24/7 Relentless Careerism

How you can become the most important poet in America overnight.

by Jim Behrle

But you’re saying to yourself, “Behrle, you said I can become the most important poet in America overnight.” So let’s get back to that overnight part. You may have big plans for tomorrow afternoon. Limousines may need to be rented. Attending this speech is obviously a good start. We must usher in an age in which we more overtly ask for and attain the things we want. It might have been OK to once sit back in this room and dream only of the next poem and which of your friends’ spouses you were going to sleep with or how much marijuana you had at home. Those times are over. Poets must get serious, must get organized, must get five stars on all their books on Anything with reviews of four stars or less will most likely be pulped and disappear forever from consciousness. 

You may be expecting me to encourage you to create some kind of fake writing movement, since those were popular all last century. But who wants to share the spotlight with anyone else? Fake art movements usually involve one really famous person and then a bunch of hangers-on. Like Josie and the Pussycats. Or Jackson Pollock and a bunch of people who drank with Jackson Pollock. Imagine how much better off Josie would have been minus those Pussycats hogging all her fame. Poetry movements usually include a bunch of interchangeable poets with little fame trying to create something famous (or fame-worthy) by pooling their efforts, like all the little lion robots that slam into each other to form Voltron. What ends up happening is that Voltron gets a bum leg and back problems, because some of those lions are lame poets. And then Voltron is defeated and the fake art movement turns into just a bunch of bitter old poets. Not so glorious. I mean, sure, your movement can get a special issue of Poetry magazine, but wouldn’t you rather have an entire issue of Poetry magazine dedicated to you? With you smiling out from the cover? Never take your eyes off the prize, and when you have a chance to do so, beat down all competition with the mallet made famous by Whack-a-Mole. 

Jay Leno, not Conan O’Brien, is the future. Why? Because Leno is more devious, sinister, and craven. These are things to aspire to be. Jay Leno would reach through your skin and deep into your stomach to fetch an undigested Skittle if he were hungry for one. That’s the spirit of Ruthless 24/7 Careerism in a strawberry shell. Make a deal with Russia to not invade Russia and then, when Russia least expects it, invade Russia. 

Your friends are really just contacts, and you have to think of them that way. If dropping their name isn’t worth anything, you may have to ditch them. But not before you have sucked them dry of anything that can help you get to number one. And once you get to number one you can get new friends, like Brad Pitt and Beyoncé. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What is the secret to changing your status as a poet tonight, minutes after you sprint home from this hall? And I will be available for questions after this important speech, but really, shouldn’t you be asking yourself tough questions? Questions like “Am I doing enough to conquer American poetry?” Ask them to a mirror. Or have a pig hand-puppet ask them to you. Are you doing enough? Do you want it enough? Are you willing to kill and be killed for it?

Tonight you can go home, pour yourself a cup of peppermint tea, and then start contacting your contacts, one by one: via smoke signals, IM, Facebook poking, whatever. Ask them, “What are you doing to help me become the most important poet in America? Have you reviewed my book, oh contact you? Can you get me a reading at the 92nd Street Y? Or on the International Space Station?” Have your contacts written critical essays extolling your virtues as an artist or created weekend symposia dedicated to the greater understanding of your work? If not, shouldn’t they, you know, get busy on that?

We might believe that what the media term “buzz” gets created organically—that everyone just starts tweeting about Jersey Shore episodes on their own, without any prompting. But it actually takes a concerted effort across a spectrum of sources to create the phenomena we have come to know and love. I learned this in the publicity office of a big-time Manhattan publisher, where most of my time was spent on my knees. It takes time, effort, and Altoids to generate buzz. And when it appears that others are talking about you, it is easier for you to talk about yourself. “Did you see that exposé about me in Popular Mechanics? I mean, really!” 

Negative publicity works just as well. Having the right people hate you is better than having the wrong people like you. Controversy is rare in poetry because poets usually just drink and bottle up whatever is bothering them. If we all just spent a year or two yelling at other poets, we might be better off and have cleaner colons.

So, tonight, get your bass electrified. It’s not bad to also start e-mailing complete strangers who you think have some kind of power and can help you. Send them a poem. Tell them that they’re cute and that you love their poems. That always works; they will roll over and show you their belly. 

