A unique blog dedicated to covering the worlds of book publishing and the news media, revealing creative ideas, practical strategies, interesting stories, and provocative opinions. Free speech, literacy, and great books are also discussed. Along the way, discover savvy but entertaining insights on book marketing, public relations, branding, and advertising from a veteran of two decades in the industry of book publishing publicity and marketing.
James W. Gaynor, author of Everything Becomes a Poem (Nemeton
Press), is a poet, artist, editor, and writer. A graduate of Kenyon College, he
lived for years in Paris, where he taught a course on Emily Dickinson at the
University of Paris, studied the development of the psychological novel in 17th
century France, and worked as a translator.
After returning to New York, Gaynor worked as an editor at Grosset &
Dunlap, Cuisine magazine, Scriptwriter News and Forbes
articles, book reviews, poems and essays have appeared in The New York Observer, OTVmagazine.com, The Gay and Lesbian Review
Worldwide, and Peeking Cat Poetry
Magazine. As #HaikuJim, Gaynor publishes a daily haiku drawn from current
newspaper headlines and is the creator of Can
You Haiku? — a corporate communications workshop based on using 17th-century
Japanese poetry techniques to improve effective use of today’s digital
platforms. Gaynor recently retired as the Global Verbal Identity Leader for
Ernst & Young LLP. For more info,
1.What really inspired you to write your book, to
force you from taking an idea or experience and conveying it into a book? In my work as a poet, I’ve long been fascinated
by both the authors who create memorable opening and closing lines for their
novels. I believe that the lines we often can quote are, in fact, short,
unacknowledged poems that get lost in the sentences, paragraphs and chapters
Middlemarch is a favorite of mine, and several years ago, I wrote a poem,
‘Dorothea Restructured’ based on the novel’s famous closing sentence. The poem
has had an interesting cyber-life, and is one of the most ‘shared” of my poems.
(I love Facebook for making that possible!) It’s also appeared in several
online publications, and I included it in my collection, Everything Becomes a Poem.So, I decided I would make a list of my favorite first and last lines
and create a series of poems. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice seemed a
logical place to start — and I realized that the first line’s fame has, in a
way, cast a shadow over all the other chapters’ first lines — and then I became
curious to see what Austen was up to in the rest of her novel, and I took a
focused look at the remaining 60 chapter openings.
the haiku come in
Haiku are short, Japanese
poems, which, in the English tradition, consist of three lines (5 syllables / 7
syllables / 5 syllables). There is something wonderful and powerful in the
format. Children study them in grammar school here and adults always seem to
respond to learning how to write them.
In the early 80s, I
experienced a somewhat predictable, spiritually deracinated-Westerner,
child-of-the- 60s fascination with Zen Buddhism. I even flirted with the idea
of becoming a monk. In that process, I also studied haiku, ikebana (flower
arranging), and kendo (a martial art involving bamboo swords).
One of the things I came
to love about entering the austere and beautiful world that embraces both Zen
monks and their militaristic Samurai counterparts is that, yes, you’re supposed
to be able to slice your opponent into 53 thin pieces with grace and a minimum
of blood. But you should also be able to arrange flowers and write poetry. In
the Yin and Yang of life, everybody is both an artist and a warrior. It’s up to
you to create a coherent whole of your many dimensions.
Long story short: my career
as a monk did not work out, and I became an editor of books and magazines, a
newspaper essayist, book reviewer and a corporate communications specialist in
the financial services industry.
But for the past 30 years, I have maintained a
daily habit of writing a haiku based on the content of both a sentence and the
article in which it appears in the New
York Times — only I now give the classic syllabic pattern of 5 / 7 / 5 a
slant tailored to my secular career as a poet and writer. And, as #HaikuJim, I
have a daily haiku that I post on my blog (jameswgaynor.com), and I write contemporary haiku
commentary (usually humorous) for OTVmagazine.com. I also teach a haiku workshop for
corporate communicators called “Can You Haiku?” that looks at haiku as the
forerunner of the Tweet.
