The Argotist Online
(Editor, 9th St. Laboratories)
a poet, musician and visual artist. The author of Brambu Drezi,
Species of Abandoned Light, Drafts of the Sorcery, and numerous other
books. He has been an active member of the global arts and literary community
for more than 25 years. His poems, fiction, essays, reviews and other writings
have been published widely in both print and electronic mediums. In 2010,
Lavender Ink released a collaborative book, Cyclones In High Northern
Latitudes, with poet Jeffrey Side and drawings by Rich Curtis; and Outside
Voices: An Email Correspondence (with Jeffrey Side) was released by
Otoliths also in that year.
How 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?
The publisher still wants to sell copies, but print-on-demand has relieved the
publisher of having to take the risk that relatively large press runs required.
Since it is now possible for anyone to publish themselves it transforms some of
the decisions about who gets published to the poets. However, there are many
poets who are reluctant to publish themselves, or don't have the money to buy
more than a few copies. They still don't get the kind of promotion that even a
small press publisher can provide. Print-on-demand hasn't exactly
leveled the playing field, but
it has made more poetry by more poets available to more people.
Why does poetry continue to create schools and movements who feud?
Because it's petty. There is so little to gain that the gain is acquired by a
very few people who usually center around a single ego. Some people in movements
are under the delusion that their work is going to change the direction of
literature, or change human nature, as Virginia Woolf supposedly said. Even the
best work canít accomplish that kind of change. It's all about someone's
self-delusion and convincing others to share in that delusion. People will fight
to protect a delusion much more strongly than they will to protect reality
because at base they know it is a delusion.
With POD possibilities, including various organisations 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?
The subsidies can certainly help, as well as endowments from private
foundations. The problem remains however, who decides which publisher or poet
gets the money. Recently a poet won a prize of $100,000. This was a poet whose
work was already widely published. It would have made more sense to give $5000
to twenty poets who were equally deserving but were under published. The
subsidies still help only a few. They could do more with the same amount of
money, but this doesnít seem likely to happen unless the reality of POD wakes
people up to the fact that there are more poets out there deserving recognition
than might appear at first glance.
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: Possibly. Part of the issue could be how much people want to read on a screen. If screens are manufactured that are easier on the eyes or if people print the text themselves a wider readership could result. It is probably happening already, but it is much more difficult to gauge than book sales. There is no guarantee that a person will read a book merely by the act of buying it, just as their is no guarantee that a hit on a website is someone who takes the time to read everything on the pages of the site. However, since there is greater investment in purchasing a book than visiting a website and easier on the eyes, it seems more likely that a book buyer will read the text. It is still early yet. This will very likely change, though I don't think we're going to see the disappearance of books any time soon.
copyright © Jake Berry