Friend every poet you can on Facebook,, porn sites—everywhere. You might also want to start sites for yourself and your books, but eventually your followers will do that for you. Start imagining everyone else as your unpaid work-study students.

Ultimately, you are responsible for your own obscurity as an artist, and you have only yourself to blame if no one knows who you are. So whine about teachers giving students awards or grants all you want. Grant writing is more important than poem writing, and until you master those intricacies, you will be down and out in the city of your choosing. No one really cares if your poems are any good. That’s beside the point. What’s more crucial in everyone else’s eyes is how much power you have and how it can help them. So use your power wisely. 

It’s probably better if your poems are middle-of-the-road or below average: that’s what will attract other middle-of-the-road and below-average poets to fall in line behind you. That’s what will make you their demigod: because you work tirelessly on your own behalf, and people feel that they can ride your coattails to the diner for a little chow. Because you are overtly ambitious in a way they too can admire, being ambitious but maybe more timid. Everyone is overqualified to be a poet. In the 20th century, all you needed to identify yourself as a poet was a quill and a funny hat that could draw the attention of your village-folk hither whilst you prattled on about the fate of dying birds or how happy your marriage is.

Some people think ’tis wise to create power couples to help them gain notoriety. Beware! Share the spotlight with no one! For perhaps they will crush you. And you will be stuck working for them: washing their cars in the rain, doing their dry-cleaning in the rain. That would be like the Bee Gees writing a folk song. You’d be like hunh? Your contacts must work for you, not the other way around.

I hope I’ve exposed some of the machinations behind the facade of poetry and the illusions of a poetic community. One experiences the goodness of poetry only through one’s own work, and feels the warm bosoms of community only if the work serves the bosoms and the bosoms’ interests. I did not become a poet to belong to something bigger than myself, to feel connected to other people, or to find a human substitute for the sublime. I’m here for the fame, the money, and (if there are brownies) the brownies. The need for sex, love, friendship; the desire to create something unique: these pale for me—and, in my experience, for all poets—against the need to make poetry work for me. Poetry substitutes for religion for many of us. And who wants to worship a god that isn’t actually just oneself? Who’s got that kind of time?

You’ll know you’re the most important poet in America, whether it happens on Tuesday, Wednesday, or sometime next week. I’ve got big hopes for members of this crowd to join me on Mount Rushmore alongside Jewel. 

Although perhaps only Maya Angelou truly lives the dream of being the most important poet in America. What was the name of the poet who, one year ago, read a poem at President Obama’s inauguration? [A few people name Elizabeth Alexander.] No one knows. But Maya Angelou wrote Clinton’s first inauguration poem and segued that into a dream we all dream. If she comes to speak at a university or college, a car must pick her up at the airport—a car with no poets aboard. I've heard this is literally written into her contract. Whoever is driving, he or she does so without speaking to Maya Angelou. The contract is very specific. She travels to the venue and away without having to read anyone’s poems or comment on any manuscripts. She is driven back to the airport by maybe the same deaf-mute non-poet. And then she is gone, check in hand. That is the dream—a poet so important and renowned that she literally is not contractually obligated to deal with poets or poetry whatsoever.

It is a sweet, sweet dream.

By tomorrow you might have 2,000 Facebook friends; that’s a start. But how do you turn Facebook friends into Facebook fans? That’s the key. Let your buzz saw whir. Attach yourself to famous people, and dismiss anything else—your ability to say no to people is more important than your ability to say yes. 

I thank you for braving tonight’s monsoon to be here in the historic East Village, a quaint reminder of how poetry used to be. You’d have to be a millionaire to live in this neighborhood now—poets have been priced out. Mostly because poets were too lazy and not willing to do what it takes to become millionaires. Don’t fall into their despair cocoon. 

I’m ending this talk now, but I do not want your applause tonight. Save your applause for yourself; never waste a single clap on someone else. Applause is really just the sound of asking for someone else’s applause. And when you’re number one, you no longer need affirmation. Your silent, chilled fear of me and what I represent will be thanks enough. That’s the kind of applause that never ends. 


