Excerpt of The Poet's Funeral by John M. Daniel
(Page 5 of 10)
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"Sure. How difficult could that be?"
"Yes! Oh man, Professor Arthur Summers is going to shit a brick!"
She fell back and held my hand, and we both giggled at the
ceiling until I started to get just a little bit horny again.
And that is how I became a publisher, and how Heidi Yamada
became a poet. She wrote her first poem the next day, on the
job, between sweeping the floor and counting out the change
in the register before we opened the door. She brought it to the
back room and handed it to me and watched me read it.
"Nice handwriting," I commented.
"Do you like it?" she asked.
"Maybe you need to warm up a little bit. This is your first poem ever,
The smile left her lips. She nodded. "You said you'd publish
my book," she said.
"And I will," I said. "This poem shows me you have a way with words,
your images are arresting, you have an ear for language and an eye for detail,
and before long you'll be writing real poetry. Heidi, Babe Ruth didn't hit a
home run his first time at bat."
"I have an ear for detail?" she asked.
"Eye for detail. An ear for language."
"Too much!" The smile had returned. "I'll have a book of poems ready for
you by the end of the week I promise."
"As Thom Gunn would say, time's a-wastin', pardner."
So she delivered a book-length manuscript in seven days. The
handwriting was still beautiful, but unfortunately she wanted
the book set in type.
I chose Caslon Old Style. She got to choose all the words,
and she refused editing. She let me choose the font because I was the publisher.
By the time the book came out in the fall of 1980, we were
no longer lovers. When the book went back to press for a second
printing, spring 1981, she quit the store to write full-time. She
got Beatrice Knight to be her literary agent. The following year,
spring 1982, Heidi's second book was published by Charles
Levin Books, an imprint of Random House. It was reviewed by
Taylor Bingham for Newsweek and she got on the Carson show and she got on the
Carson show and made the cover of People.
By that time, Guy Mallon Books was publishing three
other poets, real poets who wrote real poetry, including Arthur
We continued to grow through the 1980s. It got to where Guy Mallon books were being reviewed regularly by the major poetry
journals, and we were packing up our wares every Memorial Day
weekend and hauling them off to display them at the annual
American Booksellers Association convention. The conventions
gave me a chance to travel all over the country, but of course I liked it best when they came west, which usually meant Los
Angeles, Anaheim, or San Francisco.
Most of us in the business of literature pretended to be appalled
that the American Booksellers Association had chosen Las Vegas
for their convention in 1990. Was this what the nineties were going to be all
about: schlock, insanity, waste, high risk, tits and
ass? And then most of us winked and shrugged and said, well,
that's what New York publishing has become in the eighties
anyway, so let the new decade roll. Viva Las Vegas.
Besides, the ABA convention, known simply as the ABA,
whether it's held in Chicago or Washington D.C. or New
Orleans or San Francisco or Anaheim, is wilder and goofier than
Las Vegas anyway. It's a four-day roller-coaster of hard work and
wild parties, wheeling and dealing, free books, free booze, literary
celebrities to bump into (literally), deals to make, nonstop
noise, lines to stand in for tasteless hotdogs, hospitality suites,
shuttle-buses, hands to shake, backs to slap, a lot of standing
around in utmost boredom until another friend walks by and
you're off for another beer, more shmooze, more noise, more
party invitations, more lies and hype.
From The Poet's Funeral by James M Daniel. Copyright © 2005 by James M. Daniel. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means without the prior written permission of both the copy right owner and the publisher of this book.