Sea-Camel

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The House of Asterion


A Casa de Astérion by Nuno Medeiros

I know they accuse me of arrogance, and perhaps of misanthropy, and perhaps of madness. Such accusations (for which I shall extract punishment in due time) are derisory. It is true that I never leave my house, but it is also true that its doors (whose number is infinite) are open day and night….Anyone may enter. [Jorge Luís Borges]

Excellent conversations all over Blogland. Concerns, concerns, concerns. (Rachmaninov playing in the background. I’m looking for desperate effect here guys.) But, really, some interesting stuff going around. Eddie Corral concerned over his manuscript possibilities (it’s almost there) and C. Dale giving some great advise on getting published. Bino’s to-do list I cannot do here, but here is my naïve question, as usual: in light of the existing immediacy offered by Internet, its far-reaching potential, is it possible to “publish” on the net maintaining the same quality standards that exist in print? Why can’t poetry, of all written literary media, find its respected place on the net thereby demystifying the publishing labyrinth?

I realize the economic implications involved in what I’m asking. Those implications draw a double-edged sword. On the one hand the big houses publish in order to make money or to win prices or to create prestige and, yes, eventually more money. Everyone knows that artistic merry-go-round. Fair enough. At the same time poetry, we hear, makes no money so publishers can’t afford to spend valuable resources on it. Fair enough too. So much fairness, in fact, that it all ends up being a game: there are only so many possibilities to publish and only so many poets that can be published. Supply and demand. Call the equation what you will. Since “getting published” is a game —one that requires a great deal of effort and a command of obstacle course rules as C. Dale and others have demonstrated— the best poetry may not necessarily be what gets published. (The one-handed clapping poet I’ll leave for another day.) Let’s not get all huffed and puffed here; not just yet, I haven’t thrown sand in anybody’s eyes. It just seems to me that the accomplishment of publishing has become more and more a career trail than an artistic one. Can a well-disciplined M.B.A. with a sure hand (a bit of compass, ruler and metronome) and that steady pulse for the line break have a better chance of getting published than the best crop reciting out of Iowa, Columbia or Timbuktu? You tell me.

Quality publishing on the net might be a solution. It should be the solution though it is of no interest that it be so at this time. Hard-binders and toilet-seat readers beware. In every country more and more people are trying their hand at poetry —poets being few and far between no matter what medium is involved— but those trying are beginning to do so by having their voices heard, literally heard, on the Internet. Why then so many submission rules for that poem on paper? Why so many restrictions? How many stamps must still be licked? I know: supply and demand. But if poetry is what it’s supposed to be, don’t laugh, that most special of arts, then why so many walls to climb, so many moats to cross? Yes, in this new millennium, most editors will not read three poems submitted via e-mail and assess them and reply to them in the time it should take (less than how many months?) because part of the game requires that you —desperate post office roamer— lick yet another stamp. It’s harder to reach the Ivory Tower than to write something worthy of it. Otherwise the song remains the same: Wake me up when this dream is over.

29 Comments:

  • i get to comment first. wepaaa!

    what's the prize? what's the prize?????

    anyway . . .

    there was a time in my life when all i thought about was publishing. i wanted poems in The Kenyon Review, the Nation and all the journals imaginable. but i especially wanted to be in The Nation. it would be the poetic god's pat on a back. after all, The Nation only publishes what? a dozen poems a year? i wanted a novel with a big house, so luckily, i got published by Random House. A few years later (which is right about now), i often ask myself, so kid, now that you got all you wanted, what difference does it make in your life?

    the answer is simple: none. it was nice while it lasted. the adrenalin boost from seeing my poem in The Nation lasted about one week. being with random house is okay, nice, but do i get to stay in the palace? we'll see. (but this is not about fiction, i forget)

    what's important to me these days when it comes to poetry? when i give a poem to someone and he smiles. i would love the idea of publishing my own little chapbooks of poems and giving them out for free, without regard for credentials, etc. i love your idea of publishing on-line as well (it lasts longer; my webdelsol chapbook was from 1998!).

    but then, i can dream about this because i have publishing credentials. i can live my little fantasy of distributing my own poems en-masse cuz right now, publishing a book of poems will not make such a big difference in my writing life, if there is such.

    back track many beautiful years. if i read your blog when i was just starting, i would have said, great idea, but i want to be in The Nation (that was the young, famished me of the distant past).

    it's hard, huh? it's like choosing between a good book and a beautiful man. i always choose the latter.

    yet, i can see what you mean. i can see a world where all poetry books are published, where everyone who calls himself a poet get to see his book in print. i would love to see that happen. we go to poetry readings, we get free chapbooks and a glass of shiraz. because after all, even with all these book competitions, still garbage of work is overflowing. garbage a.k.a award-winning book.

    you are such a romantic man. that's what i like about your blogs.

    but then again,

    i want a prize! i want a prize!!!!

    buenas noches. miau.