Originally Published: March 8, 2010


On March 8, 2010 at 2:01pm Seth Abramson wrote:
I loved this piece when I saw it on Jim's blog and still love it now. A great satirical polemic which hits a lot of things dead on.

I agree with Jim that numbers don't matter, but just in case it makes us all a *little* bit less scared (though do we deserve/need that?) by what is already (and rightly so) a terrifying piece, Jim wrote:

"So those 800 writing programs churning out, say, 25 students apiece each year are actually factories sending more enemies to the front lines. These soldiers, filled with ambition—and now out $30K apiece—believe that they’ve paid their dues to the kingdom."

There are approximately 187 MFA programs, give or take 1 or 2, in the U.S. (full-res and low-res) graduating, on average, in the range of 8 to 10 poets per year. 25% of these poetry grads are in programs where no one pays for their degree; 25% are in programs where a sizable percentage (40% or more) don't pay for their degree; 25% (or thereabouts) are in extremely low-cost public-school programs (e.g. Brooklyn College, $5,600/year for in-state tuition); and 25% are going into massive, soul-crippling debt for their degrees.

Still scary in many, many respects. But that 800 number Jim's (understandably) using comes from The New Yorker--and refers to the total number of CW programs in the U.S. (including, primarily, undergrad tracks within English majors, of which there are 400+).

Glad to see this piece again!


On March 8, 2010 at 4:33pm D.W. Lichtenberg wrote:
This is pretty great. I hope it gets into the
hands of every poet.

On March 8, 2010 at 4:35pm LH wrote:
Love it. Great rant. Leno is the future,
man, that's sad.

On March 8, 2010 at 5:00pm Anti-Seth wrote:
Seth! WTF???

On March 8, 2010 at 6:19pm amy wrote:
"Fame and poetry mix best through steady
mediocrity"... the rest is funny but this part
might be, fearfully, the case.

I don't wear tweed but I do wear cool
jeans. Does that count?

You are now famous, Jim Behrle. Poof.

On March 8, 2010 at 9:56pm James wrote:
Great. Absolutely great. The part about the disadvantages of writing one great poem rings too true.

On March 9, 2010 at 1:50am Daniel wrote:
Only Seth Abramson would find this piece a "satirical polemic" (only after correcting your "New Yorker" numbers). The only thing more ironic is it appearing on the "Poetry" website. Great piece ... more true than it lets on, but still great.

On March 9, 2010 at 7:54am Chuck Calabreze wrote:
Then there's Plan B, a.k.a. The Waldrop Protocol: "Live long and pulitzer!" Stop writing and hit the stairmaster, citizens.

On March 9, 2010 at 8:27am j wrote:
maybe you're brought a bit closer to what you want now, jim

On March 9, 2010 at 8:49am Brandi Gentry wrote:
It seems you are telling poets to get a life.
See you on Facebook.

On March 9, 2010 at 11:36am Tina Posner wrote:
Still wiping tears from my eyes. It makes
me laugh so hard it hurts. Or makes me
hurt so hard I laugh. Either. Both. Brilliant.

On March 9, 2010 at 11:39am Kali the Destroyer of Worlds wrote:
I have ten arms, I am coal-black with rage and anger, I am a living corporeal nightmare, and I'm going to eat every last one of you alive.

On March 9, 2010 at 3:07pm Christopher Phelps wrote:

I laughed a lot but was worn out by the end. Was that the (or a) point? Joan Houlihan posted a short, satirical piece, near topic, on her blog in 2008: I'm going to venture a view from the outside. Poetry should be an extension of a life well or dangerously or doggedly lived. Not vice versa. O'Hara may have lived to write another poem, and that's admirable (in the face of anomie), but is it enviable? I hope not. Shouldn't it mean that something has gone terribly wrong with one's priorities, neo-Art-for-Art's-Sake reclamation notwithstanding? Could there be a falser god than poetry? A more exalted thing, when looked upon as what it is: an art form of words. A resistance to prosaic time. An insistence on song, on salvage, on going mad instead of being mad. For a spell. The institutions of poetry (in this, its umpteenth precarious moment) have a way of overshadowing the obvious: poetry is made by people who want (or need) to make poetry. The more respect we pay to that fact -- and the less to worry over economy, academy, dynasty -- the less burdened we'll be.

