Just who, exactly, reads my poetry? Since it’s the tenth anniversary of my very first book, The Difference Now (2004 link and the current one, in case you’re interested in buying it), I thought it might be fun to share what I’ve found out about some of the kind folks who have purchased my poetry.
My first demographic for poetry seems to be young girls, like 8-12 years old. I know this because some have written me and some have told me in person. (Now, it should be said, if you’re that young and reading this, some of the poetry may resonate with you, but let’s face it, I talk about tough stuff sometimes, so I don’t always think it’s appropriate. Ask your mom before you buy it and have her read it first.)
Many times the books I give to friends have been picked up by their girls and read. One such friend’s daughter told me how much she enjoyed certain poems (“The Girl I Drew on Canvas” and “I’m Not That Girl”) and how she “totally got” what I was saying. She caught me while I stood there at a party and just went on and on about what those meant to her and my heart swelled with joy – she got where I was coming from but she had seen many other things in my poetry based on her own experience and vision.
Another time a friend told me that she had punished her daughter with no electronics. No TV, computer, video games, etc. for something she did. She sent her daughter to her room and knew it would be a good time to think about what had transpired, and half an hour later when she went to her daughter’s room, she was holding my book and smiling. The woman (who had expected her daughter to be sitting there pouting) talked to her daughter about the poetry and they ended up having a nice conversation from it. She called and told me how surprised she was, and I was happy that they’d been able to share a positive moment like that, especially after they’d just had a challenging one.
When The Difference Now came out, I actually had a couple book signings. My very first signing was in a high-end spa. I sold them on the fact that it was a book about making women feel good about themselves, and I volunteered to donate a part of my sales to the Earth Day cause they were having an event for. I became part of the event. (See how they even gave me an easel for the picture that was the cover of the book? That was very sweet.)
This is before I realized that I was going to sell a lot more books online than in person. (And also before I saw just how much of a dork I was and how I super-hated talking in front of people). But meeting people in person was actually really awesome. I loved that.
I few years ago I went to a conference and chipped in for a table with some other authors. At the conference, a young girl about ten starting reading my poetry, and walked up to me and told me that she was a poet too, and she wrote every day, and she asked her mother to buy her that book. Her mom was like, “You really want that book?” She did, and bought it. When I asked if she wanted me to sign it she looked at me like, “Don’t mark up my book, yo!” LOL So I thanked her and hoped it would inspire her.
There are various pockets of society where people feel different and misunderstood. These folks seem to resonate with my poetry, too. I won’t mention them by name because some of them have written me and shared very personal things about their lives. I want to keep their informative private. So I’ll just say this: These groups were all taking something from poetry that was different than my own experience. That’s what is interesting, I think, that I can write something from my own experience but someone else can get the same message but have it mean something different to them at the same time.
One such group at the time blogged about the book and it was such a thrill to find it online. This was ten years ago when blogs weren’t as commonplace as they are now. I remember them talking about the “power” the words had and that it had given them a sense of new beginnings.
Another group just recently talked about my poetry online, and someone loved the title poem and others didn’t, and I got to see them go back and forth and really debate it. Kind of like overhearing a conversation about you with total strangers. It was wild. One person felt that the “The Difference Now” was kind of like an anthem (I agree) and someone else commented that it was crap. LOL The person who didn’t like it thought I was some highbrow poet with tons of education. Guess he doesn’t know my history, but that’s okay. It doesn’t matter.
What all these people share is a sense that they feel left out. That they’re different and are sick of people labeling them or making fun of them. I’m grateful that they found my poetry and are talking about it, even when they don’t like it. I like the debate and the types of conversations that arise from it.
People With a Background Like Mine
I’m totally okay with someone not liking my poetry because honestly, it just isn’t going to appeal to everyone. But I see the people it does resonate with and I’m very grateful for them. One of those groups is made up of people who have a background very much like mine.
This is by far the largest group that has written me, too. They share their stories growing up and some of them are so much like mine. This is why we talk about this issue. We take the shame away when we share these things.
One woman wrote to me a couple years ago and was my age but had given up on love because she felt that she didn’t deserve it. Oh, how I cried with her over her story! I listened, gave my thoughts, but told her you just can’t give up. Don’t. EVER. It doesn’t matter how old you are, God can take this life you feel is worth nothing and show you just how beautiful it is! How beautiful you are.
Look, it takes work. But do that work. It takes work to be miserable or happy, so which will you choose? Do the work so you can reap the benefits of a life filled with love and people who know your worth and treat you well.
So Grateful for the Readers of My Poetry
If you like my poetry, thank you!! And if you don’t, do me a favor. Keep reading poetry of some kind. Doesn’t have to be mine. But don’t give up on poetry in general just because you read one or two poems you don’t like or don’t get. Plus, if you think you “just don’t get” poetry, read this.
Poetry is a hard sell in this world. It’s of the toughest things to sell, in fact, and when you buy mine it is so appreciated. I’m grateful to you. You encourage me with your stories and feedback.