The Publisher and the Poet
“Of course, you know what sells?” said the publisher, sat behind his desk, his shirt sleeves rolled up, like some politicians do, to prove he was a success, a worker.
“Not poetry,” said the poor, pale poet.
“Not poetry, of course not,” said the publisher, a bit flustered.
“What then?” asked the poet.
“Hedgehogs,” said the publisher. “Think of it. I read on line that hedgehogs are adorable. People think they are cute. There is even a Great Britain Hedgehog Preservation Society. They are second only to cats in the league of popular animals.”
“Thanks for the idea,” said the poet.
He left the office in a baffled fog, walked home to his basement bedsit. For the next few months, he wrote poem after poem about hedgehogs, even managed to take a few photographs of one that visited his back garden.
The publisher liked his manuscript when it was finished.
True to his title, he promised to have it published.
“An entire book about hedgehogs. Absolutely adorable,” wrote one newspaper critic. “If like me you can’t stand poetry, just ignore the poems and look at the photographs of the hedgehog. Absolutely adorable.”
Similar reviews appeared in magazines, newspapers and on line journals, all positive, all gushing with hedgehog love and admiration.
“You know what you want to do now, don’t you?” said the publisher.
“What’s that?” asked the poet.
“Write about squirrels. People love squirrels. I read it on line. People even try and preserve them. Must like them,” said the publisher.
“Sounds like a good idea,” said the poet.
So he got on the train and spent the day in a squirrel reserve in a pine forest by the seashore, even bought a bag of nuts from a pet shop to feed them with, but though he stood silently, he did not see one. The pine trees and the sea air inspired him, nonetheless.
His squirrel book was just as popular as his hedgehog book.
His publisher was proud of him.
“You must be the only poet ever to make a penny,” he said, leaning back in his chair, smoking a black cigar, like Churchill on a summer’s day in peace time.
“It’s all thanks to you,” said the poet.
“Think nothing of it, old chap,” said the publisher. “Now where do you go from here? May I suggest owls? People like owls. Can’t get enough of them. Must be their big eyes. What do you think?”
“Owls. Yes, a good idea. I think I can write about owls,” said the poet.
That night, to keep awake, he drank mugs of black coffee, while he sat under a tree, his hope to see an owl, even to hear one hoot. Morning found him asleep on a bench with a stiff neck and a cold, empty ache in his belly.
His owl book did okay but was not as popular as his hedgehog book or his squirrel book.
“I was going to suggest a book about whales, but that’s been done,” said the publisher. “Ever heard of Moby Dick?”
“Of course,” said the poet. “Good book.”
“Yes, well, I’m running out of ideas,” said the publisher. “How about dolphins? People like them. Listen to tapes of their calls to calm them down.”
“Need a boat to go out and see them,” said the poet.
“Just watch them on line,” said the publisher.
The poet did so and was pleased that he did, for his dolphin book was made into a film with a famous actor saying his verses as a voice over while dolphins swam, lept and piped about in the ocean. After that, he was content to write about whatever he felt like, as he used to, before he wrote his hedgehog book, and drink tea and be untroubled, relaxed in twenty first century obscurity.
“Penguins,” suggested the publisher one day. “Write about them.”
“Perhaps, I will, sometime, in the future, when I need some more money in the bank, ” said the poet. ” I could go to the South Pole to see them. If I do, I will send you a postcard.”
“Thanks,” said the publisher, thinking that with his adventurous spirit the poet might be a true poet, after all.