Back to Jane Austen
I began to wonder if the
61 chapter-opening lines of Pride and Prejudice could, in fact, be the basis
for a series of haiku. If each sentence was a kind of short poem, why couldn’t
it become a haiku?
And the book happened. I had no idea what I
was going to do when I finished, but I had a strong sense that I was onto
something interesting about Austen’s style and messaging.
2. What is it about and whom do you believe is your targeted reader? The classic haiku
contains a duality of message (such as joy in the moment coupled with sadness
at its transient nature), and attempts to answer three questions:
(the object, the action, e.g., falling leaf or petal, sound of water)
In this book, I created a summarizing word-image haiku
of each of the chapters in Pride and
Prejudice. In so doing, I found that a somewhat ironic and unexpected voice
emerging as each first sentence became a short poem. I began to hear what might
be Austen’s acidic feminine wit blending with my 21st-century
masculine sensibility — not surprising, given that I fell in love with Jane
Austen when I first heard “It is a truth universally acknowledged ...” and she and I have been in a committed relationship for more
than 50 years now.
3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers
who finish your book? What should remain with them long after putting it down? I
recently spoke at New York’s Fordham University in New York on how this
approach can help readers to discover unexpected insights — and in so doing,
provide an alternative to the wet-shirt Firth-Darcy version of P&P that
has, in my opinion, unfairly dominated popular understanding of Austen’s clear,
sardonic tone. And the students were excited about looking at the novel’s
structure and action from a different perspective.
The students were very interested in the
first line of Chapter43:
Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first
appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation; and when at length they
turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.
Prior to studying the
first lines, I hadn’t really noticed the use of the word “flutter.” Elizabeth
Bennet, as we all know, is really not a flutterer. So, why now? Why the use of
a word more commonly associated with Regency heroines falling in love?
The answer, I think,
is that Austen is giving us exactly that clue: Elizabeth has fallen in love.
With Darcy as he is represented by his estate, the beloved
order-created-from-chaos so near and dear to the late 18-century English ideal.
She does not fall in romantic love with Darcy because he is handsome (we don’t
really know what he looks like) — she falls in love with him because he has
purpose. And, of course, a sizeable estate, but that is really secondary — and
the haiku I created reflects this interpretation:
a flutter effect. Could this
be real (-estate) love?
After the lecture, one young
woman told me the Jane Austen we discussed was exactly the voice she needed
guiding her love life — which confirms for me that, 200 years after her death,
Austen continues to exert her subtle influence.
4. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers? Write for yourself. Write every day. Kill your
5. What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think
the book publishing industry is heading? Thanks to the ability to self-publish, the book world is now much
more open to beginning writers. The internet creates community and this allows
writers to find audiences, sometimes specialized and obscure — but audiences
nonetheless. And, while the platforms and devices proliferate, there will
always be a need for a three-dimensional book with which to curl up.
6. What great challenges did you have in writing your book? Once I started, I had a wonderful time, meeting
Austen’s characters in new ways, seeing the action quite differently. For
example, by answering the haiku questions of “When” (i.e., seasonal reference),
I realized that Pride and Prejudice
begins and ends in hunting season. While Bingley and Darcy may have come to
Hertfordshire for the shooting, they, in their roles as
single-men-in-possession-of-good-fortunes, are the ones being hunted. I don’t
think I had appreciated that before I started looking at the novel through a
haiku lens. It was only when I was finished that I thought, “OK. What have I
just done?” The biggest challenge was determining whether this was a very long
poem with 61 stanzas or possibly a book. And then trying to figure out if
anyone would ever want to read it.
7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours? Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61
Haiku (1,037 Syllables!) is two books for the price of one: a new look at
an old favorite for readers familiar with the story; and, for those who haven’t
yet read P&P, it’s a great introduction to a classic work of English
literature. And yes, Jane Austen had a sense of humor!
The All-New 2018
Toolkit to Promote a Book -- 7th annual edition