Friday, April 20, 2007


I've written -- ranted -- before about how artificial, external constraints hamper the development and full realization of a poetry project. An example is how the usually economically-determined page count constraints of poetry contests has released many poetry collections whose arcs just seem cut off, notwithstanding the merit of individual poems.

Another example raised by my recent read of Frieda Hughes' Forty-Five is the inexplicable presentation of the project as just text-poems. This poet-painter (and daughter of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes) conceived of this project as one poem and one painting each for each year of her life (she was 45 years old when the project was completed). The work should have been published together: text poems and (images of the) paintings in one book. I'm irritated this didn't happen since the publisher, Harper Collins, surely had the financial wherewithal to present it this way. (Geez, if my New York publisher Marsh Hawk Press -- an indie small press collective -- can release books of both poems and visual art imagery, surely Harper Collins can!)

This is just another sign of conservatism, of course, by the big-house publishing industry which barely pays attention to poetry, let alone bother to spend the time to consider how each poetry project should be presented. Although...I suppose if many poets themselves can't accept that poetry can be multidisciplinary, I suppose I'm being naive in thinking a commercial publishing house should think of poetry books in a more challenging way.

Where are the bloody visionaries?

UPDATE (4/21/07):
Well now. Yesterday's rant shouldn't have tarred a whole sector (larger commercial publishers) for the acts of some. I am reminded by Guillermo that Farrar, Straus & Giroux recently is doing good work, e.g. (1) Michael Hofmann, "Twentieth-Century German Poetry" and (2) Roberto Bolaño, "The Savage Detectives." Bolaño's book, in particular, sounds interesting from Guillermo's description, being a novel centered on avante guard poetry, and being a type of long, epic poem, in terms of how it's structured (multiple narrators) and the beauty of its prose. And both books being translations makes them already a miracle of sorts, that a major publisher would put them out at a time when no one in the US reads American or English writers, much less German or Latin American ones." I agree! Thanks for the heads' up, Guillermo!

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