Tuesday, May 26, 2009


The 'previously unpublished' versus the 'piece that is becoming popular' question is a big issue for me. This is something poets and publishers need to actively discuss because I believe that a wrong choice here can diminish the chance that a poem which has attracted some public interest will ever achieve the distribution and therefore exposure it would have experienced under the older print media system (which had its own flaws, let me hasten to add).

Much of the current electronic publication activity is, at best, counter-productive for the success of poetry in general (we need readers who are recreational and not just other poets). The small presses are struggling with minimal interest on the part of the consuming public and therefore are in perpetual financial difficulties. Many of them react to this situation so conservatively and narrowly that, believing they are serving their own best interests, they further limit the possible interest of the larger consuming public that poets and publishers used to enjoy in the past.

People (poets and non-poets) like to have their current favorite works available to read multiple times. Furthermore, they like the reassurance that others are just as excited about those works as they are. The more places in which their favorite poems show up, the more they feel as if their personal preference is justified. They like the critical interest generated by popular poems because they better learn how to understand them by reading what scholars are saying about their favorites. These issues are key ones to those who do not already possess educated specific background in poetry and poetry writing. The perilous inaccessibility of some modern poetry which demands deep technical understanding and considerable intellectual aesthetic attention is an understandable putt-off to people who already have no clue as to why MFA poets write the way they do.

I can’t think of a process more alien to this than our current small press activity. Are the current trends for publication in them actually endangering the growth of a real group of public readership (which would really be in the best interest of them specifically and modern poetry in general)?


C.J.Duffy said...

Firstly, let me say that I haven't forgotten the chapbook idea and I will be responding to you very soon but for now, let's concentrate on your latest post of which the content I agree totally with.
The chapbooks that I am currently sending out are electronic PDF's that are encrypted so that no one may 'lift' either words or images from them. It is one way of doing things but it is not, in my opinion, very satisfactory. It is OK in that it gets your work out to somebody but the somebody or somebodies, as you rightly say, are either poets, artists or friends and family who already enjoy your work.
What I have started to do, and will do this with your good self if that is OK with you, is to E-mail a PDF copy while suggesting in the E-mails content that, if the recipient wants, they can, by sending me an E-mail response a hard copy in the post. This seems to have gone down well so far but is still not quite what I would like to see. I still think that a chapbook is a bloomi' good way of getting fresh blood out in fronnt of the general public and one way to do this is to produce the books in print form and the 'donate them' to various book shop outlet's. I am pretty confident that if this was adpoted that very few book shops would refuse to have chapbooks on their counters that have been supplied for free. This, hopefully, might attract someone's attention after all, who can resist something for free?

Russell Ragsdale said...

I'm interested to hear all about the publishing things you have going on currently. I'm not quite clear on the process you were describing but It sounds quite interesting.

It seems to me that the print copy of a poetry book is the way to get outside of the in-group world of poets. They are distributed outside the in-group mechinism and in ways which don't limit them to the promotional exclusivity of a group. People are doing this already and I haven't quite figured out how this must be done differently to get even larger audiences.

I'm not against poets as a group, by the way. I am deeply indebted to them in fact for the friendship and support they offer. The redership that once existed outside that group, however, must be established again.

Thanks for the comment my old friend and I'm looking forward to working with you on a project soon.

gulnaz said...

to get poetry printed seems like an impossible task :(

btw updated my blog would love to read your comment on it ;)

Russell Ragsdale said...

Your poetry is wonderful and it should not be any problem to get it in print. It will take some submitting and getting rejected of course but you already know that. I don't know what my success rate is but I suspect it is somewhere in the 10-30% range. Always remember that your poetry is special and people outside your group of friends need to be able to read it. You must publish!

Hope you enjoyed my comments. It is good to see your blog updated!