When I was sixteen I had a crush on a girl who was very, very into a nameless industrial band. Although I found their music to sound like two food processors having an argument, I liked her, so I bought their two albums. Both featured taxidermy and offal on their front covers as well as lyrics that were a combination of German, English, and evidently bad parenting.
The girl wore makeup that made her look like the victim of an assault in a black and white movie. She sneered at everything: Mr. Abrams’ history lecture, the new tree being planted in the school’s courtyard, the seasonal chocolate pretzels featured at the mall’s food court. She ignored me when I hung around her or her three equally black-clad-and-mopey friends, acknowledging my presence only when I’d let her stab me with a safety pin, or when I made comments about pop music.
In her eyes, the sun rose and set because of this band, or I guess it was more like the moon rose and set, given her vehement dislike for sunlight. She would scrawl the band’s logo in Sharpie on every surface she could find, and swore that she was saving her virginity for the lead singer, much to the chagrin of her (considerably older, out-of-state) boyfriend. To me, the idea of having sex with a guy who looked like his penis probably resembled a pair of rusty scissors was less than appealing, especially since I, you know, crushed on girls. But I vowed to make her dream happen, if only to get her to prick me with a pin a few more times.
When I heard that the band would be playing at a nearby club, I decided to write the most articulate, impassioned, and creative letter I could and send it to the front man, via a local radio station. In it I talked about how the maestro’s songs made hearts rupture and blood spill out of people’s ears. I talked about my (her) love for him making me (her) “feral and waiting.” I begged, pleaded, demanded for a chance to meet the group. And although my spiked-collar-wearing friend didn’t get deflowered by her dreamboat, my letter did win two free passes and a tee-shirt. She took her boyfriend to the show. I still sleep in the tee-shirt.
I like being in control of things and, being a girl, I enjoy every iota of attention and approval. The managerial aspect of creative work fascinates me, and luckily I’ve been exposed to some of its inner workings through a select handful of mentors and bosses from the East Coast. I relish the notion of selling art or a creative service, and I’m one of those hyper-organized, Type A individuals who owns two whiteboards and writes lists for nearly every jaunt out of the house. Mentally ill? Probably. But forgetful? Not so much.
A friend of mine here in Portland is the greatest poet I have ever met. I know that most people would read that sentence and dismiss it as being either a grandiose exaggeration or somewhat inconsequential, considering poetry is regarded as the paper doily of the writing world. I will say, however, that I’ve been exposed to my fair share of poetics. I’ve taken a lot of classes, read a ton of books, and even used to compete in poetry slams back in New York.
Now, while the later eventually seemed to me to be a bit of a popularity contest — not to mention a waste of perfectly good screaming and cursing — I do know that it’s taught me that a lot of poets out there aren’t exactly helping the cause. I mean, once Jewel wrote a book it pretty much sealed the deal on poetry ever being taken seriously by my generation, grown men dressed like Eminem, hollering on stage about the notion of beauty and rhyming it with “booty” has only succeeded in making Hallmark card scribes seem like the new Pablo Neruda. So when I read this friend’s work and saw the raw talent that was there on the page I, of course, asked her if she had been published.
I was met with a stammering reply about her not knowing how to submit or to where. This is the kind of artistic travesty that a pushy asshole like myself just won’t allow to happen. After all, I am not that good of a poet. Like I said, I know my strengths, and they are mainly talking loudly with my hands and describing whatever I’m thinking about my vagina. There’s that saying about teachers — those who can do, those who can’t teach — which I personally believe is total bullshit, but I do think that writers who get rejection letters should find a way to beat the system. This girl is probably the closest I can get to actual success as a poet, if I’m able to get her work in print. So I have decided to branch out and become her editor. Or agent. You choose, I haven’t printed up the business cards yet.
Of course this has spiraled out of control in my little egomaniac’s brain, but I do believe there is something to be said for a decent agent, or manager, who can handle talent and make sure that it is recognized. Not every artist has the business savvy or tenacity (read: balls) to go out and push their work in the faces of often less-than-enthusiastic readers, audience members, publishers, and financiers. It’s a sort of right brain/left brain divide. I don’t know if it will get anywhere but I do know this much, when I like something I will try to convince you to like it too. This is the reason why so many girls in my sophomore year of college got very into Zima Citrus, The Sugarcubes, and my pants. I can be persuasive to the point that it borders on being annoying.
Assuming that publication for this friend of mine is eminent, it’s just a matter of getting her there. Business management is a puzzle, sort of like a distant cousin of the job interview, or the cold and dominant rich uncle staring down its nose at freelance work at the head of the employment dinner table. Much in the same way that I tried to get my eyeliner-loving high-school chum to be groupie du jour for a lead singer, finding a way to get these poems in print is a lot easier than trying to get my own. There is distance in management, and distance for anybody who works in even a somewhat creative field — may your medium be web design, animation, graphic design, music, whatever — is a very good thing. It’s as if the entire plan of attack changes. For example, I never got to actually meet Trent Reznor and tell him I wanted to cuddle. I did, however, put an adorable goth teenager that much closer to a guy known for smashing broken bottles into his bare chest.
I like to give back, what can I say.
The lessons in this for me are many. For one, I apparently need to keep the more analytical and hustle-driven side of myself active, both for my own work as well as for others’. Also, being able to view writing from an outsider’s perspective is extremely useful, it brings a renewed sense of urgency and passion to my own work. (Note: I don’t know if this applies to everyone.) And, lastly, cute girls can still inspire me to do things that may help them achieve their ambitions without even asking.
As a postscript, the goth girl graduated from a college known for its engineering and architecture programs. Though I don’t know what she majored in, I do know that she had dreadlocks the last time I saw her, and her demeanor was, unfortunately, much more pleasant.
AinsleyDrew at gmail
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