I have done it seven times now. Crossed this land for poems. Once from coast to coast, the other times the usual lunges from BC to a few spots on the Prairies, concentrating mostly on Ontario and perhaps leaping briefly to Montreal. I don’t even ask why I feel this urge anymore though once in awhile a comment such as, “Seems like an awfully long trip for poetry,” will make me want to justify the time, expense, intent, energy.
The word promotion certainly doesn’t suffice. Yes, I think that books of poems sell better, are more effectively distributed, when one reads from them to a listening audience. Otherwise, unless they win some of those coveted awards, and even then, they tend to sink fast into vanishing. But that is not the reason I get out on the road. I suppose the core of it for me is the feeling of completion. One writes in solitude, submits one’s work various places, if fortunate, has a press decide to release it, and then what. Recite from it, not just a few times at a couple of launches, but at least at a dozen relatively far-flung venues. Meet people, have conversations, let the poems find their particular breath. Be there for the whole shebang journey. And for poetry, the oral, singing, spell-making genre, being present in as many ways as you can, is key, vital ritual.
This new book of elegies is especially tough for me to contemplate touring. It is essentially private (always a strange, discomfiting, occasionally exhilarating feeling when it finds book form), emotional, intense. Hard to repartee throughout. Risky for vulnerable days. But I don’t feel I have any choice in the matter. The books urge me to get outside of myself and go for it. Transcend for art. Otherwise, regret, silence, a kind of shame. I can’t imagine not touring a book anymore. It costs in various ways. One time terribly. But I am excited still. That mystery. That full circling.