Saturday, August 25, 2012

August poem

Sharing this poem which will appear in my forthcoming collection Gods of Water and Air. I'm not entirely sure from which publisher it will be forthcoming, as I've had some publishing mishaps you can read about earlier in this blog. But it will forthcome. Here's a poem that originally appeared in Pilgrimage:

Anvil of Light

In a forgotten valley studded with runic oaks,
            at mid-August, on an anvil of light
            my breath and two swallows rise and fall.

Nearing to the remembered place,
            a wail of distant insects
            riffles the distance like notes in a weird scale.
            Solitude comes to an intersection

And a figure-eight of melody
            startles up out of the grass.
Involuntary, this godward thing called praise.
            It lights on a weed tip
            and its wings radiate out.

The wind’s tides roll through dry weeds, on and on,
            a Greek chorus of Why, Why, Why.
A mockingbird's tail flicks.
            The silent ring of the lupine bells.

Still, I don’t know where I am
            until I watch a pencil-tick
crawl up a poppy's thigh
and black-spotted wings sprout

from my back. I flap away
            to a dry height from which I can see
            the question’s shape. Here
            is really nowhere. Are you nowhere too?

How can anyone ever trap matter in words?
Or ever make ideas as apple-fine as this air?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Future of Publishing and Mine in It

Since hearing that Kitsune Books, the publisher of Gods of Water and Air, my third poetry collection, was ending business operations on December 31, I've researched small press publishing to try and understand what had happened and what to do. I had picked Kitsune partly because they were a rare combination, a press publishing both poetry and prose, and I have a novel to publish. What I've found shocked me, even though I had a picture of the tenuous nature of publishing, especially small publishing companies.

Print publishing, as we all know, is becoming an endangered species, as the sale of e-books now is increasing while print sales remain flat. And poetry publishing is very endangered -- yet poetry itself is flourishing in some ways. As an American art form, poetry is abandoning its academic and literary roots  and becoming, by way of slam, rap, rock, and readings, a folk art. Poetry performance is thriving; the printed word is dying. It's becoming a younger art, a pop culture and social phenomenon.

Like Kitsune Books, most poetry presses in America are operations as fragile as the health or will of its often sole operator. That means a press's entire catalog and backlist of books is vulnerable to sudden disappearance.

Do you ever think to ask a press that's offering you a publishing contract about their gross sales or net profit margin? How many full-time staff members? Or average sales are for a poetry book? I sure didn't ask such questions, not with my last three publishers. And because I remained ignorant, I had unpleasant surprises. Not that they were bad experiences, but that I was unprepared to face how frail these companies are, how they may even be hobbyist ventures, and what little resemblance most of them bear to conventional book publishing and the expectations an author might reasonably have in that context. I have lived and am learning. Who knows, I might start a press myself one day.

What I've learned is: poetry is an endangered species; poetry has never been as popular in the last 25 years; contemporary poetry bears little resemblance to anything in print; poetry is an almost all-volunteer effort; poetry has migrated into other cultural forms. All these are true. Yet something else is happening. Poets are starting self-publishing collectives, publishing e-books, publishing spoken-word CDs, reading on the radio, forming Facebook communities, printing broadsides, making book trailer videos, appearing on Youtube, even showering cities with printed poems. Poetry will never die. Print and bookstores may.