It was dumb luck (along with some serious efforts at promotion) that the 2000 copy print run of my poetry collection, Rehab at the Florida Avenue Grill, sold out and even went into a second printing. I knew nothing about print runs for slim volumes of poetry published by private presses like mine. I was merely thinking about economies of scale. The more copies I print, the lower the unit cost.
When my next collection, Clinician’s Guide to the Soul, was ready for publication nine years later, I again decided to go for 2000 copies. This time I did not promote it as actively as I had Rehab and sales reflected that. Toward the end of last year, as I was weeding out the garden of my life, I looked forlornly at the unopened cartons of the Guide—1000 copies remained—and decided that most of them had to go. But where? Who would want them? I eventually settled on Donation Nation, a company here in Maryland that bills itself as the world’s greenest removal service. They take anything you’ve got and recycle or redistribute it.
I like not knowing what exactly happened to these precious emissaries of mine. I let them go, just as I did with each copy I sold.
In my poem, “The Poet’s Job” (see said Clinician’s Guide), I imagined poets as tinkers, picking through a vast mulch heap of words, images and mystery to make something new. Maybe one of the 700 books I “donated” will end up in the hands of one of these literary tinkers. Failing that, I hope the books are pulped and re-emerge as clean sheets of paper ready for anything from a shopping list to a to child’s drawing to the draft of a new poem. In that way, the cycle of renewal continues and I can find peace.