The Un-“Selfish Poet”
by Emily Jaeger, Features Editor
Blogger and poet Trish Hopkinson immediately sets the spunky and erudite tone for her site with the subheading: “The Selfish Poet.” This head-on foray into the world of semi-promotional, semi-informational poet websites is both witty and refreshing in its honesty. Hopkinson does devote half of her site (2/4 of the drop-down menus) to promoting her own publications of poetry and reviews across multiple small presses. However, the second half of the site comprises informative articles by Hopkinson and guest bloggers covering the nuts-and-bolts of the “poetry business.” These articles, published daily, are geared toward emerging writers and cover anything from how to give a reading to how to get published in a paying journal.
F: On your blog, you call yourself “a selfish poet.” What do you mean by that?
TH: Several years ago I set writing aside, decided I needed to organize myself first and essentially de-prioritized it. Years past and I found myself emotionally ok, but definitely not content. Something was missing. I wound up at a small poetry slam event and quickly realized what was missing. I started writing again immediately and haven’t looked back since. Sure, I am happy to support the literary arts in any way I can, but ultimately, I do all of this for me. An extra benefit is that it also makes me emotionally more accessible to my family and friends.”
Another mark of this “Selfish Poet” is Hopkinson’s penchant for nabbing constructive poetry resources from the annals of the literary web. While her guest bloggers generally produce original work, writing advice in the form of personal essays, Hopkinson’s posts are often purely instructive and contain a combination of original writing and curation. She has no qualms devoting an entire blog post to citing and summarizing a pertinent article from elsewhere. For example, in a recent post, “Tips For Publishing Chapbooks by Susan Rich,” Hopkinson neatly funnels Rich’s original essay into ten short bullet points:
The site is blessedly easy to navigate, between the search bar, drop-down menus, and a side-bar of post categories including such topics as: “Poetry/Writing Prompts,” “Guest Blog Posts,” “Poetry Contests,” and “Calls for Submissions.” Hopkinson also has a “Blog Tour” page, which includes brief summaries of each section of the site. If, after combing through all of these search options, a reader still hasn’t found what they are looking for, Hopkinson offers the “Ask Me Anything (About Poetry)” feature, where readers can submit questions to Hopkinson for a direct response.
Hopkinson has never participated in an MFA program, and the site is very open about providing self-directed alternatives to the MFA mold. Indeed, one of the post categories is “Self-taught MFA.” Guest-blogger Sonja Johanson writes:
It’s not that most of us wouldn’t love to get an MFA—we would. We’d love to spend our time writing, meeting poets whose work we adore, developing a cohort of peers, and learning what a bright line metaphor is. But life happens….”
Having experienced the MFA firsthand, I still found the site useful. Guidance on self-promotion and publishing often doesn’t make it in to an MFA-style workshop, which might focus entirely on literary craft. Another layer, perhaps, of the “Selfish Poet” is the honest admission that literary success is measured not only through the development of craft but also the publication, dissemination, and appreciation of one’s work. Hopkinson’s site is a generous guide to pursuing all of these goals.
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