    By Blogger bino, at 1:12 AM  

  • And the prize is, querido Bino, a hand-written, original draft of none other than the exquisite, unnerving, provoquing “Raising (minor) Poets”, with a personal dedication by Little Emerson. There. Should work like a pacifier. (No wise-ass remarks from you, Mr.!)

    Ok, I know I’m a romantic. Don’t take that against me. You must remember that my favorite fictional character remains Don Quixote. Sancho is a close second, so that should tell you. Quixotic. Yes. But I don’t want to be misread either. This post is not in any way mocking of those who pursue publishing as they must. I have a great respect for people who struggle—like yourself, Ivy Álvarez, Suzanne, Charles and so many others. I respect you all greatly because that is the game—only a game—but it must be played. Unfortunately, in the end too much of it is just that: a fucking game and you know that games get to be won in many ways. In this one, not always by the best. But talking like this sounds like sour grapes. That couldn’t be further from the truth. But I will not belabor the point. If people truly wanted to promote poetry there are different ways beyond the traditional channels. But this still remains about Major Leagues vs. the Minors. I thought about titling the post “Many a Donald Justice”, but I wasn’t up to the irony.

    Thank you for such a considerate comment.

    Un abrazo,
    Alberto

    By Blogger A.R.B., at 7:54 PM  

  • happy new year alber!!!

    thanks for your response!

    i have never followed the "traditional" route, if that means going to an MFA program, teaching in one, and making a name by creating "cliques" and "networks."

    i have always been a community writer/activist, and have decided to keep it that way. notwithstanding, i have published poetry in what one might consider "major" literary journals. i have also published a novel in what one might consider a "major" house.

    if to prove a simple point--that an aspiring writer can somehow make it by staying true to his community, by not going for an mfa, or living off of the "ivory tower" paycheck, then i guess i am making my mark that way. it's the alternative route, but it's doable.

    i don't think i'm "struggling" as a writer. at least i hope not. i'm riding the flow of living, writing being a part of it. i am grateful now to be in the position of being "solicited" by journals. it comes with the territory, doesn't it? sometimes, the doors just open.

    it is a brilliant post, however, i mean, yours. in fact, i am cooking up something in my head as a result of what you wrote. i will report back and see how successful i am in putting this "plan" together.

    if it's alber's dream to make good poetry publicly available, then elserenito must come to help. i think many of your ideas are possible. and it's good to have someone like you around who come from the alternative point of view.

    there's too many of these same types of poets floating about, it's refreshing to find someone like yourself who BELIEVE in dreams.

    i do agree, in poetry at least, that publishing is very much in the careerist mode. but i am hopeful that there are indeed poets out there who like you believe that publishing is an act of sharing, not an advancement for tenure, for getting an award, or for whatever other reason that a circle of like-minded poets might be doing.

    a co-worker recently told me about her poet "friend" who doesnt invite her to certain events because my co-worker is not a poet and is therefore assumed not to understand poetry. my co-worker attended a recent poetry reading of this friend and felt alienated because of the high-nose holier-than-thou attitude of this circle of poets who read. it is very sad to hear her recount her experience. sadly, the poetry world is full of these people with bloated egos. is it so hard to remember that poetry is about sharing and connecting and not glowing in the dark?

    happy new year again. may the roosters crow so loud these poets wake up.

    and i--just a meow.

    By Blogger bino, at 4:35 AM  

  • Querido Bino,

    I guess people publish for many reasons. Publishing is important. How’s that for original and brilliant? However, I am most interested in poetry, not in games. If the point of publishing is to let us know who is writing something worthy out there (how’s that for romantic?), then I only suggest that the same can be accomplished more effectively through the internet than through other means. Questions of quality control always arise, but don’t they always? Always. This is not about making poetry accessible. Most couldn’t care less. In fact, I couldn’t care less about making poetry more or less accessible or of inventing new ways to sell more poetry. I’ll leave that to the hot-dog industry. I’m talking about avenues for those who care to write poetry—for themselves—because they have no choice about it. I want to read that poetry. I’m not interested in poetry written for me or my community. I want to be the invisible reader. I’m interested in the poet’s poetry because it is hers. That’s all. Everything else can be done better in prose. Don Quixote proved that 400 years ago. And Hamlet was great enough to disagree.

    Bless,
    Alberto

    By Blogger A.R.B., at 12:20 AM  

  • cambiando el tema . . .

    q lindo este templo sin las turistas con cámaras.

    q lindo el silencio

    q lindo la paz

    q linda la poesia

    q lindo los poemas sin conocer sus poetas

    voy a aprovechar este momento de silencio, de soledad. yo sé que mañaña, todo el mundo regresará aquí, yo tendré que salir.

    mañaña, mañaña, la locura llegará . . .

