As we think about our favorite books and chapbooks to give to others, let's not forget about other ways we can support the arts with our gift giving dollars:
--Give a subscription to a magazine or journal. I'm not going to make a list with this one. You know the ones you like. You know the ones you wish would publish your work. Do an act of good poetry karma and actually subscribe, if not for yourself, for someone else (and maybe they'll let you take a look!).
--Give a donation to a magazine or journal in the name of your loved one. Maybe your loved one is like me: my stack of magazines waiting to be read includes material from the spring. I feel guilt over the fact that I don't make time to read them. But magazines and journals need money, and I'm sure they'd take a donation.
--Likewise, you could donate to your public radio station, if you're blessed to have a good one. My local station, which is fairly huge, not only delivers great national programming, but does some local programming too, and they devote considerable time to the arts.
--Donate to other organizations that support the arts. Maybe you've got a local television station or radio station or newspaper/magazine which regularly supports the arts. Let them know that you appreciate it. While you're at it, make some suggestions about how they can make poetry more visible. Suggestions that come with a donation might be taken seriously (make sure to put your contact info on any communication).
--If you've come out of a great school program, donate back to it, in the name of your loved ones. You probably got some assistance, and now is a great time to give back to the community. This idea applies to more than just the MFA graduates. I got my first real non-family encouragement for my writing during undergraduate school, from my English professors to my school's newspaper. I suspect that in this time of shrinking budgets, any gift would be welcome.
--Shop at your local independent bookstore. Even if you're shopping for non-readers, you'll find all sorts of stuff there: notecards, coffee mugs, calendars, music, DVDs, magnets, edibles, shopping bags, and the like. If you don't have a local independent bookstore, shop online. Some of my favorite independents: Books and Books in Miami, Malaprops in Asheville, Charis Books in Atlanta, and Women and Children First in Chicago.
--If you're giving a gift to a poet, why not give a gift certificate to enter a contest? Most contests don't have a real certificate you can buy, but you can make one. Most contests don't cost more than $25, but many poets don't enter, because lots of fees can be prohibitive. Or give a writer the gift of a conference. These fees can be prohibitively expensive for the national conferences, but across the country, there are lots of local conferences.
--Give the gift of time. Agree to meet your writer friends for coffee and new work. Arrange poetry lunches. Go to readings together. Go see the one or two movies a year that are serious films about artists.
As I've said before, I've moved away from gift giving, at least to first world people. I'd much rather support the third world with my extra dollars. But I know that not every family works that way or would accept my social justice stance. So, if you can't support those who have nothing, you can do next best, and support the arts in other ways!
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