Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bloghopping: Listening to Literature

Found a new zine that publishes audio versions of fiction and nonfiction -- The Drum. A nice companion to Whale Sound, which does audio publication of poetry. Words on breath, what literature was meant to be, at least short literature like poems, essays, and stories. With authors like Gina Ochsner, Susan Orlean, and Paul Harding, this looks like excellent listening.

Whale Sound currently has Wendy Babiak's wonderful "Ekphrasis on a Screensaver." Take a listen.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Non-contest poetry book publishers and the paradigm

Sparked by the Poets and Writers article on contests, and Anis Shivani's article in the Huffington Post, the debate about whether contests are good for poetry flares up high again. We seem to be locked into the contest paradigm, and yet the natives are restless, at least some of them are. Marginalization, as always, creates resistance, rebellion, and ultimately revolution. I am speaking metaphorically, of course, but I do think the anti-contest sentiment is building, even among poets who have supported it in the past. Just a quick look at the numbers reveals why: those who need to publish poetry books are too numerous for the number of contest wins available -- by far.

So what new model of poetry publishing can be developed, given the cultural marginalization of the art? I've felt for a long time that e-publishing, which is changing the landscape of prose publishing very quickly, will exert a similar transformative effect on po-biz. Perhaps a little more emphasis on biz -- on how to attract audiences and book buyers -- would help.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Poetry book contest + updates on my Non-Contest Publishers Page

Anis Shivani, in a Huffington Post article about poetry book contests, makes an excellent point about how contests damage the art:

Is this the best way to discover new poetry talent in the country? What happens to editorial judgment, consistent aesthetic vision, commitment to particular values, building a movement, advocating for a particular style, and creating a critical mass of new writing if the contest model is allegedly based in "impartiality" and "blindness"--in other words, pretends to be the exemplar of democracy, egalitarianism, and disavowal of values?

My page of poetry book publishers who read outside of contests -- and presumably exercise this type of editorial judgment, rather than giving it over to grad student screeners -- has been updated. The venerable Tupelo Press was added, and also some information about reading periods and reading fees (the new sneaky way of getting the same amount of money as in a contest, but with a different evaluation paradigm).

I agree with Shivani's basic idea: we need to rethink in this country how poetry is edited and published if we don't want to see poetry further marginalized and made tepid and culturally insignificant. A lot of people like poetry and have never heard of any of the books being published to great fanfare. What's wrong with this picture? Publishers complain about the media ignoring poetry, but I wonder if there's a good reason it mostly gets ignored.