I will readily confess to being a little overwhelmed right now.
‘Smoke and Shadows’ has a little orange flag beside the title on Amazon US, declaring that it is the #1 New Release in Women’s Poetry. While I know it won’t last terribly long, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a. real and b. not a cruel joke.
It was a strange mix of surprise, pride, excitement and humility that hit me when I signed into my browser after a few days away from home and that popped up.
It also comes up when anyone clicks on ‘Hot New Releases’ and scrolls through the various genres. That’s a pretty neat trick!
I know that I have worked hard to ensure it’s a great collection, and I am incredibly proud of these poems, but I know that it couldn’t have happened without readers being willing to give my work a try, nor without the support and encouragement of those who help with tricky things like marketing and promotion. I couldn’t have done any of it without those key individuals in my life who remind me regularly that I can do this, that my work is good, and that there is no reason why I should not deserve success.
To each of those people: thank you for helping me achieve this honour, as fleeting as it may be. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for your contribution to my achievements so far.
Of course, it all depends on how one defines success. Some people might consider dollars in the bank as a sign that they’ve made it. Some might look at whether or not they can quit their day job and just write. Some might want to achieve “celebrity” status. Others focus on book sales, page reads, and their ongoing rankings in various lists and stores.
I won’t deny that any or all of those things would be nice, and I absolutely do hope that people will buy, read and hopefully enjoy my books, but for me, the ultimate success as a poet is when someone tells me that my poetry is relatable, that it moved them or made them cry, or that it helped them to put a painful experience behind them. One of my favourite comments about my book Leaf came from a young woman who told me, “I read your poems, and I knew I wasn’t alone in this world. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to know someone else understands what I think and feel.” That has never left me, and never fails to spur me on. The fact that people connect and relate to my work in that powerfully emotional way is how I measure my success as a poet.
So, I don’t need that little orange flag to show that I’m successful. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to have it, and I’m going to take pride in it. And I might brag about it just a little… because I know it won’t last long. And in all honesty… I’m going to tell everyone I know, just because I can.