As the final hours of voting ticked by, he
and another poet were in a dead heat for the win. It’s one of those
moments when you wonder if it’s appropriate to call grade-school friends
to go and vote.
You might wonder why I cared so much.
Robert is one of the most generous and good-natured people I
know, and he’s not only an invaluable contributor to Writer’s
Digest, but he’s a beacon of inspiration and encouragement to poets in
the online writing community.
So, I wanted to see his efforts
publicly recognized and rewarded.
In those final hours, something
The CEO of F+W sent a late-night e-mail to
all employees, asking them to support Robert’s run for poet laureate of the blogosphere.
last-minute call ultimately put Robert over the top, though the
competition had become so contentious by that point the contest
organizer decided to call a tie.
It was a bittersweet end.
Robert’s affiliation with Writer’s Digest had been used as a black mark
against him, since he works for a business. In other words, because there is a
commercial interest supporting him, the company that benefits from
his presence should not support him because that’s unfair.
Two thoughts I have on this:
- Robert is a passionate poet, and he is passionate about helping other poets. That’s a constant no matter who employs him. In the
U.S., we have a bad habit of assuming people are their titles. (Go read
THIS post.) Robert is not his title; he is not his employer. He is
- There’s an implicit judgment that poets (or artists)
who are “starving” are more authentic and deserving than those who aren’t struggling. (Go read Dana Gioia‘s take on this.)
and I discussed this phenomenon when we attended AWP a couple years ago:
the persistent myth of the starving artist, or that real writers
eschew commercial concerns and are ill-suited for the workplace.
responded by pitching a session for 2010 (that was accepted) on The
It is her mission (as well as mine) to do
battle with this idea that artistry/creativity
cannot be mixed with business.
Here’s a post that has an
interesting slant on this: “The corporation strikes back.”
another interesting interview comes to mind, with the Whole
Foods CEO, which was featured in the New Yorker. Here’s a small snippet:
adamant, and not merely unapologetic, that his company—any company—can
and should pursue profits and a higher purpose simultaneously, and that
in fact the pursuit of both enhances the pursuit of each.