In last week’s discussion of print-on-demand technology and self-publishing, several folks commented that the new POD technology is far more environmentally friendly than older technologies. I wonder how many thousands of trees per year sacrifice their lives to produce the thousands of printed works no one buys, that end up on remainder tables and in landfills. Even those that once found a home and presumably a reader often end up consigned to library sales.
I’m an avid patron of these sales. I like the heft, the feel and the reader-friendly larger fonts of hard-cover books, and I usually come away with a couple of cartons of mysteries to tide me over till the next sale. I’ve puzzled over why most of the books for sale are by big-name writers. Is it that no one bought the mid-list and lesser known writers, or did they perhaps buy the books and decide that they were keepers? In today’s post, I’m sharing a poem I wrote about some of my speculations.
How many books can you cram in a Hannaford bag?
There’s no official number, but beware –
the putty-colored plastic splits
when poundage passes certain limits.
Grab a box of rice, Ritz crackers, maybe Wheat Thins
if you worry about your waistline.
All approximate the average novel
bound between hard covers.
Oh, but the weight of words on paper
far exceeds the carbohydrate calories
in their cheerful colored boxes.
Books have heft. Their corners thrust against
the filmy, flesh-toned plastic, struggling to escape.
Better to double bag them. That’s allowed,
on bag sale day in affluent East Greenbush.
Twelve books per bag, at least, for just a dollar
on this final day, this final hour.
How can I lose? If I don’t like the book,
or even if I do, once read, I’ll throw it in the trash,
rather than clutter up my house with more forgotten words.
Less than a dime a book – what else comes so cheap?
Watching the greedy throngs grab bargains
from the folding tables, scanning author photos
that smile beguilingly from backs of dusty jackets,
I think about the lifespan of these books,
whether someone paid list or bought at discount,
and why they wound up here.
I ask a volunteer what happens to the rejects,
the ones that no one bags. She says they’re destined for
the dumpster, then probably a landfill miles away.
And so these books may predecease their authors.
I picture them entombed with tons of garbage
in rolling manmade hills, decaying,
billions of words struck soundless
as seagulls wheel and scream
above the dump.
©Julie Lomoe 2006
This is the first time I’ve shared my poetry on this blog. I’ve been writing fiction longer than poetry, but I find the two complement each other in many ways. For me, poetry is a more spontaneous form of self-expression, a way of processing my thoughts and feelings. It’s not tied in to my more grandiose ambitions as a writer, since publication isn’t a major goal. There’s immediate gratification in spending a couple of afternoon hours writing a poem, then going out to read it that same evening at an open mic in a local pub or coffee house. These venues are generally congenial: people never put you down or reject your work, and they always applaud. And I’m convinced the poetry process has helped me hone my skills as a writer of fiction.
Would you like to read more of my poetry here? Would you be interested in a post about my poetic process? Please let me know. And check out my blog Wednesday, when I’ll write about my experience as an artist at the 1969 Woodstock Festival of Music and Art.