I was, at best, a mediocre student in high school and college. After college, I studied creative writing with Henry Taylor, Frederick Barthelme, and John Barth. They taught me a lot. My books are Sunset at the Hotel Mira Mar (Infinity Publishing, 2011) and Strange Encounter at the Shakespeare Motel (Finishing Line Press, 2015).
Pete Sussman Tells His Son about the Fair
They took me to the Fair in ’64
but faded Instamatics can’t convey
the brilliance of the sun—the swirl and roar,
the throngs, the marching bands—or catch the way
the summer sun flashed off the Unisphere
or how they said 2004 would be
or how we’d fly to planets far and near
or how we’d live in domes beneath the sea.
Now, looking back, it’s hard to contemplate
our feelings as we wandered through the fair —
beneath the chrome cathedrals of the State.
I think we thought we saw the future there.
We couldn’t get enough! We wanted more!
We were enchanted!--back in ’64.
First published in Sunset at the Hotel Mira Mar: New and Selected Poems by Herb Guggenheim (Infinity Publishing, 2011).
Since it's unlikely that a major publisher—or even a midsized university press—will ever want to
publish my work, I've set myself a more modest goal:
to get my poetry manuscript accepted and published by a small independent press—
a press that takes pride in its books,
a press that stamps abstract art on the cover of each new softbound volume,
a press that does an initial print run of two hundred fifty copies,
a press that pays its authors five hundred dollars plus twenty-five free books and twenty-five free
a press with a name like Wilting Tower or The Zebra Dolphin Publishing Company.
That's all I want.
if there's a writer's conference and I happen to be going over one of my poems with Mr. Billy
Collins or Mr. C. K. Williams and one or the other happens to say, "These poems are
impressive. Have you ever published anything?" and I say, "Well, I have a book out from
Wilting Tower Press."—
and if either Billy C. or C. K. W. says, "Do you have a copy with you?" and as it turns out I just
happen to have one and I pull it out of my NPR tote bag and say, "Here. Keep it," and either
Billy C. or C. K. W. says, "Thanks," and I think I might as well just have flushed that
book down the toilet.—
and if, seven months later, I'm at home reading Proust and the phone rings and it's either Billy C.
or C. K. W. and he says, "I read your book and I'm very impressed. Would you mind if I
show it to my publisher?"—
and if I then get an email from some acquisitions editor at Random House saying, "This is
marvelous work. Simply marvelous! Do you have anything new?"—
and if I write back saying "Yes, I have a new manuscript almost ready to go," and I send it in and
I get an email back that says "Your poetry is brilliant. We'd like to offer you a
and if The New Yorker starts picking up my work—
and if I find myself in Manhattan giving readings at the 92nd Street Y and I'm subsequently
invited to colleges and universities across North America who pay me good money to
give forty-five minute readings and impart my wisdom to credulous MFA candidates—
and if alluring graduate students start throwing themselves at me and I'm tossed from one wild
fling to the next to the next—
and if I start drinking, feel fraudulent, and overcompensate by drinking even more (just to
and if I get a tenured teaching position that only requires me to teach one advanced poetry
writing course every other semester and I become depressed and then I write poems about
the burdens of being a tenured university professor who’s only required to teach one
advanced poetry writing course every other semester and I think about killing myself but
I'm too much of a coward for that—
and if I then start snubbing people and getting into nasty spats with other poets and my third wife
sues for divorce—
and if I then retire to my house on Maui because that’s the only thing that that blood-sucking pit
viper hasn’t taken away—
if all that should happen as a result of Wilting Tower Press publishing my book, then I'll just
have to accept it, won't I?
©2015 Herbert S. Guggenheim