Jumping the Poetic Hurdle (part 6) – an interview with Tiggy Johnson

To continue the discussion about the publication and distribution of poetry in Australia, I thought it would be interesting to speak with publishers of literary journals both in print and online. First up I spoke with Tiggy Johnson from literary annual, page seventeen.


As a small, independent publisher, what do you see are the major challenges for the publication and distribution of poetry in the 21st century?

This is a tough one and probably something I don’t tend to think about a lot. Maybe I should, and, after engaging in discussions about this with other small, independent publishers, I often come away feeling like there’s heaps more for me to do. But, if I am honest with myself, I think it might be more suitable that I stay perhaps somewhat naïve as, if I spend too much time and energy worrying about publication and particularly distribution of poetry, it would all seem too hard and I’d possibly give it all away.

This is possibly a luxury I can afford given I am such a small publisher, producing only one literary journal per year. At times, I have considered producing additional titles, but other than the time commitment (that I don’t currently have), I guess the idea of marketing and distribution turns me off a little. For now, I am happy with the success of page seventeen and doing the distribution myself.

I feel it’s unlikely that there will be a solution to distribution in the near future.


Why is it that poetry, an art that arguably best reflects the speed at which we absorb ideas, information and imagery, is being neglected by corporate publishing houses and distributors throughout Australia?

Perhaps if Jamie Durie were to write a collection this might change? And really, we probably don’t want that. It’s all about the money. Everyone knows there’s no money in publishing poetry. Independent publishers publish poetry for other reasons, such as its cultural value, and accept that they may sell enough copies only to ensure they may continue to publish more.


Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel? What is the future of poetry publishing and distribution?

I don’t see a light as far as distribution of actual books goes, but there are more poetry journals appearing online. This will help ensure poetry remains available to readers as well as potentially helping the (non-poetry-reading) public to become more aware of its existence. Advances in printing technology also help ensure books are still being produced. Printing costs wouldn’t be viable for page seventeen if it weren’t for digital technology.


What is on the horizon for page seventeen?

Mostly more of the same. Issue 7 in 2009. I’m not currently looking to produce anything additional to the annual issue of page seventeen.

However things are changing from the inside with procedures and so on. With the current issue (Issue 6), I stepped aside from reading submissions, and adopted an editorial committee. This proved to be successful for everyone involved, and so it will continue to happen. I guess we are moving from a journal that not only promotes the published work of new writers (along those who are more established, of course) to a publisher that provides additional opportunities to those ‘new’ to the field in other ways too.

In 2009 we will be running our short story and poetry competition again and will also be accepting general submissions. We are changing the general submission guidelines too, so look out for those, along with a new cover sheet.


About Tiggy:

Tiggy Johnson is the editor/publisher of the annual literary journal page seventeen. She also writes fiction and poetry, some of which can be found in Cordite, paper wasp, kipple, The Mozzie and on Melbourne (Connex) trains as part of the Moving Galleries exhibition. She was awarded 2nd prize in the Herald-Sun Short Story Competition 2004, and her short story collection Svetlana or otherwise was published in 2007 (Mockingbird/Ginninderra Press).

Find out more:


Filed under poetry & publishing

7 responses to “Jumping the Poetic Hurdle (part 6) – an interview with Tiggy Johnson

  1. I thought I’d ask here, whether any of us could pin-point some of the things that made print publication so satisfying? Becuase isn’t it interesting, as Tiggy said, that digital technology, rather than quickly eradiacte the printed book, has made printing cheaper?

    • gnunn

      Hi Ashley. For me, print publication is satisfying on so many levels… it is a tangible thing, an object of beauty. Reading a book/magazine/journal is a sensory (some may say sensual) experience. I know I will forever marvel at the feel of quality paper, the smell of an old book, the sensation of turning the page.

  2. tiggy

    It isn’t just readers who seem to prefer a print publication. Writers do too. In general, anyway. While there are many great online magazines/opportunities for publication these days, many writers still prefer the print ones. Sometimes to the extent of not submitting to online magazines at all. Interesting in itself given the readership potential.

    • gnunn

      I definitely prefer the print ones Tiggy, but not at the expense of submitting to online journals… I think many writeres still attach the notion of prestige to print journals, although, online journals such as Mascara Poetry are now paying authors for their work, so I think even that will begin to change. My preference for the print journals lies in my old fashioned love of books and the joy of receiving something in the post. It is a thrill I will never tire of, although storing them all gets difficult!

  3. Yes! That’s got to be part of it – it is tangible, it’s something, as you said, that can be held and experienced with the more pyhsical senses along with the mental. You can’t turn a webpage can you?

    I think I’m guilty of what Tiggy has pointed out, as a writer. I generally send more poems to print rather than online sources. a little odd, seeing, as you point out, Tiggy, that the readship potential is giant!

    • gnunn

      Interestingly enough Ashley, there are programs now where you can turn a webpage… doesn’t have the same sound and feel though!

  4. really? wow! that is odd. and you’re right, it wouldn’t feel the same. odd that we could ‘turn’ something without touching it

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