I remember, now, why I have not watched a reality show since MTV's "real life" featured the guy from Oklahoma with the cowboy hat, unless you count that MTV program "The Blame Game", where I always admired the "legal skills" of the female faux lawyer who had..., uh, who wore the....well, let's not get caught up in that right now. We have more pressing needs than the needs of vulgarity and reality. Because I have an antidote to reality shows and to reality itself. I have tales of High Art and Bad Poetry to recount.
Tonight eBay advised me that the auction I commenced this weekend of "Chess Poems for the Tournament Player" netted a winning auction price of 4 dollars and 1 cent. I love that this little chapbook still sells after four years. I tend to frown a bit on people who worry about making a lot of money from an arts hobby. I'm all for making money--don't get me wrong. I just think that folks should not devalue themselves because the market doesn't value them. There is something to be said, though, for people who are willing to pay a small token to read one's light verse. It's a kind of expression of interest, measurable in currency. Small bills accepted, and preferred.
What is the secret to marketing chess poetry on-line in an auction format? Why, it's all in the ad copy. It's got to hit the right combination of silliness and mock-profundity. Here's the latest triumphal example
"Chess Poems for the Tournament Player Book"
"force your opponent's resignation in 17 poems!"
"Chess Poems for the Tournament Player features many of the same ingredients that a cheap opening monograph chapbook also contains. There are chess graphics showing improbable positions. The text is filled with bold pronouncements. The games cited include many obvious oversights, causing the reader to wonder why the author is writing a reference work at all".
"Chess Poems for the Tournament Player instead comprises 17 poems in a simple red kitchen-table chapbook, written to amuse and entertain. The world has far too many land mines and not nearly enough bad poetry about chess. This book has been remedying that imbalance for years. The poems tackle variations of the same theme--why does the weekend player play? In the past few years, this question has gone from casual chesschat to a question affecting the very existence of chess federations".
"The poet, Robert H. Nunnally, Jr., actually publishes poetry from time to time in those little literary magazines that have more people submitting work for publication than readers. If you'd like to see a recent sample of his work, go to the Fall 2003 on-line issue of the wonderful magazine Octavo, put out by the Alsop Review folks. But no audience has proven as appreciative and fun as chess players for this slim, valueless, invaluable addition to any chess book collection. It's cheap, it's cool, and it's without worth".
"The Earth's foundations won't rattle if you win this auction. But you might have a little fun. I ship these in simple oversize white envelopes via first class mail, for a flat one dollar s & h. If you are non-US, I'm delighted to sell to you (indeed, the book has rather a large Canadian following, which no doubt shows its fundamental deep worth), but I'll charge you the actual postage to get it to your wayward region from my wayward region".
"After all, you could be losing on FICS [n.b.: the Free Internet Chess Server] right now, or you could be bidding on this bad poetry. Why not try the poetry, as you've lost enough games to last a lifetime?"
"This book won't improve your rating or save your soul, but then again, neither will the most powerful chess engine you can imagine. Imagine this as the least chess poetry money can buy, and buy!"
[end of ad copy]
I really do need to write more chess poems. But is it wrong to love to write the eBay copy almost as well as writing poetry?