What Poets Are Like: Up and Down with the Writing Life
With a sharp sense of storytelling and a sly wit, What Poets Are Like is a memoir of the writing life that shares the keen observation, sense of self and humor of such writers as Sherman Alexie and Nora Ephron.
In some 60 short episodes, this book captures moments of a writer's inner and public life, close moments with friends and strangers, occasional reminders of a poet's generally low place in the cultural hierarchy; time spent with cats; the curious work of writing. He tells the stories of his time spent in bookstores and recounts the glorious, then tragic, arc of Cody's Bookstore in Berkeley, ending with the author whose scheduled event fell on the day after the business shut down, but who stood outside the locked door and read aloud just the same. As all writers do, Soto suffers the slings and arrows of rejection, often from unnamed Midwest poetry journals, and seeks the solace of a friendly dog at such moments. Soto jabs at the crumbs of reward available to writers – a prize nomination here, a magazine interview there – and notes the toll they take on a frail ego. The pleasure Soto takes in the written word, a dose of comic relief plus his appreciation of the decisive moment in life make this an engaging and readable writer's confession.
"These pieces offer glimpses of his life that are both pleasing (the memory of first meeting his wife, of meeting a loyal fan who named her dog after him) and poignant (the pang of facing empty chairs at a book reading). The essays move back and forth in time, addressing bittersweet topics that include aging, the problematic nature of success and the demise of the publishing world as Soto once knew it." – Kirkus Reviews
"What Poets are Like: Up and Down With the Writing Life, by Gary Soto, is a beguiling, funny, self-mocking account of life as a not Name Brand poet." – Slow Muse
"Here is a multitude of everyday concerns – easy to relate to and enjoy whether you’re interested in poetry or not. But for fellow writers, Soto’s words will mean even more." – Empty Mirror