    By Blogger bino, at 1:23 AM  

  • hi did you ever visit a wierd site in germany ?
    www.art-chaos.de
    thats mine but i´m not a german just life in berlin its a cool City
    so greetings from berlin

    By Blogger Henri Banks, at 1:36 AM  

  • I read your conversation with interest. I just think there are so many assumptions being made here. Who cares if the poet has an MD or a JD or is a construction worker, has an MFA, doesn't have an MFA, wants to publish, doesn't want to publish?? No one is that unidimensional that one can fairly say that all MFAs are a certain way or if you don't have an MFA, you are a certain way. I think your conversation is at the root of the problem of the poetry divisiveness that occurs--too many judgments and assumptions being made. Just write good poems. It's that simple. And if you want your poems to be read, just send them out wherever you want. Don't criticize other people for wanting to publish and win prizes and don't elevate yourself if you don't value prizes or think you somehow "know" something that other silly people who enter contests don't know. Just chill and let people be, for god's sake.

    Bino, you might be where you're at, but that's just you, and everyone respects your opinion for just being a part of you. If someone else wants to go out and win every prize out there, that's them, and you should learn to accept them for being them. I'm sure everyone knows it's in the end, all about the work.

    And to Alberto, it can be a "game," as C. Dale said in his blog. Play it or don't. There are lots of poets who don't play any "game." They don't know people, don't schmooze, just send small packets of poems to editors they don't know, and sometimes they do just great. Online or not, it doesn't matter, it should be a personal choice, not under scrutiny or criticism of anyone. I don't mean to attack either of you, just providing my thoughts.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:30 PM  

  • Alberto, Where are you? A whole week and no word from you at all. We want "Little Fucking Emerson" back!

    By Blogger C. Dale, at 9:00 PM  

  • Hi Bino,

    ¿Qué tal? ¿Disfrutando del silencio? Llevo varios días que no puedo blogear. No sé por qué. Puede ser gripe o un poco de resfriado, pero lo cierto es que me encuentro desganado. Blah. Como se dice en inglés americano. Gracias por tus ánimos...y por tu grata compañía en el silencio. Bonito, el silencio este. Tranquilo. Pero mucho me temo que pronto despertaré.

    Un abrazo.
    Alberto (el calladito)

    By Blogger A.R.B., at 11:11 PM  

  • Hello Henri,

    Truth be told I never did visit a crazy site in Germany. Must get around to it (should I wake up from my slumber). Thanks for stopping at this crazy house in Spain. Mi casa es tu casa. (My home is your home.)

    Cheers,
    Alberto

    By Blogger A.R.B., at 11:14 PM  

  • What’s up, anonymous? Good of you to stop by. Too bad I can’t see your face. I like to look at people’s eyes when I talk to them. Hard to know who you’re speaking to at times in your response. I mean this sincerely. I, for one, have made no assumptions. I am normally not one to assume too readily. Also, I do not criticize anyone for publishing or trying to. That would be foolish. If you can get beyond my verbosity you’ll notice that all I’m saying—as Bino interpreted correctly—is that if poetry were all that mattered (yes, naïve, and yes, very very naïve) then who would care about publishing in print at all? Why so many obstacles? And, yes, I strongly stand by my “this is a game” comment when I refer to much of the publishing ordeal. This does not mean that people should not try and play the game to succeed. Of course they should try. They must! But that wasn’t my point. I guess you have to read Don Quixote to understand some of the irony, the craziness and the foolishness that exists in this great game we call the world. That’s right. The whole thing is a game. From cradle to grave. I guess I must write that “Too Many a Donald Justice” after all.

    I just don’t want to be misinterpreted. Whenever I criticize what appears to be an accepted standard it seems like the word “sour grapes” comes to mind. Nothing could be further from the truth. (By the way, you’re right: writing worthy poems is all that matters. But most are not worthy. Most. All else remains a good intention and a shot played in the game, down-the-line, a couple bases at most. Few homers. Yes, as long and as boring as most ball games. But worth the wait, no?, for that hit at the right moment. Should the playing field matter?)

    I really do appreciate your input. Wish you had a name.

    Alberto

    By Blogger A.R.B., at 11:37 PM  

  • Hi, C. Dale. Just on the weather side of that climb back the mountain. Did I tell you I almost died once on a mountain? Guess I didn’t. The story gets old and cold and lonely, like forgetting to pray at the cross sites. Their weather-beaten names haunt you.

    Be back soon.

    Alberto (I didn’t tell L.F. Emerson you asked about him. He now parts his hair down the middle and turns these funny curlicues on the tips of his moustache. He might actually think you take him seriously. But we must let L.F. be. He’s still stuck on Faust and Mahler’s Fifth. Frankly, it beats blogging. And he’s never wrong.)

    By Blogger A.R.B., at 11:51 PM  

  • Does this mean you found a copy of Mahler's Fifth? Does this mean you have listened to the Adagietto movement in it? Did you just die listening to it? I need to know.

    By Blogger C. Dale, at 1:23 AM  

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