Are you a joiner? Are you a member of prestigious (or even lowbrow) organizations because you like to engage in structured social activities? Somehow I doubt it...because you're a poet. For you networking is probably painful and you stick to your small, solid cliques.
I myself tend to be somewhat of a hermit, although I have had a very love-hate relationship with thematic clubs over the years. I always want to join but then never enjoy having joined.
It all started when I was 7 years old and had consumed every bit of text on the back of my Cher album Cherished (Warner Bros., 1977). There I read about the Cher fan club. A sense of belonging...finally? The promise of a community? Nah, who needs it! I wanted the official pin, the official fan club wallet card, the official welcome letter and all the official political-esque paraphernalia involved in membersip to such an esteemed organization as Cher's friends.
I filled out the pink form and begged my mother to send in the required $5 entry fee. If she ever did, no welcome packet ever arrived. I was haunted by this over the years and eventually had to buy the original old fan club kit for $40 on eBay decades later (the very cool poster to the left came with it). No Cher fan club since has stayed in business. Their materials tend to be lame and plagued with grammatical errors.
So I switched over to the very nerdy Barry Manilow fan club in my tweens. Finally, the wallet card, the secret newsletter, the secret merchandise catalog! I wrote about my ten-year experience with this club in the webzine Ape Culture ("I Was a Teenage Barry Manilow Fan"). From the BMIFC (Barry Manilow International Fanclub) I learned that someday I wanted to grow up and attend conventions. Think tanks! Name badges! Seminars! Hotel trysts! This secret dream would lead to some frustrating experiences as a staff member of the Cher Convention (from 2000-2008) where I worked as games coordinator, registrar and sometime MC.
This year I decided to make an effort to connect with poets beyond my old Sarah Lawrence clique (we used to meet every week in Bronxville back in the 1990s). I decided to start with a subscription to Poetry Flash (the LA poetry newsletter). I paid $12 almost a year ago and have yet to receive anything. They have also ignored six emails and Facebook inquiries about my missing issues and advertising opportunities. Rip. Off.
Last week I bit the bullet and joined the two big poetry societies. Academy of American Poets costs $35 for a basic membership and all I got was a green membership card with the following May Swenson quote on the back: "Poetry is not philosophy; poetry makes things be, right now." That well-placed semi-colon is worth part of the price of membership. Someday I should also receive my two issues of American Poet and my National Poetry Month poster. I also get discounts to the online store of books and recordings and discounts to New York events and readings.
I joined the Science Fiction Poetry Association as well because my first book of poems is a tad science-fictiony. I have no idea what my $25 membership will provide in terms of swag. Fingers crossed.
But it will be hard to beat the welcome I got with Poetry Society of America. When I lived in New York City, it was the PSA outreach that I loved the best, including Poetry in Motion (poetry posters in the subway trains). I have my very own train poster. With my $45 membership I get a lot: a letter on card stock with a membership card, a bookmark, a purple pin that says "Poetry/I, too, like it," a packet of four very colorful poems on postcards and 20% off one of five poetry journals (APR, The Believer, Boston Review, Fence and Washington Square Review...I'm going to pick APR/American Poetry Review).
Let the socializing begin.
Should I keep my membership cards in my wallet? In case I get hit by a bus, people should know I support the arts, right? People should know I'm a poet and therefore somewhat of a loner and this plethora of poetry-club-memberships entitles me to immediate friendships with any poet-EMTs.