Tag Archives: Publishing

Get the lowdown on the writing industry

By popular demand, the good folk over at Speakeasy have posted the Australian Writer’s Marketplace, Industry Blogroll.

This is a ‘must bookmark’ page for writers of any genre as it boasts informative blogs by children’s authors, short fiction writers, literary agents, publishers, screenwriters, book sellers and poets (including this Lost Shark). There is enough gold on offer here to start your own mine!

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Ashley Capes: Stepping Over Seasons (a review by Patricia Prime)

Stepping Over Seasons, Ashley CapesInteractive Press, Queensland, Australia.  2009.  64 pp. ISBN: 978-1-921479-32-8.  AUS$25.  

Reviewed by Patricia Prime

In his latest collection of poetry Ashley Capes mines the quotidian.  The seasons play an important part in the life of the poet as he moves from “no whispers to quicken fruit” (“dawn”) through the “sagging tent ropes” of “slow moon” to “these / people and their autumn-house hold together” in “autumn-house.”  Detailing the typical emotional routines of life today – marriage, home, a bus ride, a farm, the small town, the intersections and intrusions of the issues of the day, and the occasional time for thoughts about nature, death and God, Capes explores the links between nature and human nature.  He typically writes simple one- or two-page poems with little or no punctuation.  His introspective moments are triggered by rain, the moon, mushrooms, night, sunrise, butterflies, an echidna, autumn, grass seeds, and particularly small town life. 

His style, not surprisingly, is lean, employing one-paragraph poems, or poems with short stanzas.  Within these parameters Capes is good at what he does, while a few poems step outside his normal range: the surreal longer poem “leaking,” for example, or the clever poem “on the road,” contrasting the narrative of driving with the thoughts of what would happen “if they found your body.”  And Capes’ issue poems, few in number but well-constructed, include the poem about the act of writing “take five,” and “black comedy” where the focus is on death:

 or will I, in fact, be able
 to laugh at my body as it’s lowered into a hole,
 for some reason
 in a suit in a box with
 a pillow and my teeth probably
 very clean and maybe
 whitened too,
 in case wherever I’m going
 I’d need a great smile?

Much more representative is “overlook,” regarding great poets, who “romanticize their towns” contrasted with Capes’ home,

 with street corners and marigolds
 painted in vomit

 industrial strength
 cigars, puffing second-hand
 smoke into the sky

 three inland surf shops
 dozens of bars, six fast-food chains
 and one theatre

Capes lives in the world: “from the river / the echo of our fishing trips / and dark lines / polishing the shore.” (“tar and white paint”).

Capes’ language with all its sensuousness is the language of spontaneous overflow.  Factuality goes along with the feelings and the emotions and there is an evident sobriety present in the poems.  He builds his verses, several with headlong continuity and fitting compactly phrase to phrase and line to line, so that his poems present an overall visual impression of clarity.  This solidarity is an aspect of sensibility.  Capes is perfectly aware of the fleeting nature of experience, yet equally aware of its reality.  So he takes things as they come: savours them, ponders them, feels them and fixes them in durable verse, as we see in “bitches brew”:

 once, at the gate,
 bragging about loneliness
 he made a bow out of blue ribbon
 and hung it above her headstone
 murmuring to the wind.

In this particular passage the final effect is aesthetic prompted by stylization of the persona and the image of the headstone in the final line.  Characteristically Capes exemplifies an acceptance of the whole of life, of his own humility – toughly, zestfully, serenely.  In the first part of the two-part poem “botanic,” he writes about the park “full of photographers”  and also full of readers, ibis, people and a “Chinese couple / posing for wedding photos.”  But beyond this tranquil scene lies the city with its sirens, streets humming with threats and the casino.  His equity is in simply being alive to the sights and sounds that surround him.

Capes’ poetry is, in fact, as eminently social as it is personal.  It registers with a touch of irony the people at a hotel pool: “a man opens a window / grunt riding / beads of sweat down his chin” (“royal on the park”).  The poem “by the curve” records with humour the man waiting for a loved one to return:

 a teacup sits on the sink
 inside, imagined marks
 where you held it,
 not by the handle
 but by the curve, to fit a palm
 aching from winter

The final poem “the jacket” offers an arresting image of “a filthy spring jacket” left lying on a chair which the reader feels must be of importance to the poet for

 in the jacket
 you linger in traces
 and I rake them with my hands
 collect every scent.

