Friday, February 06, 2009

eBook poetry? Not yet!

I had an interesting lunch today with my friend, the eminent gadfly of poetry criticism David Alpaugh. We got to talking about new publishing paradigms and how they might affect poetry. I mentioned the Kindle and other such eBook reading devices. David asked if those were the new devices that let you flip the pages.

So I came home and did a little research. And found that no, the Kindle and Sony Reader don't have anything that might be described as paging capabilities. I paged through the Kindle bookstore and was aghast to find they don't even have a CATEGORY for Poetry. Some eBook revolution. Finally I located a few titles with the word "poetry" in them, and a few public domain classics like Leaves of Grass which they at least sell for only 99 cents (free elsewhere on the Internet, I might add).

Then I tried the Sony eBook reader and was happily surprised to discover that Sony at least has actually heard of university presses and carries some poetry books by actual living recognized poets, such as Yusef Komunyakaa, Amy Gerstler, Charles Bernstein. However, only 32 poetry collections appear in their whole catalog!

Then I tried poetry anthologies. At both Amazon and Sony, most anthologies were either of 19th century poets or had titles like "How to Survive the Worst Day of Your Life by Writing a Poem About It".

Apparently, small press publishing isn't even a blip on the radar in this new publishing paradigm. I guess it's still all about the money and bestsellers. What a surprise.

But if you are ready to fork over your $400 for one of these readers anyway -- DON'T BUY UNTIL YOU SEE THIS: on New Scientist, a video demonstration of a dual display eBook reader. The video shows how important it is for a reader to be able to flip back and forth through pages. And to compare one book to another. And yes, a device that can do that is being contemplated.

But the dual-display eBook has yet to be marketed. I don't know about you, but my $400 investment will wait for the page-flippng eBook reader. I need that capability for research as well as reading for pleasure.

Look out, Sony and Kindle -- the academic market is a big one. Your current devices may not cut it for students, writers and researchers. And for poets -- looks like good old print is here to stay for quite awhile. At least we'll still have our beautiful cover art. And paper between our fingrs.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Women. Period.

Well, it was overdue. No, not that. I won't be having another of those.

It's the debut of a new anthology: Women. Period.

It's about -- well, you know.

I've never tried before to promote an anthology on the topic of menstruation, so this will be a new experience. Glancing through the collection, I am impressed by the names, the range of approaches, the mix of poems and prose pieces. Not to mention the thickness of the book, the quality of the printing. Spinsters Ink does a great job -- and they sent me 5 contributor's copies! I feel well paid. It's nice just to see "Blood-Cycle Brooding" in print again.


"25 things about me" is making its way around Facebook as the new, addictive time-sponge. I think it's the invention of a new literary form. My entry was "25 (Really Brief) Things About Me." An excerpt:

1. My great grandmother Alice Patterson Shibley was a Theosophist and the first woman osteopath.

2. My name is orbiting the earth on a piece of space junk.

3. I still have the tattoo I accidentally gave myself with a pen and India ink.

4. My middle name is Etta.

5. I saw the legendary Mary Martin perform three of her signature musical stage roles in South Pacific, Peter Pan and Annie Get Your Gun. And have never gotten over it.

6. When I was ten, I believed that I was going to grow up and go find my real home in ancient Egypt.

7. I once wrote a Nancy Drew mystery novel called "The Prisoner of the Locked Room." (The book is stilled locked in my literary "trunk").

8. I have written six (unpublished) novels.

9. I once learned a Hawaiian rain dance and made it rain (on Kauai, where admittedly it rains all the time).

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Book Contest Season

It's that time of year again -- no, not Groundhog Day, something much more momentous. It's the six-week period when most poetry book contests are open. If you are marketing a slim volume, this is your moment of sunshine to grab. Also your moment to spend a small fortune in contest fees. It's not as expensive as a Hawaiian vacation, but in the vicinity of a very nice weekend away. Actually, I know someone who went for 5 days to Hawaii on a package tour and paid under $900. And I've heard of poets spending upwards of $1,000 on contests, so maybe getting your book to win one is as costly as a good vacation.

I don't plan to spend my vacation money, even though I am marketing a manuscript. My strategy is to cherry-pick contests, find judges whose work I like, or who might have shown some inclination to like mine. And even more important, I will pick contests staffed by people who have shown they like my work -- editors of journals where I've been accepted. If I don't know who the readers and judges are, I'll stay way. Makes sense, doesn't it, to find first readers who might be simpatico?

I'll try all the presses that don't charge fees, as long as they seem to do a decent job as publishers. But most of all, I will try the ones that have published books I like! Probably this isn't any better than throwing darts at a list, but it will let me feel good about the few checks I do write.

The whole contest thing, as poet David Alpaugh pointed out, seems like evidence of the great disinterest the public shows in poetry. Nobody's buying the books, so the publishers have to charge the authors.

Solution: buy poetry books and eschew contests! Pass it along.