On Generosity

Been thinking a lot about practical ways to build literary community. How to make literary work and life engaging and fun and meaningful and not endlessly ambitious or ego-driven. Barbara Jane Reyes gives some great advice on the Harriet blog about generosity and literary activism. Here's her advice in a shortened form:

1) Don't be shy or reticent about putting your ideas out there. We’re schooled (formally or informally) in poetry and poetics, so we should be able to articulate our thoughts on specific works and movements. So how about this: write articles, papers, essays, interviews, reviews of books written by members of your many and expanding community/ies. Seek publication for these (what good are they, sitting in your hard drive?).

2) Publicize and attend literary events that are not your own, encourage others to as well. Write about these events (not what you wore to the event, not what you ate before the event), and post videos and/or photos from these events on your blog, FB, on Flickr and YouTube.

3) Curate and host events that do not feature you. Feature folks other than your friends. Give emerging writers the opportunity to read alongside established ones.

4) Edit publications featuring writers who are not you, and instead, actively go after those whose works interest and/or challenge you. Again, take a chance and include emerging writers, and feature them alongside established ones.

5) Lead/conduct/teach local, affordable community writing workshops.


I want to do all of these things more and more and more. I found similar advice from another poet, Hoa Nguyen in an interview on Bookslut:

I think it would have helped [when I was young and starting out] to hear that poetry is about engagement, not fame, not recognition. That it is most often defined by how you engage with the conversation of poetry with your contemporaries -- and with the dead -- and to do so from a position of generosity.

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