Here is a poet who writes with immense clarity and real verbal music on the main themes of life – love, loss and death – with humour and sensitivity.


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The publishing game (part II)

A while back I posted details of a handful of literary magazines and journals currently publishing poetry in this fine country of ours. This time around I cast the net over the UK and bring you details of some of the hottest publishing opportunities currently on offer in that neck of the woods. Thanks to Ralph over at Currajah for sharing this great article: Notes from the Underground – a fresh breed of literary journals.

Some of magazines and journals well worth checking out in this article (+ a few others that I know are top shelf) are:

Popshot Magazine: Popshot is a poetry and illustration magazine gently intent on hoodwinking poetry back from the clammy hands of school anthologies and funeral readings.

Stingray Magazine: Stingray is a new bi-annual literary journal for both established and emerging writers from all over the world.  Each issue has a different theme, something very simple like ‘travel’ or ‘work.’  The content is then chosen for the writer’s unique and personal response.  Reading Stingray is like entering a conversation about a topic you thought was simple, and then realising that it’s not.  Fiction, reportage and illustration are all included – in fact, any style which gets the idea across.

Gutter: Gutter is a new, high quality, printed journal for fiction and poetry from writers born or living in Scotland. The editors believe there is a need for an energetic, ambitious magazine dedicated exclusively to the best in new Scottish creative writing.

Ambit:  Ambit is a quarterly, 96 page magazine which prints original poetry, short fiction, art and reviews. Ambit was started in 1959 by Martin Bax. Other editors include J.G. Ballard, Carol Ann Duffy, Michael Foreman, Henry Graham and Geoff Nicholson. Ambit is published in the UK and read internationally. It’s available through subscription and in selected bookshops and libraries worldwide.

Open Wide Magazine: First published in late 2001, Open Wide Magazine has gone on to become a highly regarded publication around the world. So far twenty-three issues of the magazine have been published. Issues one, two and three were print, then issues four to eleven online, with issues twelve to twenty in print. A hiatus occurred in 2009. But now back, and being published (for the time being) online, we hope to continue to stand out amongst the crowd, doing things a bit differently.

Agenda: Agenda is one of the best known and most highly respected poetry journals in the world, having been founded in 1959 by Ezra Pound and William Cookson. It is now edited by Patricia McCarthy, who co-edited the magazine with William Cookson for four years until his death in January 2003. She is continuing, as Seamus Heaney says, ‘to uphold the lofty standards of Agenda’. 

Hope these links help get your words some attention in the overseas market!

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The evolution of the author/publisher relationship

I was over at Electric Alphabet the other day and was interested in Kate Eltham’s examination of the question posed by Mark Coker in his article for The Huffington Post, do authors still need publishers?

Coker argues that an author (he uses names like Stephen King and JK Rowling) with a dedicated fanbase could get a much better return from the marketplace by self-publishing. And while there are few poets (if any) who boast fanbases with the size and sustainability of King or Rowling, this also rings true in the poetry world. But as Kate points out:

the author that can make a self-publishing project successful is the author who is an entrepreneur, a small business manager, a savvy marketer and a tireless communicator.

No easy feat…

But this is something that poets worldwide have known for sometime and many are now fulfilling all of these roles quite successfully. As Seth Godin suggests in the article Tribe Building 101, increased communication between author and reader through blogs, online forums, and in person, encourages greater transparency and will help to consolidate your fanbase.

Blogging has opened up a new world for me and the countless other poets who regularly post their words each day. It is a way of reaching out to other writers and readers. It facilitates collaboration. It helps build community. And for me, it is a way of discipling myself to write. I feel like a novice in the blogging field, but already it has opened up many new avenues for my work. Combined with regular submissions to journals (online and print), regular readings (open mic and features), organising events, attending events and in general lending support to the development of the greater poetry community, I feel I am finally laying a platform to build on. All this has been ten years in the making and it has all been worth it. I plan to release my next book independently in 2010 and am feeling confident about the process.

