Ben Kline, a poet, was recently thrilled when he was informed a chapbook of his poetry was accepted for publication.
A chapbook is a small book, generally in the range of 20-40 pages. They are a useful format for emerging writers to introduce new work to the world and give voice to writers who may need it.
In this day and age of shrinking attention spans, chapbooks are used to showcase top-shelf poetry or short stories in a format that one can finish in a single sitting.
Kline’s collection, Sagittarius A*, was accepted, and according to a recent post he made online, he spent a week with an editor from the publishing house discussing edits, release date, cover design and more.
He also pulled the chapbook from consideration with two other possible publishers.
But then came an odd twist in the tale of Kline’s chapbook, which he shared in an essay on his personal website.
Kline writes that he received a disconcerting email informing him a woman in the publisher’s office took a moment to check out his Twitter account.
That led to her perusing his Instagram account where he apparently had been posting nearly-nude photos that were usually coupled with poems which “delved into contemporary matters of queer life.”
From the email:
Yesterday, a woman at our office did a Google search of your Twitter handle, pinecreekpoet, which led to your Instagram account, which we all saw at the office and mostly didn’t think twice about at first—however, a couple of hours later, we found her seven-year-old daughter crying with her mom’s phone, having seen your entire account. She was very, very upset and confused and upset about all the nudity, and this led to a long talk about what is and isn’t appropriate for an adult to post on a public, family-friendly website and what does and doesn’t fit [our publisher’s] image, especially because we have our first children’s books in the works right now.
The email went on to say the powers that be asked some of the authors on their roster how they would feel being on the same imprint as “someone who has posted hundreds of public nude selfies?”
Mind you, Instagram doesn’t allow full-frontal nudes, and most of us have seen the eye-candy/beefcake posts on Instagram…
The answer, it appears, is some of the ‘other authors’ (especially women, per the email) felt a “bit creeped out” by the idea.
Further, the publisher shared that if the photos were “somehow connected to your career, etc…we’d have no problem with it, but being connected to an author who has posted public nudes/semi-nude photos nearly every day for the last seven years with no obvious reward other than personal satisfaction is something that makes us all feel uncomfortable.”
The email closes with rescinding the offer of publishing Sagittarius A*.
Kline has since taken his social media private “to avoid them attempting to smear” him with other publication companies.
The story leaves me with some questions.
One, how and why did a 7-year-old come upon a phone (don’t these things lock?) with the images readily available?
And seriously, what 7-year-old becomes “very, very upset and confused” to the point of crying because of a semi-nude body on Instagram? Again – there are no full-frontal photos on the Insta.
Two, what would it matter if a collection of astrophysics-inspired poetry penned by a guy who has posted semi-naked photos on his social media were to be published on the same imprint as a children’s book? Who is going to connect one project of a completely different realm to the other?
Three, it would be one thing if Kline were seeking a job in the field of teaching or at a conservative law firm. But poets and poetry cover a wide-ranging world of words and creative thought. Why would his Insta-thirst traps have anything to do with other authors at the publishing house?
Kline ends his essay saying he felt offended by the “tone/language/implications” of the email in a homophobic vein.
“There are lots of queer poets who have queer and/or sexualized content on their social media,” writes Kline. “My selfies on IG were almost always paired with poems that delved into contemporary matters of queer life. They were not just images posted ‘with no obvious reward other than personal satisfaction.’”
Finally, as Kline resumes submitting Sagittarius A* to publishers, I want to share the cover of Kline’s Going Fast In Loose Directions.
Surely the image itself, which the publisher had to have come across, was a clue to the writer’s style and predilections?
This essay represents the opinions of the author and not those of Instinct Magazine nor its contributing authors.