Monday, March 20, 2006

confessions of a self-publishing whore

I've been thinking about the chapbooks again, reconsidering entering the Diagram/NMP contest, determining what I want to do with both feign (and ultimately archer avenue when it's finished). I'm so dissolusioned with contests on the whole, the fact that the odds are so steep and other people surely with better poems than mine, and the whole culture of competetion thing, and whether it's a good thing, that the cream always rises to the top, or whether it's just the luck of the draw, that the screener and the judges tastes match up exactly with what you wrote. Even having helped judge a couple things I know it's all so ultimately arbitrary.

And while I love the chapbooks of many presses--like NMP (one of their latest offerings Murmurations, is great) I know I can't win...not if the other poets they publish in any given issue is indication of the sort of stuff they get--it's all too good. Too many really damn decent poets out there in the world and all of us wanting the same things. So I'm tempted to throw in the towel. All of these little random projects I've got going, to just do them myself, to get them out there on my own, which has worked in the past to a degree. (Though I am aware that my distribution in no way rivals some of those contest presses.)

I go round and round in my head sometimes, arguing that isn't the best way to do justice to my work to let it win a few contests? Let it attract some attention that way? And aren't I undercutting things a bit by going it on my own. But then I think of the benefits of creating each project and it's publication more as an art piece than something sent out and always knocking on doors. Submitting things year after year to no avail. And as you know, it excites me to no end, the aspect of laying something out, designing it, playing with paper and fonts. All the aspects of creating something--holding the finished project in your hands. And I am a control freak, completely, so there's that. Plus, I like to give them away on occasion, which I'd feel really guilty about doing if they were published by someone else.

On that note, I'm putting either feign or archer avenue --not sure which yet--out there sometime this spring. I've cut the fat out of it, the filler, and have about 30 or so pages of really good stuff. It's sort of project spun from errata, though not Victorian really, but working off that whole idea of women and knowledge, women and corruption, that I started to to work on in the other chap. I feel like I need to get this stuff out there, especially since I tend to think my work is stronger as a whole, not just individual pieces scattered throughout random journals, though that's well and good too, but they have more strength in conjunction with each other.

But then, there's one thing that makes me hesitate. The whole notion of legitimacy, whatever it means. That I'm just being self-indulgent with the whole thing, and that it somehow reflects badly on me or my work...this ceaseless self-publishing..that it (and I) won't be taken as seriously as it/I would be otherwise. But what creates legitimacy--competent work or how it gets distributed? I've seen lots of bad work get distributed by "legitimate" channels. So is even that a faulty concept? I try to make a correlation with the visual arts, how if you're doing serious work, it's a given that you're an artist, whether or not you show in the right gallery or whatever. But being taken seriously as a poet seems to depend so much on being accepted by certain cadres, moving in certain channels. And really, it all makes me sort of nauseous, uneasy.

And I ultimately hope I'm not just being self-indulgent. The poems are good, solid work. Most of them have, or will be soon, published either in print journals or electronically. And I do, after all, have a book that was decent enough for a good publisher to take a chance on. Hopefully, I'm not just fooling myself.
So there will be books, hopefully more than one, and and lots & lots of do-it-myself chapbooks because, hell, I'm occasionally pretty prolific (not at the moment, sadly, but sometimes).

***

In other news, last night's reading at Myopic was awesome, lots and lots of people, Kristy Odelius'work great as always, and the response to the Resurrection Mary poems I read really good (they'd never been out for test drive before.) Though, I think the majority of the folks were there to see the other poet, I'm still blessed with the knowledge that it was very unlike my first reading at Myopic back in the summer of 03 where like three people showed up, and they were friends of the host.

2 comments:

rebecca said...

i feel you. but whatever you're doing, right or wrong in the sense of this stupid "business," it's beautiful. and you're giving poets like me a CHANCE and that's an important, wonderful thing. you're making the world a more beautiful place.

youki said...

I was there to see both of you, and you rocked. I loved the Resurrection poems as well.

sm