Depressed Poets Everywhere Turn their Ovens on High Now that Graywolf Press will Publish James Franco’s Poetry Collection.

Dear James Franco,

I just read a torrent of Facebook posts and comments concerning Graywolf Press’s announcement that they’ll be publishing your poetry collection. Congratulations! I’m not saying that condescendingly, James. I do, however, hope you know that poets everywhere are turning their ovens on high. I’ve yapped enough about your short-story collection in the “Are You A Real Writer?” blog posts, and I don’t have the energy to reiterate myself. But here are some thoughts:

1)      I’m rooting for you, though many disgruntled poets are (justifiably) not. I enjoy controversy, so let’s imagine this scenario: Graywolf releases the book, poets and fiction writers (and the mass public) buy it, and to everyone’s surprise—or embarrassment—it’s fucking phenomenal poetry. The first thing people will say is, “Certainly, he had Billy Collins or someone line edit the poems.” But without any evidence of another poet’s intervention, we’d soon have to face the harsh reality that James Franco is, um, a better poet than most poets.

2)      If we’re going to assume that Graywolf took you on in order to generate publicity and profit, then that’s actually good news. The earnings can be used underwrite future Graywolf books. The fact is I don’t smell conspiracy. Graywolf doesn’t publish bad books. I doubt they’d release sub-par, celebrity poetry in order get rich for a month. Was there nepotism involved? Probably. Do I care?  No, unless some brilliant poet had written a masterpiece and her manuscript got tossed aside for yours. My guess is that either your manuscript matched or exceeded the quality of other Graywolf publications (regardless of how it got into the editor’s hands), or the James Franco Literary Empire waved a check in front of Graywolf and essentially used the publisher like a vanity press.

I’m not going to buy it—not now, at least. Unlike you, I have to look at the bank account before I buy a book. At the moment, my prioritized future-purchase is Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia by Blake Butler. My list is long, and you’re at the bottom. That’s OK, though, because my book isn’t even on your list.

But here’s what I would buy. Graywolf has this kick-ass series of craft books. I’ve read—and bought—The Art of Description by Mark Doty, The Art of Subtext by Charles Baxter, The Art of Syntax by Ellen Bryant Voigt, and The Art of Time in Fiction by Joan Silber. Here’s the web address if you’re interested:,com_phpshop/page,shop.browse/category_id,bf8108ff1901b3e2f2376627dd7f8c0d/

If you wrote a craft book, I’d swipe my card in a second. I’ve got some suggestions for titles :

The Art of Being James Motherfuckin’ Franco, Yo, by James Franco.

The Art of Becoming a Famous… Everything, by James Franco.

The Art of Using Your Money and Cultural Prominence to Enlarge your Literary Opportunities, by James Franco.

The Art of Using Your Money and Cultural Prominence to Bring Writing Classes and Publishing Opportunities to Low-Income Areas where Aspiring Writers Don’t Have the Resources to See Their Dreams Materialize, by James Franco.

The Art of Teaching One Less Private-School Class, Like, “Master Class: Editing James Franco—With James Franco” (Columbia College, Hollywood), in Favor of Teaching Basic Literacy Skills to Underprivileged Children by James Franco.

The Art of Using My Newly Acquired Status as a Legitimate Poet to Promote Other New Poets, Who Have Been Published by Very Small Presses but Don’t Have National Distribution by James Franco.

The Art of Telling Bitter, Struggling Writers to Shut the Fuck Up; I’ll Do Whatever I Want by James Franco.

The Art of “Dude, Give Me a Chance!” by James Franco.

The Art of Knowing that Your Critics’ Books Will Be Out of Print After One Run, While Yours Will Sell For Decades by James Franco.

And while you’re at it, buy my book please:


Don Peteroy


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About Letters to James Franco

My name is Don Peteroy. I'm a PhD. candidate at University of Cincinnati. My major has a long name, so try to say it in one breath: "English and Comparative Literature with a Creative Dissertation." I spent the majority of my adult years as a social worker. I decided it's pointless to help people, so I've devoted the rest of my life to reading and writing. Here's all my publications and works in progress: My novella, "Wally," published by Burrow Press, in the fall of 2012. Novella: "A World Without Owls" Unpublished. Novel: "My Helicopter Heart" Unpublished. A failed playwright stalks Kirsten Dunst during the Christian apocalypse. My short story, "The Circuit Builders" is the winner of the 2012 Playboy College Fiction contest, and will appeared in the October 2012 issue. Here's are more published and forthcoming short stories: "The Trouble With Hello is Goodbye": Arcadia Magazine 7, 2014. "Kurt Vonnegut Didn't Like Me" Online Sundries, 2/14 "Because I Want to Know You" forthcoming reprint in Short Story America "A Hole Without A Rim," forthcoming in the Florida Review "Keeping it for Good," The Heartland Review. Forthcoming. “A Penny In A Pill Bottle,” Dislocate, Winter 2012. “Because I Want to Know You” Yemessee, 19.2, 2002. “The Sluggers” Santa Carla Review. Spring 2012. “Maps and Legends” Chattahoochee Review. Spring 2012. “Melinda, Listen to Me” Permafrost, vol. 33, 2011. “Rondo” Licking River Review, Fall 2011. “The Ugly Marriage Counselor” Eleven Eleven, vol.11, 2011. “The Healing Frequency” Newport Review, Summer 2011. “His Name Equals His Name” The Ultimate Writer Magazine, Summer 2011. “This Is How I Will Hold You” The Westchester Review, vol. 5, 2011. “In Accordance To The Needs Of A Canadian Literary Magazine” Worcester Review, vol. 31.1, 2011. “Too Much Anthropology” Cream City Review, vol. 34.2, 2011. “There Are No Fragments” Ellipsis, vol. 46, 2010. “Confessions of a Misunderstood Sidekick” Farallon Review, vol.3, 2010 “One Day, God Will Kill Everyone” Oyez Review, vol. 37, 2010. “When Hawks Make Love” The Susquehanna Review, Fall 2009. “Goddess Corpse” The Maynard, Fall 2009. “Misconceptions About the Nature of Blood” CRIT Journal, Summer 2009. “Go Up” The Cynic, Fall 2009. “The Misuse of Old British Words” Two Hawks Quarterly, Spring 2009. “Dead or Unlisted” The Rejected Quarterly, Spring 2003. “Sleep Log” The Timber Creek Review, Spring 2002. There are other stories out there, somewhere, but I've lost track. Awards: “From One Object to Another.” Finalist for the Glimmer Train Short Fiction Award, 2009. “His Name Equals His Name” Finalist for the Gulf Coast Donald Barthelme Award, 2009. “In Accordance To The Needs Of A Canadian Literary Magazine” 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee. "A World Without Owls." Finalist, Gold Line Press Chapbook Contest, 2011. “Confessions of a Misunderstood Sidekick” Sacramento Stories on Stage Series in California, June 2011. "The Circuit Builders" winner of the Playboy College Fiction Award 2012. "The Trouble With Hello is Goodbye" nominated for a Pushcart Award.

One response to “Depressed Poets Everywhere Turn their Ovens on High Now that Graywolf Press will Publish James Franco’s Poetry Collection.”

  1. ACMoga says :

    Ha! Brilliant titles.

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