Let me begin by saying that I never actually mean to cause controversy. I know that’s hard to believe, but I really don’t. I seem to have some knack for stirring things up and pissing people off– since I was a small child I’ve had this social incompetence– and when I incite strong reactions I’m always a bit shocked. I don’t really understand why people care if I publish my own book, who I love, the ethics of what I eat/drink or who I work for, whether I charge for my blog. I’d understand if people were more upset about the Anthology, since quitting that project means disappointing 400 people, but on the whole folks have been really supportive about that. I’m not sure why some things that I do end up being so poisonously distasteful that they prompt personal emails, comments, and blog posts, while other things (that I think might rationally cause displeasure) are handled with equanimity. Ultimately I’m never sure why anything that I do matters to anyone else when it doesn’t directly concern them.
Case in point: my comments here on Elizabeth Reddin’s poetry reading. I didn’t like it, and I said so, and this rubbed some people (not Reddin herself) the wrong way– some people handled the rub gracefully and attempted to explain to me why I should like Reddin’s poetry and some people were really pissed off. Why? I’m not Ron Silliman. What he blogs about actually affects book sales. I’m just some 28-year old kid who’s been to too many poetry readings and gets bored easily. Why does my opinion matter so much? Why is it so important that Reddin’s poetry be unequivocally liked? (If I didn’t know better, I’d let this go to my head– I am powerful! People care whether I like something!– but I do know better, there are cultural issues going on here that have little to do with me.)
I received negative press (both reviews and blog comments) on my own first book, which wasn’t published by as phenomenal a press as Ugly Duckling, so any negative press not only hurt, but also stacked up against the fragile space I’d forcefully carved out for the legitimacy of Organic Furniture Cellar. Only one of these attacks against OFC seemed personal and was worth responding to personally. Otherwise, you know, some people are going to like one’s work and some people aren’t. That’s just the way it is.
Then again, even negative press mentions OFC and gets my name in front of a potential reader, who might out of curiosity pick up OFC in the future. Ugly Duckling, unlike some of Reddin’s fans, seems to understand this phenomenon, and has linked my blog to Reddin’s book’s webpage to show that Reddin’s work is exciting controversy– demonstrating once again that there is no such thing as bad press.