On March 9, 2010 at 5:10pm Lori E. Mazzola wrote:
"When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained." - Mark Twain

On March 9, 2010 at 10:23pm Bean wrote:

Thanks for the sharp insight.

On March 9, 2010 at 11:36pm Christopher wrote:
Christopher Phelps, I have no clue what
you are talking about (are you high?), but
I couldn't agree more with your last point
about paying more respect to the
want/need to make poetry. That, itself, is
magical and mysterious and the save-all.

Jim Behrle, I would love for you to write
about the save-all. And sell it like you sold
us this piece. Stay sweet, H.A.G.S.

On March 10, 2010 at 6:23am Kate B. wrote:
Wonderful and inspiring, thank you for posting.

On March 10, 2010 at 9:28am William F. DeVault wrote:
My God, hey should give you a Nobel for this and make it required reading in every liberal arts college in America.!

Hey, who won the Nobel for Literature last? When did a poet last win it?

On March 10, 2010 at 2:38pm Christopher Phelps wrote:

Do I address you as H.A.G.S. or Christopher? I was trying to make the point that poetry should come out of a life, not be the life. I suspect that a lot of the careerist insanity comes from weird, "this-shell-game-called-poetry-is-the-only-game-I'm-playing"-style mis-prioritizing. (Stock-broker syndrome?) It's an Art-for-Art's-sake claim that poetry appears either a) magically out of the ether (which hadn't been disproved in the 1890s); or b) magically out of the genius. Well, actually, it appears out of the poet, for reasons mysterious, yes, but also psychological, religious, or philosophical. So: poetry comes out of life. That thought opposes careerism because it takes time and attention (to live and write) otherwise not available for the shell game. It may have made a little more sense (maybe not) if the blog hadn't eaten my paragraph breaks. (Maybe that will happen again.) And if I had stated things more clearly.

On March 10, 2010 at 3:29pm Sandra Lester - THE GRAPHORRHOEALIST wrote:
"Most of the True Genius poets can't tie their own shoe laces."

This is so true. I am a virtual recluse! Last time I went out I was approached by someone who whispered in my ear: "You're a genius." Then they quoted some of my poetry.

I am about to be evicted and homeless for the fourth time in five years.

Thanks for confirming that I am a true poet.


On March 10, 2010 at 7:29pm Diana Manister wrote:
Dear Jim, great piece! Soreheads are my

I'll bet Mary Oliver outsells everyone
including Jewel!! The secret? Don't use big
words and soak your poems in sugar-


On March 11, 2010 at 2:05am J.S. wrote:
A brilliant piece that, like all great satire,
contains an uncomfortable amount of

On March 11, 2010 at 11:26am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:
I have learned that one may successfully resolve the shoe-tying problem by buying loafers or deck shoes.

On March 11, 2010 at 6:40pm D. D. Jackson wrote:
Smart, articulate guy. And really pissed... (that he's not the most important poet in America?)

Like another commenter, I was worn out by then end. And not in a good way.

On March 11, 2010 at 6:51pm James Sutherland-Smith wrote:
Excellent. Wish I'd written this. These creative writing programmes are simply vanity exercises. When I started nobody with any self-respect paid to have a poem published and now people pay money to have themselves trained to write poems. How utterly embarrassing!

On March 11, 2010 at 7:33pm Rhea Tregebov wrote:
Mr. Behrle's article makes me grateful that I live in Canada where writing programs are scarcer and, as a consequence, competition sparser. As a consequence, all Canadian poets of merit are awarded a large annual stipend. We got universal health care; we keep our poets fed. Our top ranking poets are granted official government positions. Like Neruda, we get to be ambassadors and attaches and that sort of stuff. I know you've now got Obama, but our doors are still open to those desperate to escape. Come on up north. (We play hockey better too.)