That is not to say I am anti-publisher. Nothing could be further from the truth… I am one half of the team that runs Small Change Press and have recently been working on the Brisbane New Voices project. Indeed, I believe publishers have an important role to play, bringing new voices to a wider public, but it has to be said that independent publishers also require their authors to be creating their own platform through blogging, reading, submitting to journals etc… Being published, so to speak, does not mean that you can sit back and watch the sales roll in. In today’s writing/reading world, the entrepreneurial skills of marketing and communication need to be embraced by all.

It is clear that the relationship between author and publisher has changed forever. Some would argue for better, others for worse. What I am most interested in is how authors and publishers can survive and thrive (together or alone) in the future. All thoughts welcome…



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Red Leaves: an Interview with Kirk Marshall

Red Leaves / 紅葉 is about to break new ground by becoming the first English-language / Japanese, bi-lingual literary journal. The inaugural issue of this international publication, will be published and distributed between September and December, 2009: the term of Japanese fall. Recently I spoke with chief editor, Kirk Marshall about the inception of Red Leaves and the challenges of publishing a bi-lingual literary journal.


Graham Nunn: The first issue of “Red Leaves” is due for publication late 2009. What was the motivation/inspiration behind starting a new literary journal?

Kirk Marshall: Now, I’m probably pre-inclined to answer this by citing my long-standing, deeply-harboured passion for the contemporary, Australian (and world) publishing industries and the way by which such a discipline extends to encompass the form of the oft-neglected, intrinsically-contested literary journal – such that it does – but, after nary a moment’s contemplation, I’d have to concede that a response of this stripe constitutes the cunning and emotionally-remote way out. In truth, being an “emerging” writer, myself (which, if I’m afforded a momentary digression, signifies to me an unashamedly aberrant way in which to characterise either young or newly-recognised authors, as though we’d best taxonomise them by their subterranean habits, and not by an evaluation of the quality of their respective work), I was submitting my fiction, creative non-fiction and sordid (read: bad) poetry to a lot of places, but I quickly identified an absence in the market. This isn’t to claim that I wasn’t being readily accepted for publication, – I didn’t ever conceive, as appears the commonplace self-rationalisation amongst frustrated and barren-bellied writers, that the most effective method by which I might see my words in popular print was to pursue that vanity-publishing fandom, – but a sizeable portion of the material I felt was my best, especially with the fiction, was largely being disregarded by most happy-gutted editors. 

What I came to discern was that – especially in Australia – work which is swiftly surmised as “difficult”, work which functions to challenge and disconcert the prospective reader, be that either through formal innovation or in theme and content, was often immediately relegated to the slushpile not because it wasn’t good, but because it didn’t satisfy the “pro forma”. Modern Australian literary journals – and I certainly don’t intend to be scurrilous and cavalier about the way in which I’m choosing to generalise, here – just don’t seem to locate a writerly stimulation from subversive, adventurous, unconventional or unclassifiable work. This may, of course, be contingent upon or symptomatic of the shifting morphology and tastes of the contemporary publishing machine as a whole (need it be remarked that Man Booker-shortlisted author Tibor Fischer garnered himself a gratuitous fifty-six manuscript rejections before securing a publisher?), but I’d extol my own little hunch that it has more to do with an identifiably Australian disinclination towards grappling with forms of textuality that shy away from easy reading. (This has more to do, I think, with a mass-consensus “paradise syndrome” inherent of Australia than any real dispassion with excursive or innovative literature: our country, sociologically, still remains an undoubtable yardstick for Western democratic societies and a testament to the advances of a globalised culture, but how and to what extent the creative industries operate within such a societal climate is a question which I believe is peripheral to most Australians.) 

This brings me, then, to the literary journal! What I was noticing was that not only were there no specifically Australian literary publications which might accept a certain specie of unsolicited work of mine for publication, but people I knew – writers who were my age, and who produced similarly, genuinely exciting, stylistically-deconstructivist or challenging work – were also experiencing the same nonchalant response: not that there was no theoretical readership for this type of writing – I can state unequivocally that there is – but that there was no market-demand within the recognised Australian literary journals for work of such unproven merit because no supply has ever existed to justify it. I soon began having publishing offers extended me by American and international publications (throughout 2008, whilst conducting full-time Honours study in Professional Writing at Deakin University, I wrote for seventeen magazines) and decided, not especially epiphanically, that one of the only pragmatic strategies by which I might find an Australian home for this new-burgeoning form of writing being produced by myself and my peers was to establish one. 

