Go fuckin’ figure. Yeah, I might be heading out to as many open mics as possible to get my name (well, pseudonym) out there and associated with what I produce, but while I’m there, there is much poetry (some pretty awful, most mediocre, and a few gems) to be heard!  Remember that love? It’s still there. It’s just last week’s plowed snow that’s hasn’t melted yet. I found that if I can divert my loathing of having to appear at venues to promote myself, I can focus on the event itself. This gives me a better chance of leaving the house and getting done the whoring of self that needs to be done. That’s appearances covered, but what about Web presence?

It’s been said that authors who spend their time posting to Twitter and the like would have already written manuscripts if not so distracted. Take that with a grain of salt. Yes, maintaining a Web presence can be a distraction, but it can be managed effectively. Example: I tend to write while ignoring the Web (for the most part) and then take little bits of what I’ve written and splatter them about the ‘net with the appropriate hashtags etc. While splattering, I’ll check up on friends and acquaintances and get that sociability out of the way. Then I’m free to drown myself in vices, be they animated, liquid, or (oh god yes) written.

In this way, even the most antisocial artist can manage to come off as very social while maintaining what has seemed to become, at least for writers, an antiquated norm of hermitude without diminishing by one iota the comfortable state of self-loathing. It’s a chore, to be sure, and I have to fight myself at every turn to believe someone would actually want to hear me recite my crappy thoughts (who the hell am I to most, anyway, save a guy semi-capable  of translating emotion). In the end, however, self-deception for a specific purpose can be used to trump, at least publicly, self-effacement and the empty seats it reaps.

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