A decade or so ago, I had an idea for a book series called “Computers for Poets:  A Series for Left-Brain Thinkers” — it was intended to go head-to-head with IDGs horribly named “Dummies” series of books.


I don’t like anyone calling me a “Dummy” because I need help in learning something — but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been asked to write a Dummies book or that I haven’t pitched ideas for Dummies — sometimes financial rewards are more pressing than aesthetic displeasure.

However, in my experience, people that most need help with scientific theories and ideas think with the left side of their brain and they need the means and a method to connect into Left-Brain imagery without being called dumb.

Enter my “… For Poets” book series.  It was intended to bridge that divide between brain learning hemispheres.

The book series was inspired by my graduate school training as a playwright at Columbia University and by a class I took as an undergraduate at UNL called something like, “Chemistry for the Liberal Arts.”

This website — Scientific Aesthetic — could easily be re-named “Science for Poets” without a single loss of momentum, intention or comprehension.

In the … For Poets book series, we would explain-through-showing highly technical ideas in simple-to-understand ways by using memes, artwork, storytelling and anecdotes.

The series would expand beyond computers and into “Cars for Poets” and “Algebra for Poets” and “Geography for Poets” and on and on…

The hook of the book was to use Aristotle’s theory of the Poetics to teach the hard ideas in order to build understanding — and the books would break down into the following parts/chapters/iconic references depending on style and content of what needed to be learned:

Plot:  What is the book about?  What is the structure I need to build to know?

Character:  What are the major ideas I need to understand?

Thought
:  What’s the bigger picture and how do I see it and what does it mean?

Diction
:  Are there any special terms or ideas that I need to learn and use?

Music
:  Once I understand the big themes, what are the smaller pieces most people miss?

Spectacle
:  How does it all come together to form a big bang of learning?

I wrote several book outlines in the … For Poets series using that structure/style/semiotic in different ways to teach the topics.  We all understand, and enjoy, a good story.  Aristotle explains how to structure that storytelling for maximum, enduring, dramatic, effect.  Using the universal foundations of storytelling, we can then explain the world around us.I had a stable of authors on board that were willing to write a book in the series.  They “understood” the whole Aristotle/Poetics/Poet thing.

We couldn’t find a publisher.

SuperAgent Matt Wagner understood the hook of the book and he caught the meaning of the expanding series. We offered to write the series for free in exchange for taking a larger cut on the back end.

We still couldn’t find a publisher that understood the series.

At that time, you needed an established publisher to bring forth a dynamic series.

Today, you could probably take the series and virtually publish it and do very well.

What most disturbed me at the time of the initial book series pitch was the negative reaction by publishers.  A few were interested, but confused.  Many were mocking.   None of them understood the idea if you asked them to explain it back to you.  One publisher said, “the idea is too smart” before turning it down.  With that sort of contempt for book buyers, why be a publisher at all?

Instead of being open and willing to try something new and dynamic at no real cost to their bottom line — we were taking all the risk in writing the books for free with no guarantee of ever appearing in print — publishers withdrew into the middle and found satiety in doing what was already known and suspected: Mediocrity only recognizes mediocrity.

One publisher even mocked my “… For Poets” series in a book she later wrote about how to write a book pitch.  Her reference was vague, but stinging.  In the end, she was the one that bit the burr because of her in ability in her own words to see the genius in the genus of the genesis.  You can’t show people the light if they are only willing to recognize the sun.

The “…For Poets” series is one that will sing — keep an eye on PoetSeries.com — because we’re soon coming to a bookshelf near you!

7 Comments

  1. Thanks for the support, Dananjay!
    After reading this article, a friend of mine was concerned about ruining the wonder of what makes a story work. I shared this with her in reply:

    I know revealing the magic of how we are able to enjoy a story without understanding why can be a tough mystery to lose, but once we understand the rhythms of universal human storytelling, we can begin to crack the way we learn things and model behavior and that all hooks back into discovering something new or reviewing our stored moral codes for correction or continuation.

    I agree the “too smart” insult was a tough thing to try to comprehend, let alone answer.