On March 12, 2010 at 12:36am Bean wrote:

Dear Jim, I'm coming back in, 'cause now I've had 24 hrs. plus to live with this, your missive. You'll think I'm being some whipper-snapper, but, oh, no, rest assured I am not. I want to tell you that I am now liberated once again. At least for these last two days. You've taken off the shackles. Who the hell knows what tomorrow will bring... but today dammit I'm free. I don't know how else to tell you without being too sappy sweet. I take it you've been around the circuit awhile to see... Seems in the writer / poet world one needs to put on their armor, you're really on your own. Plenty of back-biting, disgruntled, bitter folks maybe realizing it or not, they're shoveling that on to your shoulders. Hard to ditch that, except walk away and take a breather, and realize (dammit) for the last time, you're on your own. Oh, well, better to face the facts. So you see, I wasn't kidding. Really, thanks for going first, coming back with the story to aid those who just about feel like drowning sometimes. Better to be honest, straightforward, like your writing here. So, thank you. I really do feel some freedom. Bean p.s. I'm printing this out to keep nearby in the hour of need for your friendly reminder.

On March 12, 2010 at 6:58am Ed Nudelman wrote:
This is complete nonsense. Utter tripe.
Who cares about recognition anyway?
m (... and please visit my poetry page on

On March 12, 2010 at 7:21am EKSwitaj wrote:
A poet with the standing to be able to deliver a lecture at St. Mark's and then publish it on the Poetry Foundation website, mocking other poets for wanting to self-promote leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

On March 12, 2010 at 10:31am Molly wrote:
Your argument, Jim, has already been argued more eloquently and effectively by others much earlier. See, for example, the entire book "The Program Era" by McGurl, articles by Barth, Tate, and Boyle (over 2 decades old), and more recently Menand in the New Yorker. Isn't being well-read a crucial weapon in the bitter satirist's arsenal? A wiser use of your time would've been to write one good poem instead, no?

On March 12, 2010 at 1:58pm Jim wrote:

I'm a little pissed they cut the red sox outta my cap in the handsome author photo.

On March 12, 2010 at 3:13pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:
Dear "King of the Trolls".

(Yes, we remember).

The Yankees are going to kick your ass this year!

On March 13, 2010 at 4:16am wijnand steemers wrote:
Publicity seduces our genius to prostitute itself in order to stop being a genius.

On March 13, 2010 at 8:10am David Blaine wrote:
A delight to read, all three pages. Nice to
read a poet who would take the time to
write an essay, whether for self
aggrandizement or entertainment. Much
wisdom in the article as well as all these
replies. Won't bore you with anything
about me, but no, I'm not that damned
magician. Enjoyed.

On March 13, 2010 at 1:13pm Michael Robbins wrote:
You do not need "standing" to deliver a lecture at St. Marks & publish it on the Poetry Foundation website. Believe me.

On March 13, 2010 at 3:11pm Janet wrote:
ho hum. more of the same. gosh, I guess you hit my "go get him bone" when you bashed Leno, who I prefer to Conan (who is obviously the "pet" of the "thinkers"), who I found a tad boring. oh my goodness, did I actually WRITE that???

seriously love Kay Ryan, the great Sylvia (who wrote magnificently), agree there's a lot published that's mediocre, but a lot that's great, and the wonderful www offers a lot of opportunities to folks who might too modestly NOT send their excellent work out. have found some wonderful wonderful poems even on forums, so there!!!

isn't this rant by what's-his-name above just more of the same old same old?

On March 14, 2010 at 4:02pm Kent Johnson wrote:

>You do not need "standing" to deliver a lecture at St. Marks & publish it on the Poetry Foundation website. Believe me.< I was told a few years back by the then-Director of the Poetry Project that he planned to invite me to read at St. Mark's. He said he would be getting back to me on the matter. Sure, I said, great. But then I never heard anything else from him. Oh well, I thought. Then a few months later I heard from a source on the ground there the following: that a well-known poet very connected to the scene at the Project had adamantly threatened never to show his face at the Church again were I to be invited. So what Mr. Robbins says may not really be true. Perhaps one *does* need to have a certain "standing" to read at St. Mark's.

On March 14, 2010 at 4:18pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

Here’s an interesting question: I was listening to NPR today about the ‘South-by-Southwest’ concert in Austin, Texas. Apparently, it isn’t just a musical showcase anymore but now also a venue for Indie films and Computer games. I noticed that all of the filmmakers and musicians interviewed were bragging about how they were publishing their stuff on either their own or other independent labels. Self-publishing seems to be all the rage these days! Why is it, then, that only in the poetry market is self-publishing anathema? Hmmm… .Maybe it’s like they say . . . follow the money. .

