42 / CHRONICLESnand stories and articles, doctoral theses,nnewspapers. . . . Why, this verynarticle will be read by only 2.78 percentnof the people for whom it isnintended! And think of all the privatencommunications and the diaries, deskndrawers, trunks, and warehouses fullnof words that will never find a publisher.nThey add up to one thing: hardntimes for writers.nBecause of the current word glut, Incan’t make a decent living at my chosennprofession. I’m forced to hold whatnmy family calls “a job,” although, asnany writer will tell you, what I do fromneight to five at the office, even thoughnI’m the boss, can’t begin to match thenmental muscularity and perseverancendemanded of my evening and weekendnword-husbandry. Because of the greednof other word-makers who have floodednthe market with their inferior products,nI am, in effect, forced to holdndown two full-time jobs: one becausenit’s gratifying and a joy to me, and thenother because we have a house paymentnto make each month. On top ofnthis, I’m expected to be a good wifenand involved citizen. It’s discouragingnand unfair, and I get tired.nSo I am volunteering to stop writingnfor one year. Not altogether, just certainnkinds of things: say, poetry (mynfavorite, a high-yielding crop, butneach poem I write adds to the mostninsidious and unmanageable tanglensince leafy spurge met pigweed in midfield)nand short stories (I’ve never finishednone, but I spend a lot of valuablenwords trying). Dairy producers are thenbeneficiaries of a terrific programnwhereby they receive money after theynpromise to give up all dairy activity fornfive years, even selling the whole herdnfor slaughter. But I’m not so committednto my craft and convinced of itsnusefulness that I could burn everythingnI’ve written up to now and walk awaynfrom it for that long. I am willing toncut back a little, though.nI’ve been paying income tax fornyears but have never received thosenlovely cash paybacks that other Americansnseem to get. Well, I’ve finallynfound a program I fit into, perfectly.nMy writing’s grown relatively prolificnin some areas, and I think the Feds willnfind my offer—to set aside my Selectricnfor a year—appealing. Naturally,nI’ll have to be paid my “target price,”nwhat I’m worth, what I should havenbeen making all along (based on talentnand hard work) and would be making ifnI weren’t forcing my words into annalready oversubsidized (with my ownntax dollars) and bloated market. I won’tnbe unreasonable: a hundred grand fornthe year, I’ve decided, will do nicely.n]ane Greer’s poetry sabbatical wouldnhave to begin after her first booknof poems is published by HarrynDuncan’s Cummington Press thisnsummer.nLetter Fromnthe Lower Rightnby John Sbelton ReednPoetic Gemsn”Alas, for the South! Hernbooks have grown fewer—nShe never was much given tonliterature.”n. . . Thus, South Carolina’s J. GordonnCoogler—“the last bard of Dixie,nat least in the legitimate line,” as H.L.nMencken put it in his scathing essayn”Sahara of the Bozart.” Mencken’snessay has by now introduced severalngenerations of readers to the Songbirdnof Dixie. No doubt many of thosenreaders have assumed that Menckennmade him up, but he did not: the Bardnof the Congaree was all too real, thenauthor oiPurely Original Verse (1897),nnearly all of it every bit as lame as hisnimmortal couplet on Southern bellesnlettres.nCoogler is a splendid example ofnwhat we might call a primitive poet,nthe verbal equivalent of the folk artistsnwhose paintings have lately come toncommand critical acclaim and inflatednprices.nMy region boasts many others.nHeck, my state does. I place in evidencenNematodes in My Garden ofnVerse, subtitled A Little Book of TarnHeel Poems and edited in 1959 bynRichard Walser. Walser culled a numbernof these things from turn-of-thecenturynNorth Carolina newspapersnwhich often printed their readers’nverse, dealing with Presidential assassinations,ntrain wrecks, the coming ofnspring, and other subjects of civic ornpersonal interest. But the centerpiecenof Nematodes is six poems from a littienbook cafled Little Pansy (1890), by thenPoetissima Laureatissima [sicl of Bla­nnnden County, North Carolina, MissnMattie J. Peterson, in whose masterworkn”I Kissed Pa Twice After HisnDeath” are found the priceless lines:nI saw him coming, steppingnhigh.nWhich was of his walk thenway.nPerfect.nI don’t know why—or even whethern—the South has produced more thannits share of primitive poets. Even if wendo have a quantitative edge, however,nthis bardic tradition is not a Southernnmonopoly. In fact, the all-time recordnfor sustained badness without surcease,nyear in and year out, a recordnunsurpassed and unsurpassable, mustnbelong to a 19th-century Dundeenweaver. The inimitable Wflliam Me-nGonagall retired the cup.nA short account of McGonagall’sncareer may have some inspirationalnvalue for those not famfliar with it. Inn1877, by his own account, McGonagallnwas seized by a “strange kind ofnfeeling [that] seemed to kindle up mynentire frame, along with a strong desirento write poetry.” He promptiy pennedna testimonial to a local clergyman, innverse which concluded:nMy blessing on his noble form.nAnd on his lofty head.nMay all good angels guard himnwhile living.nAnd hereafter when he’s dead.nThe reverend gentleman respondedntactfully that “Shakespeare never wrotenanything like this,” and it was onwardnand downward thereafter fornMcConagall.nThere was no stopping him. Hendidn’t take hints. When he stepped upnto recite his verse in pubs, peoplenjeered him, threw peas at him,ndumped flour on him. His persistencenamounted to a species of heroism,ndiminished only slightiy by the factnthat he seemed not to recognize ridiculenand abuse for what it was. Afternthe publication of his first book. PoeticnGems, for instance, some studentsnwrote him a hoaxing letter from then”King of Burma” proclaiming him an”Knight of the Order of the WhitenElephant of Burma”; thereafter hensigned himself, in perfect faith, “SirnWilliam.”nIt is simply impossible to convey then