I am doing a lot of researching for presses because I am looking for possible places to send my poetry manuscript, Sailing this Nameless Ship. While finding a press can be exciting, I know pretty soon if a press is not for me. I think one can always tell quite soon, but that light turning on isn't what gets me thinking. It's reading some of the author biographies presses create for their authors.
I was just at a press I won't ever be submitting to, and I was curious about some of their authors. I followed a few links and did a little poking around. What I started to wonder is how some of these poet seem to present such a calm, cool persona. I just don't know how they do it. Everything from the words to the author photos gave me pause.
Now I don't hang my head when I tell people I am a poet, but those of you who have known me a while know I tend to freak out a lot. I have found some peace with who I am as a poet, but I am not quite there. Still, I get freaked out at the magnitude of the whole PR thing some poets and some presses can manage. I may have an exaggerated sense of modesty, but I read some of these bio's and write-ups and I don't see authenticity---I see manufactured facades. I don't see real people, I see ego.
The truly weird thing is that I see most of this in poets who are mid-career---somewhere in the 3-6 book range. Most of the really established "name" poets you think of as being leaders in American poetry have that quiet sense of confidence I really like. It makes me think that at some point, a lot of poets see a need to make some kind of shift in what or who or how they present themselves to the world and make the the decision to go towards the slick presentation and away from authenticity.
So I ask, how do they do that? It's not that I fault them for wanting a really great looking portrait or to emphasize the things they are proud of accomplishing. It's just that after a while it gets to be a bit much. I guess I just prefer the simpler, rougher, not so polished personas---the poets who aren't afraid to let the reader see something human.