On March 15, 2010 at 12:30pm Suzy Fitzgerald wrote:
This was creative and FUNNY! I love all of his comparisons, especially VOLTRON! I used to watch Voltron! I think everyone should read this article because networking is exactly what makes people successfull in many different career paths. Thanks for the advice!

On March 15, 2010 at 2:33pm Jim wrote:
Someone asked me to read with Kent at
the Project many years ago. I said no
because I didn't think an audience would
show up. They would just blow up the place
and be done with the both of us.

On March 15, 2010 at 10:00pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:
Jim wrote:

"Someone asked me to read with Kent at the Project many years ago. I said no because I didn't think an audience would show up. They would just blow up the place and be done with the both of us." Hiroshima?

On March 15, 2010 at 10:34pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:
Oh, wait...was that Nagasaki, maybe?

On March 16, 2010 at 1:12pm Blu Mood wrote:
WOW. Great. I needed this. Love this article sir.

On March 16, 2010 at 4:18pm VINCENT FARNSWORTH wrote:
Why be so angry and jealous of the poets with teaching jobs, the poets with a smattering of so-called success. We don't have to live by their precepts.

On March 16, 2010 at 4:59pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:
Just funnin’, guys. Like they say across the pond, just havin’ a larf.

But I do have a question for everyone out there:

Who has the better sense of humor,

a poet or a Funeral Director?

:-) :-D :-) :-D :-) :-D

Seriously, now...genuine poetic success before a hundred years?

Our only truly devoted fan is time.

On March 16, 2010 at 8:40pm Robert Wrigley wrote:

Sure, careerism is bad. Duh. Poetry isn't about careers; careers are about careers. The only thing that affected by careerism is, well, some career or other. The poems that will last will simply be better than the others. When was it ever be otherwise? However, let us maintain a little perspective: according to what I've been able to find there are 744 MBA programs in the country (Masters of Business Administration, the "advanced" degree George W. Bush holds; one might argue that Bush's "career" was a worldly success, since for eight years he was the most powerful human being on the planet, although the world also knows otherwise). Years ago, in the early '80s (at an AWP gathering in Seattle), I heard James Tate respond to someone who'd raised his hand to carp about MFA programs and too many poets (someone who, lo, these many years ago, hadn't seen anything yet). Tate listened calmly and said, "Well, yeah, but really, they're not hurting anybody." I think that's still the case, comparatively. Surely the same cannot be said about the MBA.

On March 17, 2010 at 8:57am Josiah Bancroft wrote:
So the ship is sinking and the musicians
are all standing on the tilted deck with
their instruments under their arms arguing
about whether perfect pitch can be taught,
and interviewing each other to see who's
hit hard-luck pay dirt, and bickering about
how a real musician handles applause.

And the ship sinks, and everyone who'd
hoped to hear a song before the end is

On March 17, 2010 at 10:03am Nancy Lazar wrote:
Let's face it guys, we are living in the Age of Fame. The advice given here is not to be dismissed. In this age of the face we all must self-promote. We all do it, we know we do it, even if we don't like to admit it. We want people to notice our efforts if not our actual accomplishments.

-And I want to be credited for that coinage above; The Age of Fame, now that is really genius! Or Age of the Face" (either one)

On March 17, 2010 at 10:54am Henry Gould wrote:
This is funny & (partly) true, Jim...

- but never underestimate the hunger to write, or the power of the Muse (yeah, her).

The Word overcomes the World, eventually. & the Word's deepest motivation is not a hunger for fame. It's more akin to a desire to "speak truth to power", as they say (boringly).

That's how I see it, anyway.

On March 18, 2010 at 2:41am wrote:
there certainly isn't a paucity of so-called poets out there; consequently, there is an abundance of submarginal poetry.

fame is secondary. the word is primary.

solid peace.

On March 18, 2010 at 5:37am Todd Eliot wrote:
Josiah Bancroft echoes my feelings - and I think his poetic response is elegant.

I enjoyed the hell out of this piece. It ruefully acknowledges what Archibald Macleish said: "A poem should not seem, but be." Poetry is its own end. Those who do it for a career are playing "a mug's game" (TS Eliot).

