Thursday, May 26, 2005

the chapbook rant, continued...

Apparently Daly's little missive on chapboooks got more a than a couple people riled up. She continues on in a couple more posts about how much she hates chapbooks, which is fine, hey, more power to her, but her logic is still ridiculous.

In today's post, she begins by saying that the chapbook's function has been wholly absorbed by online work, e-chapbooks, etc. But then she goes on to list over a dozen presses (and I can list 20 more at least) that publish mainly chapbooks, most publishers that are quite reputable. In truth, the literary world becomes more and more multi-faceted every day. New publishers, new presses, new websites. I think chapbooks are an excellent low-cost, low-bullshit way to publish in this age where book publishers hardly want to publish poetry at all because it's not the latest John Grisham novel.

She then rails on vanity publications. In my opinion, the only thing that designates something a vanity enterprise is if the work sucks and you publish it regardless. Then you're falling pray to vanity. If the work is good, and people, the larger reading audience, like it and take an interest in it, it's hardly just a vanity publication.

This disturbs me once again: "I believe that it is a waste of time for serious poets to attempt to turn a profit from vanity publication." Who says anything about turning a profit? I would be entirely happy if I never made a cent as long as I had some sort of audience, some sort of impact. In my case, any money I make from my chapbook typically goes back into the production of other dgp books. I've given away or traded about two to every one copy I actually took money for. Anyone trying to turn a profit with poetry AT ALL, books or chapbooks, is going to be woefully dissappointed.

I'm also uncomfortable with the notion that all work, if it's self-published, is unpublishable crap. Yes, I mean this can happen, but isn't whether or not anyone is interested in your self-published crap going to be an indicator if the effort was a worthwhile venture. In my case, my first chapbook was actually published, not by me, but by another press. Due to a backlog of releases, it took three long years. In the meantime, I self-published another manuscript under dgp (Bloody Mary), which had placed honorable mention in a chapbook contest (thus obviously wasn't likely to be self-deluding crap, or so I hoped.) I did it, not as any sort of vain self-indulgence, but really because I got tired of saying no when people asked at readings and such if I had a chapbook they could buy. When I was running out of those, the initial 100 print run, I published another (belladonna). By this time I had anough faith to believe in my work to say, fuck it. I have a manuscript. I want it published. I have the means and cool cover art. I can spend months trying to find someone who wants this and then wait months before it's out, or just go ahead and do it myself. And so it happened. The weakest of the three I would definitely say is the first, the non-vanity publication, according to Daly's criteria. What's funny is I actually spent more money buying an extra hundred copies of that book, which I only got 25 complimentary copies of from the publisher, than I did on either one I published myself. (This was my choice, however, largely because they don't have a website, thus all distribution, outside of what they do directly and locally, have to go through me.)

This word "legitimacy" rears its ugly head several times in these posts. It's so focused in this case on something that can be bestowed by the publishers of full-length books, the poetry gods. Oh the horror of "self-legitimacy." There's a slightly insecure tone to all of this, like the mean girls in high school cliques who were ten times meaner because their place in the cool clique wasn't fixed an immutable, like the poet is struggling so hard to justify her own importance by placing herself in opposition to the self-published masses. and perhaps trying a bit too hard. What about legitimacy wrought by publishing good work however you do it? Daly herself may be treading thin ice here. Her first book DADADA, while I found it enjoyable, published by Salt Publishing over in England, is printed by Lightning Source, a POD, which is probably why B&N wouldn't stock it. I ordered a copy direct from the publisher a few months ago, and like most POD perfect bound volumes, it's a little flimsy and a bit too laminated with its cover stock.(which is largely why I'm not keen on POD) Some publishing purists, who believe POD the end of publishing as we know it, might not embrace her own first book quite so readily. If, as she said haughtily, an editor must like your work enough to give it a spine, perhaps they should love it enough to give it a set print run as well. Not my opinion, but you see where I'm going..

I guess I can understand her frustration when trading her rather he
fty and pricier Salt publishing book for a hand-stapled chap. Especially since she had to pay for her own copies no doubt, but in that case she shouldn't do it all.

I fear, however it all comes down to this:

"I do not like to be in competition for teaching jobs, readings that pay, or even book publication with those who claim that their chapbooks are "books." I do not like to be in competition for jobs with those who include their holiday card poem - broadsides are legitimate publications."

Ahh, her venom makes complete sense now... a bit competitiveness and careerism rearing its ugly head...

No comments: