Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm not your bitch, bitch

Reb Livingston says it here and says it very well...

"For those poets who are not married to a particular way of doings things, i.e. Legitimacy's Bitch -- it's time for more of us to start using that creativity we possess towards getting our work out there -- "


Occasionally, even I find myself the only poet in the room who's saying that self-publication, or at least founding presses ourselves --the whole redistribution of cultural capital is a good thing. I found this, with a few obvious exceptions, to be especially when I was getting my MFA, and even among alot of poets I consider friends. That nasty little hydra "legitimacy.." I wrestled with it for years, frettling over where I published, who would publish my book, all the things that I was supposed to want but didn't really care all that much about--prizes, teaching positions, residencies, fellowships. But really all I wanted to do was write and have people read it and like it. I've been thinking about this and I believe it all boils down to audience. Everything you do as a poet (including all those things above, are really about getting an audience aren't they?) Yes, send your work out. Spread those poems everywhere to reach new readers. Do readings. Get involved in literary communities. Make it easy for them to find you, to find more work if they are inclined. If a good number of editors have found enough promise in your work enough to publish, you might be ready to put together a chapbook. Enough work and maybe you have a book.

Now comes the hard part, the bottleneck. I know, looking at even dgp submissions, 50 percent of the manuscripts we will not publish are infinitely publishable. Some I am going to hate to turn down, but there's limited time, limited resources. I hope they will search and find another home, hope they will consider starting collective ventures, or possibly publishing their own work. If you believe there is audience and readership enough to support a book you send to someone else to publish, and you have the resources to do it, why not take it on faith and consider doing it yourself? Now granted, it's nice when another press wants you. It means at least one other person (or people) think it should be published and we poets are an uncertain lot sometimes. We also hope that the press will give us reach that's bit farther than we could do on our own..and this is an awesome thing. Reaching new audiences. But those presses have limits to what even they can do. Sometimes it's necessary to just take matters into your own hands. Winning a prize can be awesome, and I'm definitely not against them as a whole, but you shouldn't place your viability solely in them as an artist. Your book's existence, it's opportunity for readership, should not rest solely on one manuscript being chosen among hundreds..especially when the contest system is over burdened. Some poets wait years hoping for that brass ring and all they get is air...

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