Updated: Apr 30, 2020

Rejection- There’s a word to strike fear and sadness into anyone’s heart. Especially the heart of a writer. Recently, a fabulous English friend of mine (Angela Dy) and the dynaman (Wolfram Alderson) helping me (so much!) to negotiate the rapids of the internet, put together a packet about me and my writing and sent it to a well-established London bookstore. There was a chance I might do a reading at there. Weeks went by with no response. Angela and Wolfram nudged. The bookstore wrote back- No reading, but maybe I could participate (with other poets) in an event at another store. We waited. A few days and then came the word- Nothing. Nada. I felt crushed at first. Then (I confess it) a little annoyed. Why wouldn’t a bookstore want me to come and read? I’m a good reader and I’m starting to get a little bit of a following. I’m up to things in the world, and I’m almost 75. I find myself interesting.

I hope one of these days the R.B. (Rejecting Bookstore) finds reason to regret its rejection of me. I would have read in the morning, the afternoon, the evening. I would gladly have performed a play, recited a poem, read a micro fiction. Upon reflection, I think their rejection says more about their fear and sadness (book sales are declining) than a flaw in me as a writer. They don’t know me, after all.

This is a blog in a bottle. I send it out hoping other bookstores will see and decide to give traveling writers, semi-unknown and unknown talents, a chance. At the worst, their (usually very small) audience will be bored or annoyed. But there is a chance one or both parties and life-long friendships and alliances will be formed…. I wanted to love you, Anonymous Bookstore. I wanted to give to you. And you rejected me. Too bad. So sad.

oMaybe the next time I am In England--? Or perhaps there is another, more enterprising bookstore somewhere in the wilds of Oxford or London…? And they will give me a chance on the weekend of June 1-3rd to read my work and we can have an English-American culture fest…. I have been friends with Joseph Brodsky and Czeslaw Milosz. I have had work published in Time magazine. I’ve had my picture in Life. Just on that score, wouldn’t a reading be possible? Sigh. (Not to mention being singled out for praise by the likes of John F. Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor.) Oh, Bookstore! I grieve our not-to-be connection!

Maybe I’ll grab a couple of my books and do a reading on the sidewalk in front of the bookstore. Is there a newspaper who will film me? Maybe the bookstore’s rejection of me will go viral. (Can rejections do that?) At any rate, I am thrilled to be going to England and lecturing at the Bodleian library- I am more than thrilled that my English host (Gillian Evison) and her husband are taking me to see Stonehenge. I just finished a hiking trip on the Olympic Peninsula with my two stalwart sons. Life is very good. Even with its rejections….

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Updated: Apr 30, 2020

One of the reasons readers go to readings is to hear the author, to put a voice to their favorite poems or stories, and to hear the personal stories that sometimes go with the

stories in print. I like to read my poems or fictions to a live audience, so I get a sense of how they strike their readers. Knowing where people laugh or in some cases cry, really helps me to get a sense of what kind of an impact my work has on its audience. The other reason (in my humble opinion) is to get books signed. Sometimes, people want books signed over to themselves. Sometimes to a friend. Sometimes people will ask for a particularly kind of greeting, “Would you mind putting, ‘To Sarah, in love and admiration’?” someone once asked me. But the best story I know about signing names comes from a time when Czeslaw Milosz was in Ann Arbor, reading. He was about to get the Nobel Prize, but was still relatively unknown. Not much of his work had been translated from the Polish. Czeslaw read from his original poems in Polish and I read the English translations, which had not yet been published. After the reading, there was a reception at an admirer’s house. A few people came with copies of Milosz’s work in Polish for him to sign. Then a student came to Milosz with a well-worn copy of Huckleberry Finn. “Would you sign this for me, please” he asked Milosz. Some of the people around Milosz clucked disapprovingly, but Milosz seemed amused. “Certainly,” he said. He took the book and signed on the flyleaf, “I am not Mark Twain—Czeslaz Milosz.” I think now that student was very savvy. I’ll bet that book would command a high price in an antiquarian bookstore somewhere. I also remember Bob Haas saying that he had a book that was out of print and wanted to get a couple of copies for a friend. He saw a stack of five of his books in the window of the bookstore, for sale at $20 a piece. He went in and asked to buy the five books. “Why are these books so expensive?” he asked. “The book costs less than $10 to buy.” “Yes,” said the bookstore owner, but these books are signed by the author.” Bob was amused. “But I’m the author,” he said. “I can sign my books any time I want.” “Well,” said the bookstore, in that case why are you looking for them in a bookstore?” Bob paid the owner $15 a book, in an agreed-upon compromise.

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Updated: Apr 30, 2020

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

I will travel to the UK to speak at the Bodleian Library at 2 o’clock on Friday, June 1st, about my translation of The Knight in the Panther Skin. Details about the event in the notice below.

The Knight is Shota Rustaveli’s 12th century Georgian epic and it is a knockout tale of two knights and their beloveds. The event is free and open to the public, and partially funded by the Marjorie Wardrop foundation, my Georgian patron, Mamuka Khazaradze, and my publisher, Nato Alhazishvili. I am very eager to talk about the epic and the team effort it took to translate this work. It took me more than two and a half years, working almost every day, to get this first edition done. I look forward to working on a second edition in the coming year.

Thinking about going to England set me to remembering the first time I went there. I traveled with my husband in the fall of long ago, when he had a sabbatical. We lived in Surrey, somewhere between Godalming and Hazlemere.

We had trouble getting anyone to rent us their house for just the three (?) months we were going to be there. They had recently passed a law in England that made it difficult to evict someone who had been staying in a place for any extended period.

But finally someone took pity on us, and we found ourselves in an idyllic cottage in an idyllic setting. The cottage had been built in the 1700 or 1800s (it seemed almost modern over there) and then remodeled and refurbished, so it contained all the modern conveniences you could wish, as well as all the Tudor charm. There were cows glimpsable from our living room windows, I remember. We were only about three miles away from Stonehenge.

But my strongest memory of the whole time in England was going to a private dinner party next door. Six of us gathered for a great English meal. My husband was an English professor at the University of Michigan and resembled Don Quixote - He was 6’ 7” tall and a gentler giant there never was. He was normally very soft-spoken and the kind of man who would go into another room to get a chair if a cat were occupying the place he had meant to sit. Anyway, we were at this dinner party and one of the Englishmen was (I can only assume) rather anti-American in his leanings and began to give a mini-lecture on American Revolutionary times, with descriptions that bolstered the Crown and belittled the Resistance. After some minutes of this, my husband had had quite enough. “Yes,” he said, in a voice which, for him, was surprisingly loud. “And then there was a war, and we whupped your British a**es.!”

The British gentleman smiled and said, “Yes. And if that were not the case, you and your wife would still be speaking English.”

While I am in England, my most obliging hostess, Gillian Evison, and her husband, are going to take me on a day’s excursion to Stonehenge. I never got there on the former visit, and have regretted it ever since.

*I understand Stonehenge is “completely different” now - but that’s okay. My husband died decades ago, some time after our divorce, and I’m “completely different” now, myself.

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