Inaugural poem sells well


Beneath the heaving bosoms and just above the vampires, next to "The Firm" and not far from "Jurassic Park," you will find Maya Angelou's inaugural poem, "On the Pulse of Morning."

Her poem, which begins, "A Rock, A River, A Tree," is selling like a best seller, in bookstores, gift shops -- even airports.

The $5 book was positioned by her cash register for two months, moving briskly until ousted by an onslaught of Mother's Day books. Still, says Barnes & Noble saleswoman Jeri Ojeda, a rainbow of people continues to request the slim volume. (And we do mean slim: 10 pages of text in large type on thick, heavy paper to add bulk.)

Of course, Random House is delighted. It rushed out the book in record time (under a month from inauguration to publication date) and even gave it three separate covers: burgundy, ivory and blue. (Get it?)

"Books of poetry generally sell 2,000 copies in hardcover," says Random House spokeswoman Deborah Kwan. "But we shipped 270,000 copies of 'On the Pulse of Morning.' "

To say that the book has been flying off absolutely every shelf, however, would be an overstatement. At one magazine shop, for instance, Harry the counterman says he has yet to sell a copy.

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