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Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Poetry Blurb That Works

If I had to write a blurb for a book of poetry, it might go something like this:
A highschool dropout roams the beaches of Northern California, meeting a series of strangers who propose contests of strength and absurdly specific wagers: what pieces of detritus will the next wave carry away? He is in no position to refuse any suggestion offered to him. He understands the literal meaning of the words spoken to him but he will never understand the rules of the game.

Of course, that blurb will only work for a single book of poetry, one that, in fact, does not yet exist, though I may write it some day. Where you get into trouble is with blurbs that could be about any book of poetry: "The poet gazes at his navel and has some profound but whimsical thoughts, writing them up with flair and panache."


Thomas said...

I have found that the word "detritus" often appears in contemporary poetry reviews and blurbs. One day, I will try to trace the history of its popularity. I think if you did write this book, then this blurb, and that particular word, would allow us to identify its time and place in the tradition.

You're right that your blurb is much more effectively written than the other one. Unfortunately, I think that sort of ineffectual blurbing is also a sign of our times.

I tried to do something different in my blurb for Kate Greenstreet's The Last 4 Things. It was my first blurb, so I'm anxious to know what you think.

Have at it, if you want.

Jonathan said...

I can see you struggling with the genre in that blurb. Perhaps the genre ends up beating you. I like parts of it, but the rhetoric does not seem very sure of itself. I think that kind of vacillation is also very "timely" like the word detritus. Being too concrete, too articulate, is a sign of insincerity.

Thomas said...

That's an interesting idea. I think you're right. I wanted to say, "Kate's book just rocks. Buy it and read it and if you don't like it there's probably something wrong with you, not the book." But, like you say, I let the genre force me into a faux articulateness. We might say I tried to be insincere about how much I love Kate's work and then you get that sort of thing.

It reminds me of the blurbs on the back of my copy of Allen Verbatim. Guess which one of these is by Kirkus Reviews and which one is by William S. Burroughs.

"This intimate exposition of personality and creativity is the most vivid understanding we have of the major contemporary poet."

"Where is Allen Ginsberg today? Do you want to be there? Read this book and find out."