05 June 2010

Ghost Writing Requests

In my life as an academic poet (and I don't mind that label, because I'm very much that critter--it's not as small as certain po-biz critics like it to be), and because I'm the "go-to" creative writer in my program, I routinely get the most interesting overtures for various ghost writing projects.

In my case, because of where I live in Southwest Florida, land of retired CIA directors and Gasparilla Island, where the CIA used as a training base for the Bay of Pigs, I have received a couple of requests from retired CIA agents, that they have something big to tell, and so forth. I usually ask them about their own interest in writing, essentially asking why they even need a ghost writer (and why risk some big story to some left-leaning Idahoan who'll give up the goods the second he gets caught?). They will talk about being numbers guys, or that they just didn't have enough time for that. I ask them who their favorite poet is. That request usually ends their interest in my services--that, and when I confess that Frank Church was my childhood hero. Besides, I don't want to be involved in a project about spy vs. spy, assassination plots, subterranean imperialism. I don't want to be working with someone who knows twelve ways to kill me with a fountain pen.

This last week, I have phone messages from a 80-something-year-old retiree, in "finance," and he wants me to help him write a tract on his scheme to create a "Tea Party CONSERVATIVE" political party. Evidently the "CONSERVATIVE" label is to scare away the libertarians associated with the movement.  He tells me that he has connections with media folks and talk show hosts who will put their names on as authors. This is all geared to launch his grandson, an eighteen-year-old freshman at Ohio State, into a political career shortly after he gets his law degree from Ave Maria.

I also receive more benign overtures, and everyone of them has a touching element, all about being afraid of disappearing, of having left not yet quite enough legacy. At worst, the requests are from men who've been executives most of their lives, pampered and groveled to, and yes, they want that final reassurance that they matter, still, but that the work of writing has been always beneath them. And it really pisses them off when I dare mention that some poor adjunct might be available to do the work for $25 per hour. Somehow, the ghost writer is always supposed to do this for free. Anyway, I always get off the hook when I say that I'm only a poet. Still, they are sweating against time--such a desperate thing it must be to pick up the phone and call some university in hopes of finding a professor who might listen to them for a few minutes.

Yes, I sometimes tell them about various writers groups, that it may be best for them just to jot down or record their thoughts, let a family member do the caring and typing and such.

What I want to tell them is what a happy and lucky thing it is to disappear, to have lived some while, and then to join the big whatever thereafter cosmic soup-drift. To me, the idea of poetry isn't really about hitting that big-time homerun poem that will stand the test of time, that will be universal, but rather, just to be one token of the temporal. What else are we? What vanities more do we need to have affirmed?

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