Thomas Sayers Ellis

Repair Kit


Ten Rules for Changing the Game by Thomas Sayers Ellis

Change the Game Rule #1. Poetry is unique. A book of poetry is not a novel, so please resist the current trend of making books of poetry about one subject, Series writing. A book-length poem is different but most (not all) Series depend heavily on fiction with line breaks, as well as the enemy of the line, the sentence, so get thee beneath the wreckage, Story, and be thee drowned.

Change the Game Rule #2. No former student of a judge of a literary contest will be eligible for the prize. Judges must either remove themselves or the manuscript. Young poets should practice integrity when acquiring blurbs, requesting them from writers who are new to their work. Say, "I cannot accept this prize because the judge was my teacher." Interrupt the lit-inbreeding, the first step toward verse diversity!

Change the Game Rule #3. I am not telling writers what to write but I am telling them to write Now, about Today, to engage Society, all of the designs of Nature. We take too long, crafting our cries for permanence when nothing is meant to last. We've allowed the immediacy of ignorance to out advertise us and advertisers to out cinema us. Cinema owes poetry. Our lines don't have enough current mouths in them.

Change the Game Rule #4. Susan Sontag told me, "There are Only Two Places to Publish Poetry, the New Yorker and the Paris Review." O, the Traceable Hierarchy of Literary Publishing and the Predictable Schema of Most Rewarded Work: Witness, Experience, Simile, Fade-out with a Metaphor. How to Land at FSG, Get Noticed by Knopf? Don't Start, Be Already Started, Pre-Page, in the Hand, in the Approach, in the Worry.

Change the Game Rule #5. Choose to Continue Language and Culture not to Leave it as You Have Inherited it. Every Time Writing Tries to Write You, Re-write It or Revise You. This Also Applies to Lines and Stanzas which are Governed by Breathing More so than Music or Meaning. I Take that Back. Music plus Meaning are Flowers in the pot of Dirt Known as Breathing!

Change the Game Rule #6. The Workshop Model Must Become Mobile. Time for the Literary Socratic Table to Spin. The (Living) Creative Process not the (Dead) Poem Must be Present. Time to Back to the Future to Iowa 1936 and add some moonwalking. The Workshop Model is Broke and Does Not Serve Wholeness.

Change the Game Rule #7. Share Your Resources. Journals and Anthologies Need Writers More than Writers Need Them. For Black Writers this Means Share Your White Folks. For White Folks this Means Syllabi More Black Writers. An Editor is not A Tastemaker––the Writing Is!

Change the Game Rule #8. Younger Writers With One, Two, Three Books (Flavors of the Month), Write Notes to the Editors Who Love You Suggesting That They Also Publish the Writers Who Have Made A Path for You. Too Often (As a Short-sighted Control Move), Older Editors Will Replace the Cultural Foundation with Young Writers Who are Simply Reinventing the 'Fro-Wheel. Beware, Inkslingers, of Such Advancement-Standstill.

Change the Game Rule #9: Don't Publish for Publication's Sake. Only Send to Journals You Really Like. A Table of Contents is a Community, A Conversation. If You Can't Find A Decent Place for Exchange or to Change the Exchange, Start Your Own. Don't Over Publish Or You Will End Up Like...

Change the Game Rule #10: Let the work Network.

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