Poetry for Southern California
Matt McGee Guest Editorial
By Matt McGee
I’ve been publishing Falling Star Magazine for seven years now, and still I have never written an editorial. It is my firm belief that good writing needs no introduction but requires only a reader. I thank everyone at Poetix for the opportunity to share what I hope to be a little informative writing.
We recently appeared at the 2007 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books for two days and of the many things I learned, paramount is that COVERS SELL BOOKS. The lovers of literature who produce their reader’s drug of choice can shout about putting a unique face on their art, and it’s what’s inside that counts. Well, people buy books that make them feel intelligent for having read them, but they also want something that looks good on their coffee table and impresses friends when passed on as a “good read.” We may have been taught to not judge books by their covers but in order to succeed at getting those dollars from the too-often burned book buying public, we might consider brushing our hair, putting on a nice shirt, and smiling when they look our way.
I ask every working poet one simple question. Would you like your books to sell at Borders, Barnes & Noble and on Amazon? If not, crawl back into your comfortable little poetry hole and stop bothering the rest of us. Poets, pay close mind to the story your work is telling and how clearly it is being told. We lost many sales at this year’s Festival by simply saying “we publish poetry.” Why?
Because the majority of the reading public have been pushed away for 40 years by the obscurantism of charlatans who think that dropping a pile of unrelated words on a sheet of paper is good poetry—and then deride their readers for “not getting it.” This may be considered simplistic. So how has berating Joe Reader been helping your book sales, Bub? These people highjack our great medium. I work twice as hard to sell a magazine that should sell itself. We publish narrative works, things that tell a story and relate the human condition, the very base, original intent of language. The comment I recently received from a truck driver friend said it all. “I fucking hate poetry, but dude, I actually liked your magazine. It’s actually OK.” I’ll never get a better review than that. Unless the writer is using the form to tell a clear, interesting story, and until more magazines drop the Cooler-Than-Thou attitude and embrace Kerouac’s “simple idea of whipping up a little tale in no time,” poetry will continue to be rightfully rejected by the public.
My first two decades in the arts have taught me this: when people suffer, they often turn to the arts to express their condition. The sociological climate of our country at this moment in time, after a decade of Terror Alert color codes and every kind of bullshit we’ve been force-fed, is bringing things to a head. Americans are working too hard for too little, and the last time this happened in the early 90’s (and remember the early 70’s), we had a great revolution of average people who embraced the arts to let a little air out of the balloon. When they do this, magazines like ours will be right here to embrace their work. And if they don’t express themselves, they’ll look to publications where others are telling it like it is and find someone they can relate to. And we’ll be right there, at their local book festival, waiting with a sign that says “FRESH WRITERS, $1.”
Matt McGee is the publisher of Falling Star Magazine, a collection of short fiction and poetry from writers all over the world. He is also a director and producer of theatre, recently staging David Mamet's "American Buffalo" and Tennessee Williams' "27 Wagons of Cotton." He resides in Thousand Oaks and thanks Jeremy, Pedro and Steve of Kinko's for helping make the biannual literary dreams of his writers come true.