I just looked it up, on BrainyQuote: Robert Graves. But Graves was wrong. There is a little money in poetry—at least for me. For example, on Aug. 6 (Hiroshima Day) I gave a reading at Harmony, a nightclub within the mediocre Wok & Roll restaurant of Woodstock, NY. Every evening they have rock bands, but Monday is poetry night, and lots of aging writers appear. There’s a small stage, a dance floor, a bar, tables—it all looks like a VFW hall in rural Minnesota. There’s an extensive open reading—maybe 24 people read—then the “featured poet,” which was me. Here’s one of the poems I vocalized at Harmony:
After the reading, a guy named Tom who’d read a poignant anecdote about his stay in a mental hospital approached me and said: “Sparrow, you’re brilliant, but you went on too long!” Nonetheless, the crowd was quite generous with the tip jar. I counted $44—everything in singles, except for two fives. I had a big roll of bills, like a Uruguayan pimp.
Often while I read, I’ll start laughing—because I’m thinking: “I can’t believe I’m reading this ridiculous poem to 36 people, all gazing up at me with attentive faces!” Now that same audience had made me momentarily rich.
A couple weeks later, I was paid by an English magazine called Critical Quarterly. They had a special issue on Occupy Wall Street, which included three of my poems. One of them was:
Buy a house.
Buy it back.
Sell it again.
Buy it and sell
it so many times
you can’t remember
if you own it.
Critical Quarterly ladled $200 into my PayPal account. Free money for attacking capitalism!