Brandi Homan is editor-in-chief of Switchback Books, a feminist press that publishes poetry by women. She earned her MFA from Columbia College, Chicago, and her MA from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work has appeared in Barn Owl Review, Born Magazine, DIAGRAM, MiPOesias, Natural Bridge, North American Review, and Salt Hill. Hard Reds was her first full-length collection of poetry (Shearsman, 2009). Her second collection is Bobcat Country (Shearsman, 2010).
My professor said I was "aiming for mediocrity." I was thirty years old. My mother's into money recently, talks about some book that associates class with worldviews of material goods. In the book, low class means "quantity," middle class means "quality," and high class means "presentation." Working on my master's degree, I knew for certain I wasn't middle class, going again for quantity. I saw that others, hello Professor, viewed me as not middle class. That I was low-middle class, or low-class, even, depending on how much cash the one doing the viewing had. Or really that I was culturally bankrupt from growing up in a vacuum cleaner.
FOR POETS (& OTHERS)
At readings, two drinks, minimum, will make you as brilliant as you think you are. This goes for the audience as well.
Never write poems using the following words, mainly because it will annoy me: blackberries, poppies, detritus, bifurcation, sluiced, slaked.
James Wright has already seen horses in a field.
Do not admit to being a poet unless asked directly. It's kind of like saying your grandmother died. Maybe you weren't close with your grandmother? People don't know what to do.
Get a bad haircut and pretend it's a good one.
Get used to disappointing your mother.
Write poems with these words in them: Squirrel. Rabbit. Rabbits are the new monkeys, they're just funny.
Learn to read aloud without "poet voice"--that long, overdrawn singsong. Are you trying to put your audience to sleep? They've already had two drinks apiece.
Respect. Earn it. Use it. Own it. Being nice gets you a lot further than being a dick.
Develop at least one addiction.
When asked whether you've experimented with the opposite sex, say yes. Otherwise, people don't know what to do.
Memorize at least one of your own poems to perform on command. It's kind of like an engagement story that you'll be asked to repeat for the rest of your life. Make it a good one.
Do not list your Pushcart Prize nomination in your bio. I mean, ever.
Be hot. Things will go easier for you and you'll get plenty of action.
OR, be good. Be very, very good and you'll get plenty of action.
Thank your parents. They put you here, even if you don't like it. Not liking it makes for some good poetry.
Do not have birds on your book cover, mainly because it will annoy me.
Use your real name, you chicken. You are not a rock star. If you want to be a rock star, learn to play an instrument.
Brush your teeth. Nobody likes a poet with four teeth.
Finally, never, ever write poems about being a poet. Publishers don't like them. Instead, substitute every instance of the word "poet" with "rabbit."
Then send the poem to me.