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Et tu, UPS?

Think poetry publishing is all about heartfelt discussions of metaphor and metrics while draped wistfully across chez lounges? Think again. Sometimes you've got to get into the dirt and wrangle with mega-corporations (say... I don't know... UPS perhaps?) just to get your books to a reading on time.

Below is the one such tale of woe and suffering. In this case, we were shipping 20 copies of Carpathia to Cecilia Woloch for a reading in Paris. The story is told below courtesy of Cecilia's host Adrian Leeds. 

[caption id="attachment_903" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Photo provided by UPS press room"]Photo provided by UPS press room[/caption] Dear Parler Paris Reader, 19-5-10ceciliacarpathia-shadowMy friend and poet, Cecilia Woloch, whose Paris Poetry Workshop is in full force as I write this, didn't think anything of having 20 copies of her newest book, "Carpathia" (sent to my address in time for the "Writers on Writing" event at the American Library in Paris) last night. There was plenty of time, but her publisher sent them UPS at a huge cost to be absolutely sure they would arrive before the evening's event.

When she told me this, I said immediately, "Uh oh. They have to have the door code, the stairwell letter and the apartment number, otherwise they won't deliver it." With the tracking number, we went online to put in the delivery details and waited the next day for the package. No show.

In about a half-dozen 'conversations' in the course of one hour, each time with a different person who is a virtual customer service representative, but who has no real authority, the excuse for lack of delivery was: 1) that they didn't have the delivery details (false), 2) that they couldn't make the delivery because they didn't have the floor level of the apartment (they never asked for it, nor do they make this possible online and don't really need it since all they had to do was buzz the Interphone and they would have been let in!) and 3) they claim they made a call and no one answered (if they did, we have no record of it).

The bottom line was that if we wanted our box of books that day, our only choice was to go directly to the distribution center in La Courneuve near the Bourget airport to retrieve it ourselves. In a scramble to accomplish the task, someone on our staff dropped everything to trek out to Bourget on the RER B and walk down the long roads to the UPS distribution center. She was already on route when I learned whomever was going to pick it up needed my identity papers for proof of ownership, since the package was in my name. Uh oh. Another hurdle to jump.

When I asked the representative for a solution, she offered nothing but her idea of a solution: "If you don't pick up the package today, we must know by 5 p.m. in order to deliver it tomorrow."

At this point, I had made dozens of calls, had cursed Cecilia and her books up one wall and down the other, told her she 'was going to pay, big time!, vowed never to use UPS again and was generally in disgust over the entire French culture. Patience was getting thinner with every phone call. "Listen, if we don't receive the books today, then you might as well send them back," I said (strongly). "Can I fax my ID with a proxy to the distribution center directly?" I had to come up with a solution by myself -- they certainly weren't going to make an effort to think of one themselves.

"Well, yes. But there are no guarantees they will get it or be able to use it," the "customer service representative" replied.

As quickly as possible, I faxed my passport and a letter giving our messenger the authority to the fax number they gave me, emailed the same documents to our online contact and sent them also to the messenger so she would have a copy on her phone. The plan was that once she had the books in hand, she and Cecilia would rendez-vous on the quay of the RER to make the exchange so that she could go directly to her next appointment -- an 8-month-long awaited and very important appointment at the "Préfecture" (central police station) for her "Carte de Séjour" (long-stay visa).

Our messenger was fortunately able to retrieve the books at UPS, but missed her connection on the quay with Cecilia to retrieve them, leaving her stranded with the books at the Préfecture and Cecilia without them for the event! Now back at square one, we needed a new solution. Luckily we did -- Florence Richburg.

Florence, my Executive Assistant (isn't there a new and more politically correct term?) in good spirits hopped on the train to meet her on route back from the Préfecture, but almost at her home 40 minutes outside of the city.

An hour later, when Florence rolled into the American Library with the box of books just as the poets had lined up their panel in front of the audience and were about to begin their talks and readings, they all applauded her, making her the heroine of the day! Of course, she was just one of a team of players that made the whole thing happen, but we certainly didn't have UPS to thank for any of it. 

The evening with five poets was a stunning event, where we learned that poetry is...For some, it’s an enchanting magic created by words, while for others, it may be just a clever manipulation of words. However one may look at it, there’s no denying the beauty of a well-written poem. Hereby, I have tried to define this mystery called Poetry.

What does it all mean, poet? Well, Your brains beat into rhythm, you tell. What we felt only; you expressed, You hold things beautiful the best, And pace them in rhyme so, side by side.

-Robert Browning (

What did we learn about UPS and our experience that day?...that there was nothing poetic about it, but that there was a poem in it that should be someone, if not by one of us.

Special note: Join Cecilia, other poets and her students at upcoming public events

Thursday, May 20, 7:00 p.m. Cecilia Woloch reads from her latest collection of poems, Carpathia, at Village Voice Bookshop, 6, rue Princesse, 6th. Followed by conversation and wine...Books will be available for sale. (Yeah!)Friday, May 21, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Paris Poetry Workshop Participants' Reading at Shakespeare & Company in the upstairs library, 37, rue de la Bucherie, 5th Cecilia Woloch's Paris Poetry Workshop returns to Shakespeare and Company: A tradition for local and visiting poets, this May workshop is in its ninth year, reuniting English speaking poets from various corners of the map. We have many publications to celebrate this year -- faculty and participants alike--so this grand finale is not to be missed. Come meet the poets and hear their latest work: Pam Davis, Kim Noriega, Elizabeth Iannaci, Betzi Richardson, Hope Alvarado, Elizabeth Marshall, Maria Ruiz, Eve Hoffman, Cheryl Passanisi, Shannon Burns, and Suzanne Allen. [caption id="attachment_908" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Adrian Leeds. UPS survivor."]Adrian Leeds. UPS survivor.[/caption]
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