NOTA BENE (ON) POETRY PUBLISHING
So I'm purrrrr-ed to share the cover image of my forthcoming poetry collection NOTA BENE EISWEIN:
It's one of my collages, this entitled “Global Warming”, and it was inspired by the heat of flamenco, images of the Barne Glacier, and asemic writing practices to which I was introduced by Tim Gaze. The asemic portion of the collage utilizes a symbol for “Filipino poet” as created through my 2002 “Poems Form/From The Six Directions” project. Also relevant to this collage as well as the underlying sensibility to the book's poems is an observation by Christian Dotremont:
“The printed sentence is like a city map: the bushes, trees, objects, and myself have disappeared.”
Relatedly, my soul is "a juicy, seedless watermelon bursting with delicious." Beneath the wit and hilarity, Reb Livingston has been posting in the last couple of days some important points that many poets love to ignore. I am as appalled as anyone over the horsepatooty that Stacey Lynn Brown got from one of these book contests,... yet that's just another reason for more poets to remember they're supposed to be creative folks; so why not get a more DIY sensibility to the work?!
Let's understand what the distinct majority of poetry contests are about -- they are an infrastructure-compromise resulting from the lousy economics of poetry publishing. Many poetry presses run these contests to fundraise. Fullstop.
Fundraising is not necessarily a problem. The problem is how certain aspects of the poetry world give more aesthetic credibility to poetry contest winners. Only a world so steeped in "cultural capital" and so paradoxically deliberate about ignoring self-awareness (which I'd have thought would be an asset for good poeticizing, btw) in order to boost said capital (e.g. Hey, I'm such a poet big shot that I'm a judge in this poetry contest! or, Hey my book is a contest winner!) would create this illogic as regards poetry. Let me tell you something -- I read a heck of a lot of contemporary books. There is no correlation between "better" poetry and "contest winner." Nada. (Matter of fact, of my top ten poetry reads over the past year, I think only one was a contest winner.)
So get over it, you creative poets, and start creating alternatives to the contest system! Fortunately, it's the 21st century and technology can support your creativity if you go there! Which, of course, leads me to one example: the publisher of THE BLIND CHATELAINE'S KEYS, BlazeVOX. If you scroll through their site, you can see how Geoffrey Gatza pulled together an impressive outfit based on understanding technology, and his vision of the political and cultural environment. He took the high road approach to this high art of ours. I don't go around chastising presses for sponsoring contests (one of my key publishers does so, but do check out this information from said savvy publisher made up of savvy poets who understand that poets need to be respected and fundraising shouldn't change that!). A poetry contest is an economics-based compromise, people, not something offering a version of the aesthetic Holy Grail.
THE BLIND CHATELAINE'S KEYS should be available soon (and for its participants, I'll be emailing you later this week about your own copy). UPDATE: Book is now available from BlazeVOX web site viz Paypal; Amazon and SPD to follow.
I lovingly dedicate this post to all the indie poetry presses who've supported my work: Marsh Hawk Press, Moria, xPress(ed), Blue Lion Books, Otoliths, Blaze[VOX], Ahadada, Dusie....I am very grateful to you all, particularly because as one critic once said about me, I tend to release books as if they're going out of fashion.... I don't just mention these presses because they published me. I mention them as examples of poet-publishers who have taken publishing in their own hands, and as a result have released many books which are usually more interesting, challenging, fascinating, pleasingly-unpredictable and way more satisfying than many books I've read coming out from the contest system. So check out these presses -- see what kind of lessons they as models offer.
Then, Poets, take your contest fee budget -- part of a seven-figure economy, mind you -- and get creative! (Have I mentioned I'm a former economist, btw?) So there!, she concludes with much Love.