The subject is rabbit ears: Joel Allegretti talks to Joel Allegretti.
Poet John F. Buckley tagged me to take part in The Next Big Thing, a series in which authors interview themselves about new or upcoming books. All participating authors use the same set of questions. Here, I converse with myself about a forthcoming anthology I edited.
What is the title of the book?
Rabbit Ears: TV Poems. I can’t take credit for the title. Billy Collins suggested it.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
It all goes back to 2011, when I wrote poems about The Dick Van Dyke Show and Bob Crane, who is best known for the 60s sit-com Hogan’s Heroes and for being the victim of a murder that was never solved. They were my first television poems. (Two years earlier, I wrote a poem about the Riddler, my favorite Batman villain. I know him because of Frank Gorshin, so the poem could qualify as dealing with TV, but the character predates the Batman TV series by decades.) In addition, a TV icon, Rod Serling, has had a huge influence on me.
In early 2012, I had the insight there were anthologies of poetry about movies and music, but as far as I knew, none about television, a medium that for more than a half century has influenced our lifestyles, tastes, opinions and politics. I did my due diligence and discovered I was right.
I proposed the project to Roxanne Hoffman, who runs Poets Wear Prada. She was enthusiastic about it and said she’d like to take it on. I sent the first invitations to submit on April 6. I knew I was on to something, because I began receiving submissions right away. Some poets, like Ellen Bass, Amy Gerstler, Lewis Warsh and Hal Sirowitz, wrote brand-new work specifically for the anthology. Others, like Ron Padgett, Timothy Liu and Diane Wakoski, sent me unpublished poems.
The anthology contains 128 poems by 129 poets. One poem is a collaborative effort by two poets, Martin Ott and the aforementioned John F. Buckley. For the record, my poem “The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Unaired Episodes” is my contribution. It’s scheduled to appear in Gargoyle this summer in advance of Rabbit Ears.
Which genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Since the anthology is about television, you’re essentially asking which actors would play the actors who play the many characters the poets cover in their work. In other words, who would play Adam West, who plays Batman? To put it another way, who would play Batman as played by Adam West? We’re venturing into post-modern territory.
By coincidence, a genuine actor is a contributor to Rabbit Ears. The TV and movie actress Grace Zabriskie, who is a serious poet, contributed a poem about an episode of Big Love in which she appeared.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
It is the first anthology of poetry about television.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The submission period ran April 6 – September 30, 2012. As I accepted poems, I arranged the contents mentally. When I actually sat down to work on the manuscript, it basically put itself together. I was truly surprised that it took less than a month to prepare a draft.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Absence inspired it, the absence of a poetry anthology about something that has such a massive influence on our lives. Unlike the majority of poets, I’ve never worked in academia. My background is in media relations, so I have hands-on experience with television producers and reporters. My career played a significant role in how I viewed (no pun intended) submissions about TV news.
That said, I doubt I would have thought of an anthology of television poetry if I hadn’t written my own TV poems.
As for my current TV watching, I like Morning Joe and Hardball with Chris Matthews, both on MSNBC. At the other end of the spectrum, I’m a big fan of reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show and That 70s Show.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Rabbit Ears: TV Poems is coming fall 2013 from Poets Wear Prada, a New Jersey-based press that published my last two collections of original poetry, Europa/Nippon/New York: Poems/Not-Poems and Thrum.