Not One or the Other but Other

I too dislike it— having it pointed out
that my books are nowhere in the Literature or Poetry section
of Barnes and Noble (if they were, they’d be somewhere
between Horace or Henry James and James Joyce)—

and perhaps it would be a good idea to let the purchasing
department know, except they would have to commit
to only a few copies; you know, because of the demographic
for this kind of readership, and the no

return policy for unsold copies—
And did I tell you about the time I received
a rejection letter saying “We’re sorry but your poems
just seem very (almost too?) American” (by which

I was made to understand there must have been
some confusion because wait with this kind of a surname
shouldn’t I have been writing instead about exile
and villages undressed by a hurricane, or dark-haired

mail order brides who wind up in the county morgue?
But I too thought I was writing about other, larger things
even when I slipped a river stone into a line, or a chorus
of frogs and the burnt smell of certain mornings—

And I had hoped to make art more than the taste of guilt
or reparation, more than the plea to take seriously
my fear of oblivion, here in the space between the margins
where white grows whiter and whiter, and dark is always darker.

— after Tony Hoagland’s “Write Whiter”

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