Thursday, March 15, 2007


I keep seeing this word thrown around, and truth be told it makes me a little uncomfortable. People seem to brand it on anyone who tries to reach an audience, tries to get published, tries to circulate their work via publications, tries to get recognition for their work in any way. In that sense, I would exclaim that yes, you bet your ass I'm a careerist. While my idea of a "career" as a poet is perhaps a bit different that that of some people--I don't exactly worship at the golden cow of the typical path of poetry success (MFA leads to prestigious journals leads to book publication leads to fat cash in the tenure track--largely inaccurate anyway.)---but I DO want a career as a poet (which has nothing to do with making a living at it..)I want an audience, and publications and books, and the occasional hint of recognition for my occasional brilliance. We all do, even those of us I suspect say otherwise. People write for all sorts of reasons, and I suspect it's very, very few who hide it away from everyone, and do it just for the sake of the art. I mean, maybe it's partly that, art for arts sake, otherwise we'd just go become rock stars or internet pornstars something if we wanted simply to be well-known. And we certainly don't want to be famous for who we know, who we blow, how we look, who we hang with, who we kiss up to. We want to be known for the poems, pure and simple, respected for the work. Some sort of attention for the time we put in writing poems when we could be watching television or taking a nap like the rest of the world. Rewarded for time we put into making our writing better, to reading and studying other writers, to writing draft after draft.

I take my writing very seriously. I also take the business of getting it out to an audience (a necessary variable in the making of literature) very seriously as well. And I suppose that makes me one of the multitude of vile careerists everyone does so much talking about. Do I want to be a rock star? Well maybe a cool, indie, singer/songwriter rockstar ala Tori Amos and less Britney Spears, but you get my point. "Fame" in the poetry world is very much a joke anyway--warring factions with different gods, the pin drop poetry makes in the culture at large. But if not fame, then I want respect for what I'm doing. For other people to enjoy my work reading it as much as I do making it. Lots of them. Otherwise, I would hardly submit it to journals, self-publish, put together books, apply for awards. Whatever gets my work out there into the hands of readers is fair game…
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CandyDishDoom said...

Careerism is kind of an ugly word in my mind because it has corporate connotations for me. And poetry is hardly corporate. Pursuing/achieving success in a field that is only appreciated by a subculture (granted,with various factions) does not seem analagous to pursuing/achieving success in a field in which you basically have to follow prefab formulas, heavy on the schmoozing borderline whoring. Yes,there are certain trends in the poetry world, but there are so many variations and divergences and folks staking out their own paths in their own ways that I don't get how this whole melee could be summed up with an office-esque word like 'careerist'. Etc...

hess42 said...

So, you're an artist who wants to make a living doing what you do well and what you love to do? You must be a sellout!

*eyeroll* I've heard that sort of thing before, and I think it's a pile of crap. I know any number of people who have day jobs that they don't find particularly fulfilling, but pursue something else - a creative project, most often - that gives them something more than their paying gig. Hell, I'm one of those people myself.

Few people are good enough at that creative outlet to make a living at it, though. And even fewer have both the talent and wherewithal to actually DO it successfully. Having the audacity to be both good and tenacious is hardly "careerism." It's "being damn good."

And here's another thing. Sell out from time to time to pay the bills - most of the creative types I know have done so - and don't make apologies for it. In my experience, most people who throw down the "careerism" or "sellout" card are masking a certain amount of jealousy, and masking it badly.

And yeah, I do speak from a certain amount of personal experience here as the jealous party. ;)