Woman on a bike

Surviving as a Freelance Poet

Laura Boss

Sometimes I wonder if I would choose the life of a freelance poet again - a life that means never feeling secure in a practical sense, a life that means never having a holiday or vacation with pay or even a steady paycheck or pension plan. Right now I am working on completing a 35th year anniversary issue of Lips, a poetry magazine I founded and still edit. Though because it has never had university or corporate sponsorship, I have never received a salary for it because, frankly, the magazine doesn't earn enough money to pay a salary. Still, it has always given me much joy to publish not only some of the most established poets but also gifted poets who have never been published before. When some of my writing workshop students ask me about becoming a freelance poet, I tell them about the difficulties of just surviving. But I also know, even after hearing this warning, for those students who have the passion for just writing and the often glorious adventure of being a freelance writer even at the expense of material security, there will be no stopping them until they enter it and give it a try. At this moment, I have just completed my new manuscript of mostly narrative poems, The Best Lover. In it, I attempt to explore the theme of one woman's quest for self-discovery and freedom set against middle class American values beginning with the late 1950s and the following decades up to the present - the struggle of her inner values as contrasted to those that society values is examined in poems that deal with interior psychological landscapes.  So I suppose I'm a "people" poet - not a landscape poet. And I guess that I believe I follow the heritage of Walt Whitman, with his long lines and his personal (and passionate) poetry. I've also been strongly influenced by William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg, and Ruth Stone in terms of their emphasis on clear idiomatic language and concrete subject matter. Still, I attempt to have these poems of surviving (not just financial but emotional and aesthetic survival) transcend the everyday objects and events in which they are rooted. Baudelaire's statement "that the worst sin of poetry is to be boring" is something I deeply believe.

Laura Boss received the First International Poetry Prize in 2011 at the International Poetry Festival in Swansea, Wales (co-sponsored by CCC and The Seventh Quarry Press). She coedited with John Gallaher Time is a Toy, the selected poems of Michael Benedikt (University of Akron). Her most recent book is Flashlight (Guernica Editions). Founder and editor of the poetry magazine Lips, her own poems have been published in The New York Times.

Eric Piatkowski was raised in Arizona, and after a few years of working in theatre he switched gears and studied illustration at the Pratt Institute. Now in Des Moines, he splits his time between drawing, drawing, and more drawing. Give him a call, he just might be the perfect man for the job. Prints of artwork featured here and elsewhere are available through Etsy at Eric Piatkowski Art.