Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Large circulation is pleasant

from “Early History of a Writer” by Charles Reznikoff:

“[T]he impulse to write …
would be, perhaps would have to be, stimulated
by regular publication.

[S]ince I did not hope for a publisher
to print my verse soon at his own risk
and I did not have the money to pay for a publisher’s imprint –
nor did I relish the pretence –
why, I thought, I should print privately,
that is, pay the printer and make no pretence of having a publisher at all.
There was little notice to be had that way, I knew,
among the crowd of new books;
but, besides the stimulation to write and revise,
I would clear my head and heart
for new work. Yes, the work was the thing.
Large circulation is pleasant, of course,
but I did not find it necessary:
if one has seen something exciting in the street
he must tell it –
perhaps because man is communicative –
but, after he has told his vision
once or twice,
handed on his knowledge to two or three,
he is free to go about his other business.”

So here I am, self-publishing. It doesn’t cost you anything. It doesn’t cost me anything. People around the world could be reading. I still hope to get my poems in other people’s books & magazines (this past Saturday I got a rejection from Slipstream) so I hold back from posting poem after poem on my blog(s). A magazine wants to be a poem’s first publisher!

If you see a poem posted on a blog, do you skip over it? I tend to, I’ll have to admit. So that would be one reason I refrain from posting my own. I sit down with magazines and fat anthologies and read page after page of poems, but something about the computer screen reduces my patience?

I’ve thought when reflecting on the price of postage that I’m buying an audience for my poems one editor at a time. Even if they choose not to publish it – somebody’s read it!

It seems to me a chapbook, a little book of my poems, would be a good thing to give away. I could send a copy to every poet whose poems I’ve liked! Some would even read it. Especially the ones who’ve never gotten a fan letter in their lives. But maybe I’d get an occasional thank you from the famous ones, too. My brother has boxes of a comic which his publisher passed back to him. (The first issue of Misspent Youths is available online; you can buy copies of the next four issues, too.) He hasn’t sold any in a long time, I think he said. I wonder if he’s filled up envelopes and mailed them off to the writers & artists he admires? If you do it over the course of years it wouldn’t be a big expense. It seems like a good idea. It seems like something I should do. If I only had a little chapbook, I say to myself.

source of poem: Another World: a second anthology of work from the St Mark’s poetry project, edited by Anne Waldman


David Lee Ingersoll said...

I haven't mailed out copies of Misspent Youths to authors and artists I like. I did that when I was publishing the minicomics. I had the copies on hand so that seemed like a logic thing to do. I even got the occasional response. I have a nice letter from Clive Barker somewhere.

The trouble with mailing out MY now is that it's not representative of me now. I'm quite proud of it for what it was. I'm happy to give it to anyone who might like it. It's easier to mail out copies of GLYPH. That looks enough like my current work that I don't feel like I need to include an explanation along with the magazine.

Jim Murdoch said...

I have mixed feeling about poetry 'published' on-line. I scan every one of them I run across but, like you, I read very few properly. That said, I do pretty much the same with books of poetry or poetry journals. I have very specific tastes when it comes to poetry and the bottom line is that I don't like much of it but every now and then I stumble across a poem that speaks to me and, when I do, I will revisit the site.

Apart from on-line magazines I do include poems in my blogs but they're always integral to the post. I think putting the poems out on their own would be a lot riskier. The simple truth, and this has been true for a long time, anyone publishing poetry by any means has to do it for the love of it. Giving away chapbooks is no different to sending out review copies, it's a form of marketing – you're trying to attract readers.

The thing about the web is that it attracts readers. I get scores every day – not quite hundreds yet – but after seven months hundreds have checked out my site and many will have read my poems. Eventually, maybe even already, more people will read my work on-line than off. What I need to do is keep trying to attract new readers which is why I make decent comments on sites like yours and it works.

By all means get a chapbook printed up but what about a PDF version for on-line too?

Glenn Ingersoll said...

My tastes in poetry aren't very specific -- yet I still "don't like much of it but every now and then I stumble across a poem that speaks to me ..." I read a lot of poetry so that every now & then keeps turning up.