The Work of Endorsements
Last week I posted on social media that I'd completed my last endorsement for the summer and wouldn't be doing more until winter break. I hoped by making such posts, I might avoid causing disappointment, as I did late February and early March this year. I was early into second semester and teaching the heaviest load I'd ever had, including teaching by myself a class I'd always co-taught; because of the pandemic, it was also all online. In the course of two weeks, three poets, including two former students, asked me for endorsements for forthcoming publications, and I had to turn them all down--I simply did not have the time.
Doing endorsements is time consuming, unpaid work, that I'm glad to do as part of my service to the poetry community. Given the time it takes, though, I'm now only undertaking them when I have a substantial break from work commitments, which means summer and winter breaks--and even my summer break is only a few weeks. When I ask for endorsements for my own work, I'm trying to time them well, asking as soon as the manuscript is ready to be seen rather than just before publication, so the endorsers have plenty of time.
It would also be a kindness if people would show understanding when someone has to decline giving an endorsement. Given I'm also preparing to serve as external examiner for a PhD over winter break, I doubt I'll have time to do more than one or two endorsements as well, and sometimes when I've had to say no, the response has been bafflement and once even anger. There has sometimes been an assumption that because I've taught someone, I should make time to do the endorsement, regardless of my other commitments or how many other endorsements the poet has already obtained. I've been teaching in higher and further education in the UK for 18 years now--that's a lot of former students, and a lot of the year my workload prohibits anything extra.
To end more positively, I really enjoy writing endorsements for good work. My most recent endorsement was for SK Grout's forthcoming pamphlet with V. Press, What Love Would Smell Like; I printed out a copy and took it on the train with me to London last Monday. I read it on the journey, making notes as I went. Here's my endorsement: "In SK Grout's debut pamphlet, romantic love between women is both sensual and spiritual. These atmospheric, compelling poems evoke a richly felt and observed sensibility, an experience to relish again and again, 'bright full of starwild'." You'll be able to buy a copy soon directly from V. Press here.