Thursday, February 22, 2007

Did Poetry Win the Lottery?

Check out this piece in the New Yorker about the massive amount of money that the Poetry Foundation has and how they're spending it. Here's the Poetry Foundation's response.

To summarize: The Poetry Foundation has a shit-ton of money, way more money than you ever thought poetry would attract. They are using it to publish Poetry, syndicate Ted Koosier's newspaper column, buy an office building, maintain a web site, promote poetry to nationally circulated consumer magazines, etc. A lot of people in the poetry community are annoyed, pissed or outright angry at the way the money is being spent, primarily because the Poetry Foundation takes a "do it our way/go-it-alone" approach rather than redistributing the money to the scores of independent publishers and artists who could use it.

My opinion: I'm not speaking for Dennis and Chris, but my general attitude is "Who cares?" The New Yorker sets up the story as a confrontation--People who favor the Poetry Foundation must believe in A, B, C. People who disagree with the Poetry Foundation must believe in X, Y, Z.

That's a convenient story-telling device, but it misses the point. Both sides have merit. Both sides have weaknesses. Both sides also have proponents with self-serving agendas, so they benefit by dismissing each other outright.

One joy of running Red Morning Press is that our merits and weaknesses don't matter that much. We all have jobs outside poetry, so what other publishers and poets think about our mission, our aesthetic, our fashion sense, whatever--it doesn't really concern us. We're going to publish poetry we regardless of how much money the Poetry Foundation spends or how much people rail against it.

As long as we can afford it, no one can really stop us from putting good books into the world. That's one of the reasons I encourage poets I meet to think about self-publishing. It's not that difficult or expensive, and the freedom to do it the way you want is priceless.


1 comment:

Thomas said...

Your sentiments remind of something that Baraka said in an interview I read recently: "I think you all, you writers, you publish your stuff. All you need is a mimeograph. You don’t need a whole lot of money and stuff. In this day and age of Kinko’s--we didn’t have that when I was coming up--you can get twenty books published in five minutes. For the next poetry reading you can print twenty or thirty books and then sell them. I would do that. You love the poetry, you’re writing the poetry, put it together, charge a couple of dollars for it. You can make the money back you spent and get your work out. To me that’s the best armament for writers. Always have your stuff with you. Always. Mash it on somebody. Sell it. Give it away. You’re a writer, you want people to read your work. Right? That’s what you want. If you want to get rich, get into another field! But if you want to write, you want people to read your writing, well then, write it down and publish it, give it away."