Sunday, April 08, 2007


I'm fascinated by the aborted issue of HCE: And Here Comes Everybody, Eds Lance Phillips with Geoffrey Gatza (Blaze Vox Books, 2007). This is a print anthology based on a project put together on the blog HERE COMES EVERYBODY . But within 48 (if not 24) hours of receiving word of its release, I learned that the publisher and editor announced that they were forced to cancel the book anthology; there seems to be a dispute as to whether some participants had agreed to be in the book in addition to the online site.

Because of the dispute -- which caused a poet(s) to threaten to sue the publisher/editor -- I won't be able to see the book HCE and see how it relates to a larger issue of anthologies created from online websites. Because I'm lazy, I'll just cutnpaste an excerpt from a review I'm writing on one such anthology, to share my thoughts on this larger issue which is relevant to other projects besides HCE:

As a blogger, I've set up individual blogs related to presenting works-in-progress as they progressed. Some of the contents in these blogs later ended up in books. So I've long been interested in the difference between the "same" material presented in a blog versus a book.

I believe all of the materials in my blog can stand on their own. But I sought to have a reason to move them from blog to print. For examples, the material in my former garbage blog was recontextualized to be part of a poet's fictionalized autobiography in my most recent book SILENCES. Some of the material in my former poem blog was recontextualized to become a novel in my book ENGLISH. The material in my former shopping blog came to generate POST BLING BLING, a book project addressing commodification. And the material in this now defunct poetry-in-progress blog was recontextualized to exemplify a Filipino poetics in my fothcoming book THE LIGHT SANG AS IT LEFT YOUR EYES.

In other words, I've been very conscious that there has to be a reason why material that's already available in the internet (viz blogs) would come to cut down trees to form books.

The challenge is ably met in, say, the anthology E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S: the first XI interviews, Ed. Tom Beckett (Otoliths, forthcoming 2007). Full disclosure requires that I note that I am one of the interviewees in this first volume -- but being part of the anthology has offered me a behind-the-scenes look at what will be in the print volume. In addition to the interviews which already are available online, there will be sample poems by each interviewee which are good to have in terms of presumably exemplifying the poetics discussed in the interviews, as well as an Editor's Introduction by Tom Beckett whose astute editorship is known (Beckett edited The Difficulties (1980-1990), a now legendary critical journal)

This is all a long introduction to noting my disappointment with ________, which puts in book form an anthology of poems culled from its ___website. Their Introduction offers no aesthetic/editorial rationale for their choices ...

In recent decades, enough anthologies have come out so as to enable a lively dialogue on what makes an anthology successful or not. (As an editor or co-editor of five anthologies of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, I've been attuned to this matter, too.) But the ____ anthology barely makes it into this discussion arena with its basic claim that its existence simply manifests the editors' claims to present what's representative of the web site's content.
[end of excerpt]

As you might glean from above, my review basically is critical of this new anthology created as a result of its online presence. I won't reveal the name of that anthology yet as I'm still mulling over whether I want to come out publicly against the book (or any poetry project. Note that I say publicly -- privately, I bash a number of poetry projects to the dark angels, but to make my criticism public is an extra step which I am loathe to do for numerous reasons, not because I wanna be a Polyanna but due to how my poetics unfolds).

Prior to HCE's cancellation, I thought that HCE may be an example of a print anthology warranting its print-ness as it doesn't just repeat material on its blog. If you go to Blaze Box Book's web site regarding HCE, you will see an excerpt from the Editor's Introduction that presents a context as well as expansion of the initial blog-based concept. But I won't know for sure, now that the book has been yanked.

Anyway, the confluence of print-on-demand technology with blogs/websites is facilitating print versions of online projects. But on behalf of the trees, I hope that editors/publishers of such future anthologies do something besides making print replicate e-content -- if only, too, to respect the intelligence of your readers. At a minimum, mere replication is abuse of the technology that has allowed many to expand their use of the internet.

Meanwhile, my condolences (is that the right word) to Lance Philipps who I know has worked very hard on HCE and on behalf of poetry.

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