Gary Soto is a widely published author of children's and young adult fiction, and he is an acclaimed poet--often referred to as one of the nation's first Chicano poets. With a sharp sense of storytelling and a sly wit, What Poets Are Like is a memoir of the writing life that shares the keen observation, sense of self and humor of such writers as Sherman Alexie and Nora Ephron.
In some 60 short episodes, this book captures moments of a writer's inner and public life, close moments with friends and strangers, occasional reminders of a poet's generally low place in the cultural hierarchy; time spent with cats; the curious work of writing. He tells the stories of his time spent in bookstores and recounts the glorious, then tragic, arc of Cody's Bookstore in Berkeley, ending with the author whose scheduled event fell on the day after the business shut down, but who stood outside the locked door and read aloud just the same. As all writers do, Soto suffers the slings and arrows of rejection, often from unnamed Midwest poetry journals, and seeks the solace of a friendly dog at such moments. Soto jabs at the crumbs of reward available to writers--a prize nomination here, a magazine interview there--and notes the toll they take on a frail ego. The pleasure Soto takes in the written word, a dose of comic relief plus his appreciation of the decisive moment in life make this an engaging and readable writer's confession.
"If you believe that the most important thing any piece of writing can do is to drop the reader into the center of an author's thoughts, then Gary Soto's What Poets Are Like is the book for you. It is funny, heartfelt, instructive and erudite while remaining, in a storyteller's way, wryly entertaining. Check it out, you won't be disappointed."
Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love