Judson Jerome noted that novels can sprawl out while short stories are more compact, and poetry compresses the maximum amount of meaning into the tightest space. Jim Berhle's three pages of wit, humor, stinging criticism and social commentary bear witness to some unpleasant truths - and do so at a proper length.

The new media are great, as they allow poets a handy place to stash works in progress and secure copyright in the dusty little garrets of our brave new cyber-space world. And ever and anon, we can return to re-read a particularly good piece that would otherwise clutter up our IRL filing cabinets - as I shall do with this one.

On March 19, 2010 at 9:16pm Gail White wrote:
Yeah, I used to dream of Immortal Fame and all that. But now I've decided to settle for my own little niche group (Formalist Women Poets Writing Light Verse) and pretend I've got the best spot in Paradise.

On March 21, 2010 at 1:34pm lemonhound wrote:
Rhea, are you really suggesting Canada is immune to this?

On March 25, 2010 at 5:27pm Steven Stone wrote:
Poetry is to come as close as possible to the quality you really want in your poems. And there is no "perfect" poem. If there were a perfect poem, everybody would write one.

Thanks for the talk.

On March 26, 2010 at 6:15am Priest wrote:
I enjoyed the piece very much. As a poet I am in touch with what He spoke of. Thank you for writing it
Peace love blessings and Respect

On May 2, 2010 at 10:05am Erin wrote:
As a life-long, almost-never-published writer and poet, I feel qualified to comment on getting famous as a poet: It doesn't have anything to do with a poet! A poet is someone who has the skill/talent, gift/curse to be able to articulate what nearly everyone (or at least some) thinks/feels/hears/sees /experiences.

Of course, it is also nice to be famous. Sometimes the Top 40 really are the best. Take Robert Frost, for instance.

Thought-provoking article. Thanks.

On May 11, 2010 at 4:00pm Richard Robbins wrote:
I wonder if Stanley Kunitz worried much
about careerists, there is his garden,
writing his brilliant poems.

On May 30, 2010 at 1:58pm Padraig Murchadha wrote:
Now it can be told,
And Behrle tells it cold,
In words unminced and bold:

No American poet
can be a cultural force
without a guitar.

Now I understand why Paul Muldoon expends his talents in a rock band.

On July 30, 2010 at 9:06am Jean-Dany Joachim wrote:
Greetings Jim,

Is there any spot available in the Poet Tea
Party? I would love to get in if possible.
Please let me know

Jean-Dany Joachim
Cambridge Poet Populist
617 827 5017

On December 14, 2010 at 3:32pm Brent Cunningham wrote:

For the record, Jewel's "A Night Without Armor," published in 1998, sold somewhat under half a million copies that year, a very impressive figure but not more than the combination of all poetry books sold in 1998. It has been widely reported that the book went on to sell over a million copies lifetime, although as with most sales figures of books that's not a figure that is easy to confirm. Also like most books, its annual sales have declined dramatically over the years. Despite periodic announcements of a forthcoming poetry book A.N.W.A. remains Jewel's only published book of poetry. It is currently ranked on Amazon at #105,208. By comparison, Mary Oliver's 1992 title, House of Light, is at #64,257. Most of Oliver's books from the 2000s are in the top 10,000. Many, many other poets currently outsell A Night Without Armor on an annual basis. Just in case, on some planet, it someday matters.

On February 25, 2011 at 8:39am A Person wrote:
It's hilarious that Seth always comments on careerism posts, when he is the biggest careeerist ever, and always has been, with all that implies

On November 14, 2011 at 9:55pm Jack wrote:
You're a poet who lives in Brooklyn and your chapbook is titled "It
Serves Me Right to Suffer." No comment, dude.

On December 27, 2013 at 6:16am Micheal Darbro wrote:
This unique write-up truly addressed my own ideas on this particular subject, appreciate it!

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 Jim  Behrle


Jim Behrle lives in Brooklyn. His latest chapbooks are SUCCUBUS BLUES
(Editions Louis Wain) and IT SERVES ME RIGHT TO SUFFER (Hotel Poetry).

Photo credit: Greg Fuchs

Continue reading this biography

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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