The publisher says, “In order to be heard
these days, you need a platform
from which you network.
You are your own best trumpet.
There is no one way to do it right.
Think out of the box.”
I feel like I’m in a box
part of a vast herd
clambering for the right
to take centre stage on the platform
grab the trumpet
and become star of the network.
And where does Jesus’ network
fit inside this box?
He condemned the ones with the trumpet
eager to be seen and heard
on the synagogue and street platform.
He insisted on no personal privilege or right
ignored the added-on rule and rite
that interfered with His net work
of catching men, used hills and boats as platform.
The gatekeepers of His time couldn’t box
Him in. People came to Him in mighty herd.
The way He met their need was His trumpet.
Need is also our trump. It
spurs us on to find what is right
for us, to find what needs to be heard.
Finders tell seekers and grow an organic network
leading to the treasure box
from a divinely engineered platform.
Mr. Publisher, you can insist on a numbers platform
expect me to play the Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn trumpet
and all the megaphones found in the publicity box.
Getting a contract from you is not my reason to write.
If my words don’t fill a need, even a giant network
won’t make them worth being heard.
I hereby abandon the rite of building my platform
growing my network, sounding my trumpet.
God, engineer my words heard, or not, for I’m climbing out of this box.
© 2011 by Violet Nesdoly
This sestina was the easiest poem in this form I have written. It kind of fell into place—perhaps because I’ve been thinking of platforms, networks and trumpets as they relate to writing for a long time. As you can tell, I’ve also been bothered by the insistence (of agents, publishers, editors et al) that a book is only worth the while of a publishing company if the writer delivers up her/his mighty platform of readers.
However, I understand the thinking and sympathize. I see the sense of not taking risks on unknown writers, especially at a time when your business is already struggling to survive.
So then I guess the ball is back in the writer’s court to build a platform. But the way I see people building a platform feels phoney to me. Or maybe I’m reading my own tendency toward phoniness into what I see others doing (friend, friend, friend on FB, follow, follow, follow on twitter).
On the other hand, there were writers who, without knowing they were doing it, picked up a following. I think of The Shack, written by unknown William P. Young selling in the thousands of copies. I think of the popularity of Ann Voskamp’s Holy Experience blog and her NY Times bestseller One Thousand Gifts book. I think of my fav little devotional My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, still going strong through several generations. I ask, Why? I think the answer is — they fill a need.
And I believe there is also a divine element at work. When something is spiritually true and valuable and nourishing, in some unexplainable way God helps to spread the word.
I ask myself — does my writing fill a need? Do I have the patience to see whether it’s lasting enough to garner its own platform? And do I have the humility that will be content with never publishing a book if that’s the way things work out?
I submit this poem to Tweetspeak Poetry‘s challenge to capture a conversation in the sestina-form poem.
I also submit this to Seedlings in Stone‘s In “On and Around Monday” meme, where this week L. L. Barkat expresses another aspect of the same sentiment — only far more subtly.