By WIL GIBSON, author of Harvest the Dirt
(great weather for MEDIA, 2015)
Most poets are poets because they have something to say. Whether it is silly, or funny, or tramatic, or dramatic, there are things that we have to say. Not WANT to say, HAVE to say.
Some people don’t want to hear it, I’m not sure why. I could never pretend to make sense of it myself. I have to hear other people’s stories and tell my own. I’m not wired to be silent. I am not known for being quiet… on stage.
Off stage I am a self conscious mess of doubt and awkward statements. As a poet, and more importantly, as a traveling poet, I have learned that I am not alone. I have learned that every single poet that reads their work has doubted that work at some point in the writing or performance process. And we should. What magic do Confident (capital C) people have that we who lack it do not? Some of us gain confidence by drinking, or drugging, or lieing to themselves (this is my personal favorite way), but we all have some way to get us out of the house.
Unless we don’t leave the house.
Some of us lock ourselves away and write the days out, never trying to see past the end of our blank pages. We hide from the world in a way that furthers the distance from the reader, and furthers the distance from the world itself, never realizing that the world was never the problem.
great weather for MEDIA is a press that would like to take that notion away from the writing process and give all poets a chance to present themselves as they see it, not how the reader does, or has. In a world where most publishers don’t pay because you should be “thankful for the exposure,” this press stands out, and they publish stand-out poets.
(Also, these anthologies are paying publications… Also, SUBMISSIONS ARE OPEN UNTIL JANUARY, so you should submit, just saying)
Poets such as Mary Mackey, my new power animal, and Richard Loranger, my new friend, both of whom have nessessary voices for this world right now and in the future. There are older poets and younger poets, realists and surrealists, funny and brooding, but all of it quality work. All spearheaded by David Lawton, Thomas Fucalaro, and Jane Ormerod.
I had never met Jane Ormerod before my book, Harvest the Dirt, was published this October. We had communicated several times over several months, and I thought she hated me and my book because that’s how writers should feel about great editors. She had taken a shakey manuscript and made it a book I am very proud of.
So, when I saw her walk into the Beat Museum in San Francisco, I wanted to thank her for taking a chance with my book, for giving me a way to read at this wonderful museum, for being so detailed and thourough with my book, for putting out so many great books with great weather over the last few years, for being a general bad ass on several levels.
I didn’t though. I hid in an alley and smoked. I eventually did go up the stairs and she greeted me with a huge smile, a hug, and told me she loved my book, and thank you for coming out to this string of west coast readings. A warmer person I’ve never met. She immediately made me feel fully at home in the museum that honored some of my heroes. This is how a real Editor should be. Rip the book apart for months, and then pump it up because the go al was accomplished.
While this Beat Museum reading was the first, it was not the last of the great weather readings. We did a string of west coast shows from the Bay Area, to Portland, to Seattle, with a mixture of wonderful poets from several anthologies that great weather has published.
That first night was a wonderful expierience, and was just as wonderful the next night in Oakland at the Octopus Literary Salon. A coffehouse that specializes in all things literary, Octopus Literary Salon is a warm place that immediately draws your attention to the written word… somehow. I wish I could explain how it happened, but when Richard Loranger took the stage as host, the mood became flush with poetry. Richard is poetry, all in all, the openess that he displays through his work, his pain, and his self is at once an homage to the past greats and a new vision for the future of modern poetry.
The night was filled with words. There are more metaphors in that sentence than words in that sentence, and it was a reoccuring theme for our readings at every stop.
Including the next reading, which was in Portland at Literary Arts. An absolutely gorgeous room that was so nice I immediately got afraid I was going to break something or get something dirty just being there. That feeling went away as soon as I saw Jane and Richard, and the room got warm again, and then I could see it for what it truely was. A place to worship words. Some churches are cleaner than others, but God is in them all. This was an immaculate church, and God was everywhere in it. The poets/prophets each took the room as if it were their own because it was. The crowd was full and receptive and each eye was fixated on the feeling that we all matter and are matter and are madder than the rest, but here we are, a group of sane lunatics, and ain’t that just wonderful. Poets from age 17 to 70, as open and honest as the healed wounds we all are.
The next reading was in Seattle, the day after Halloween at Hugo House. An unassuming house next to a large park, the stage and concessions were a surprise, but it was perfect for the mood of the night. It was a home and all the writers used that to their advantage. This was the first time I got the pleasure of meeting David Lawton. A fierce, distinct, and powerful performer with the works to back it up. The fact that he was one of the unseen editors that took my sad little book and turned into something bigger and better than I thought it could ever be, had little effect on our meeting. He is a great writer, and one of the only people I’ve ever met who listens and tells stories like I do.
The show was over too soon – for my taste anyway – because the voices were so easy to listen to and the work was so real. There was a feeling of sadness for me, as it was my last in the string of shows before I headed east and the group headed south to LA. There was a gathering in the back of the room, an inpromptu circle happened with chairs moved to face each other, no matter what we talked about.
In all honesty, I drifted away in my head to reflect on the poets I had never met in person but became fans of on these few shows. I had read some of their work, and knew they were great writers and editors, but I got to find out that they were great people as well. Possibly even better people than writers, or even better writers than people, but either way I say that sentence it feels like I am short changing them on one or the other.
After we left the Hugo House a few of us went to dinner to get to know each other, and we did more than that. We traded stories and laughs. We made light of poetry and ourselves. We got closer to the table as time passed and our meals were eaten, until we were all leaned in together, almost in a prayer like position and laughed as loud as we damn well pleased. Even the server we thought hated us all was one of us by the end of the meal.
We were all “one of us,” and for poets especially, that is a rare and beautiful thing to have in our lives. Most of the time we don’t understand ourselves, let alone expect anyone to understand us. That is why a lot of us write; to make sense of all the things we can’t seem to get in order any other way.
This all came at a crucial moment in my life. A moment when most things were crumbling. In a similar moment several months before all these shows, a poet I am honored to call a friend, Thomas Fucalaro – a very talented writer in his own right – asked me if they could take a look at some rambling manuscript from this white trash poet. Then I had a reason.
What impressed me the most about my first introduction to this band of writers that great weather for MEDIA has published, and continues to publish, is the diversity. All ages, sexes, colors, creeds, orientations, and religions are welcome here, and they are all represented here. From NY to Cambodia to Singapore to London to LA and beyond, this is an open door in an otherwise closed off street.
These poets and editors on the great weather for MEDIA brand, are much more artist friendly than most. Much more welcoming than most. They are a reason. They are a family. I am proud to have written a book for this press. I am proud to call them friends. I am proud to be a member of the great weather family.
At Hugo House with Richard Loranger, Mary Mackey, David Lawton, and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Wil Gibson was born from a good idea and a bottle of bourbon and raised in some of the poorest communities northern Illinois and eastern Arkansas have to offer. He is a proud, mistake-prone, father of four.