Confession Tuesday

Forgive me, Reader for my straightlaces, for my corset tied a little too tight. It's been one whole wide week since I last confessed and I've got a story to tell you. Reader, dim the light--

To the confessional:

1) I confess I am knocked out by Benadryl, (ahem, children's benadryl). I want to be the edgy poet in the trench coat and black boots kicking her legs off the cliff, but I'm the geeky girl behind the CAUTION tape with allergy eyes.

2) I confess I don't mind tax day because we pay someone to do our taxes (and we usually get a refund). I am truly amazed at people who do their own. I honestly think by paying someone to do our taxes we 1) save ourselves a huge argument 2) end up getting more back because we are definitely not tax experts 3) save ourselves A LOT of time 4) don't fret tax day.

3) I do consider my job as a poet/freelance writer and do report my income and expenses for it. Last year, I probably earned between $3500-$5000 in the poetry world after expenses. Thank God I don't base my self-esteem as a person/poet or I'd be in the self-help section right now looking for a book called "You Are Not Your Salary." This year, because of the Dorothy Rosenberg Poetry Prize, I've already topped that. To quote Forrest Gump, in the poetry world, money is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.

4) The Stanley Kunitz has died story (or Why I May Never Appear on Poetry Daily)--

A mentioned in an earlier confession that I helped keep a rumor going in 2000 that Stanley Kunitz had died. I said one day I'd share the whole story, so for National Poetry Month, here's the "Stanley Kunitz's Death was Greatly Exaggerated" story--

In 2000, I attended at the Skagit River Poetry Festival and somehow a rumor began that Stanley Kunitz had died.

As I went to readings, famous poet after famous poet would come up to the podium and talk about the late-Stanley Kunitz. There were many tears and much sadness. Stanley's poems were read, stories were told, yes, it was repeated over and over that Stanley Kunitz had died.

When I returned home from the festival, I went to my #1 place to find poetry news-- Poetry Daily, however when I went to read the written news of his death, there was nothing there. Being the good poetry citizen that I am, I immediately emailed Poetry Daily to tell them that Stanley Kunitz had died and I didn’t see anything about it on their website. I believe it was Roy who emailed me back saying what sad news that was and that he’d look into it.

I remember not asking in the email if Stanley Kunitz had died, but stating it. I was so sure I knew the correct info and in fact, I had not questioned it. Famous poets wouldn't lie about Stanley's death, I mean, this was a poetry festival, why would this information be wrong?

Poetry Daily later wrote back that he couldn’t find any info online about Kunitz’s death. I said I was pretty sure it happened because the poets kept talking about it and I was concerned it hadn't reported it. I became upset that Stanley's death wasn’t being reported about in the news. I was sure the news media was once again, disrespecting poets.

A few days later I learned that Stanley Kunitz had not died. In fact, Stanley Kunitz was fine and alive, probably in his garden. I have no idea what/who started the rumor at the festival, but I was the voice who kept it going. Writing this now it doesn't seem as embarrassing as it felt then, but I remember feeling horrified that I had killed off a poet before his time. I should have written back to Poetry Daily and explained why I was giving them false info, but I never did.

When my book was published in 2004, a copy was sent to Poetry Daily and they didn’t use a poem. I remember thinking, “This is because they see me as the crazylady who tried to convince them that Stanley Kunitz is dead.” (It could have easily been because they didn't like my poems, but it's much easy to think it's because they thought I was crazy, which I much prefer than to think they didn't like my work.)

Anyway, Stanley died quite a few years later *after* the rumor. His real death was twice as sad. And oddly enough, he died on my own father's (as well as my step-father's) birthday, May 14.

Here's part of Stanley's obit from the Washington Post--

Stanley Kunitz, 100, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet of far-ranging style and influence and who twice was U.S. poet laureate, died May 14 at his home in New York City. The cause of death was reported to be pneumonia.

In about a dozen books, Mr. Kunitz's literary approach veered over the decades from metaphysical sonnets about love and loss to stark ruminations on his father's suicide. Gradually, he learned to "strip the water out of my poems" and acknowledge the benefits of a simpler, more intense approach....

If you're interested, you can read the full obituary here.

Anyway, now you know my life as the poetry gossip queen. Forgive me. I have not caused any other poets to die before their time...I think.


  1. Kelli,
    You are a sane, articulate voice. And I'm sure you're no longer the poetry gossip queen.

  2. Kelli,

    You are completely sane. I hope you can see the humor in the situation now. If anyone can find it, it would be you, methinks.


  3. Some years ago I came home one day and had an answering machine message from a poet friend here in Minneapolis, saying he had heard a report that I was dead ("no longer among us," I think were his words), and he asked me to call him if I was alive.

    I called him back. It took an effort to resist quoting the classic Mark Twain line, "Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated."

    Took a little digging, but eventually traced the rumor to someone I'd known in high school, who had gotten me confused with someone else.

    It was an odd feeling, being dead for a little bit...

  4. Now that's a confession! I'm sure your rep as a poet killer won't follow you around forever. (That's a joke!)

    And I have yet to earn money for poetry. This will be the first year that I track expenses but it's a good thing that this is not my main income source. Maybe when my book comes out next year I'll earn enough for a nice dinner. *sigh*

    The title, "You Are Not Your Salary" may be the title of today's NaPo poem. Thanks! You are a wealth of information.


Post a Comment

Always love to hear from you...and the anonymous option is open for those feeling shy.