The Argotist Online
Alan Mayís poems have appeared or
are forthcoming in The New Orleans Review,
Double Room, Willow Springs, E-ratio, Kulture
Vulture and others. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University
of Alabama. His book Notes toward an
Apocryphal Text, a collaboration with the artist Tom Wegrzynowski, was
published in 2006 by Port Silver Press.
has publishing changed with the advent of short-run printing and print-on-demand
possibilities? Does this negate any need to sell a specific number of a title? Is
this a freedom from traditional print expectations/values?
First of all, I think itís very hard to take a snapshot of 21st
century poetry. We canít pin it down (to pin it down, we would have to kill it
or it has to be dead already), so we have to try to catch glimpses of it as it
flies around the room. That being said, here are my faulty assertions.
my knowledge, the publishing of poetry (in the U.S.A., at least) hasnít been
changed very much by short-run and print-on-demand technologies. Some tiny
presses that use print-on-demand are cropping up and some poets, myself
included, are using this technology to self-publish.
and short-run printing definitely negates the need to sell a specific number of
books. I published my first book for free. I used a print-on-demand
publisherís software to design the book, I bought a copy, and then it was
available to the public. (Will this give my work greater exposure? Probably not.
So far, nobodyís buying the book. Iím not complaining, though, Iím just
glad itís out there.)
Schools and movements help to bolster the poetís nearly untenable place in
society. Thereís nothing wrong there; we all need help and encouragement.
believe the feuds often start when poets and critics are afraid of being shown
up. Weíre all fighting for readership.
argue that ďbadĒ poetry hurts the public and gives them the wrong idea about
the world of poetry. ďBadĒ poetry harms ďgoodĒ poetry. Itís funny, but
people donít often make this argument about films, novels, music, art, etc.
letís face it, if thereís one gang thatís making any kind of progress,
there will be another gang that forms to challenge said gang. We could all be
loners, but then chances are that we would either starve, or be eaten by wolves,
or maybe both. (Currently, by the way, Iím being eaten by wolves. Seriously.
With POD possibilities, including various organizations that will take on
anything without a set-up fee and simply send royalties to the author, do poetry
publishers need arts council subsidies any more?
When I was much younger and more resolved to fight the good fight, I would have
said, ďNo. Publishers donít need funding. Let them publish poetry that sells
or let them die trying. There are better things for governments and people to
spend their money on.Ē Now I am older and I am tired. I wouldnít mind
getting some subsidies, myself. Seriously, there are plenty of great poets out
there, and so few people who are willing to buy books of poetry, and I wish I
could help those poets leave something of themselves behind. I truly believe
that the world needs artists who do not placate, artists who provide no moral
sermon. Most popular writers do one or the other.
small press poetry publishers aren't subsidized, then small presses (even if
they are using print-on-demand) won't be able to afford to send their books to
reviewers and libraries. And if none of these p.o.d. and short-run books gain
attention or, at the very least, survive, then we've lost poets who could make
some difference. And in the case of poets who self-publish, the work involved in
designing and promoting books can be a serious distraction from writing,
especially if said poets are already working 40 hours a week to pay the bills.
If poetry presses are concerned with cultivating a wider readership, could this
not be done more effectively via the Internet (where there are thousands of
potential readers) rather than worrying about sales of printed poetry?
A: Yes, I believe the Internet can and does cultivate a wider readership. Do I believe that all people have access to the Internet? No. Also, I fear that corporations and our good governments (gangs, all) will exercise more and more control over what we publish. And whoís to say that we will always have the Internet? (People from about 20 different countries have visited Apocryphaltext; considering current events, I guess we wonít be getting any readers from Iran). I would prefer a world where print and electronic publications exist side by side. If not, the human record is very easily wiped out, and writers, both the living and the dead, are easily silenced.
copyright © Alan May