Independently of this very organic, slow-burning conviction, my partner (the artist / designer Liberty Browne) and I had just returned from a five-week teaching stint in Tokyo, Japan towards the conclusion of 2007, and rather thrillingly, I came to appreciate that Japan, too, was subject to the over-presiding ideology within their publishing industry that the “best” writing constituted the work emanating from established authors and academics, just as it was in Australia, – irrespective of how rigorously-disciplined and proliferating the “emerging” scriveners were, the market was tailored to accommodate those already with a foot firmly placed within the threshold. A friend of mine, the Tokyoite Japanese screenwriter Yasuhiro Horiuchi, confirmed this to me through a haphazard exchange of English-to-Japanese correspondences: Japanese writers such as Kenzaburō Ōe, Haruki Murakami, Kazuo Ishigo, Banana Yoshimoto and Mitsyo Kakuta are decorated “big names” in Japan, and so correspondingly, they dominate the press. Those who are neither recognised nor well-known but who nonetheless are consistently producing unprecedented, inventive and original writing in Japan, departing from the conventional structure and traditional aesthetic of Japanese literature, are doing so (as an example) in the izakayas and jazz-dens of Tokyo, where the writers are designated more respect and a likeminded readership. 

It’s only been a recent advantage of such formative, post-counterculture Japanese factions that some of these “emerging” authors have made the seamless transition from the sake bars and high-schools to  multi-million dollar publishing and the popular underground (Ko Machida, Masaya Nakahara, Mieko Kawakami and Risa Wataya, are evident examples) , and it’s this extremely-prolific, adventurous, unaffected and fertile realm of literature on both sides of the Eastern and Western cultural divide that I’ve sought to promote with the formation of “Red Leaves”, Australia’s first (and only) English-language / Japanese bi-lingual literary journal.


GN: What have been the challenges in putting together a bi-lingual publication?

KM: In some small but hopefully not disdainfully uninformative way, I’ll be reiterating some of what I’ve expressed above. I’ve travelled through, lived and worked in Japan, and albeit I’m wont to exchange a reactionary response over the newly-attributed “genki” designation – it means, I believe, a gaijin who is “imitating” (rather than emulating) the Japanese – I still warmly invite the allegation, most of the time, that I’m subjectively more at home with the Japanese than I am with Westerners. My partner, Liberty, who is the designer for “The Lifted Brow” literary magazine – Melbourne’s own, ever-evolving, exhaustively ambitious, independent reconfiguration of the “McSweeney’s” franchise – is as responsible for “Red Leaves”’s inception, as much as any other catalysing variable. First off, it was she who agreed to live in Japan with me, and by so doing, I was afforded both the time and the space – the forum – to discuss writerly, cross-cultural projects at length with Yasuhiro. (We still trade jokes that one day we’ll collaborate on producing our own “monster pornography  film”, but I’m sufficiently canny now to know that too much refined, Okinawan drinking spirits were probably responsible). 

After making landfall again in Australia, and embarking on the requisite exodus from Brisbane to Melbourne – I think, if the Sydneysiders will demonstrate forgiveness, our country’s increasingly undisputed cultural capital – I composed an email to Yasuhiro. He soon consolidated my initiative to establish a new literary journal by confirming for me that neither Australia nor Japan had a bi-lingual publication showcasing the transliterated work of  “emerging” (there’s that appellation, again) writers. In retrospect, I can’t conceive of attempting to anchor such a personal enterprise as this one in Brisbane, – in 2007, prior to relocating to Melbourne, I released the Japanese-flavoured, full-colour illustrated graphic novelette, “A Solution to Economic Depression in Little Tokyo, 1953”, a collaboration between myself and select Brisbane artists, – and Tokyo, which is where Liberty and I lived for a time, is such an overwhelming, potentially inaccessible, and just plain big place that to afford myself the personal motivation to contemplate a project like “Red Leaves” necessitated a space where I could feel simultaneously less-anonymous and consequently better-equipped to solicit interest in the project. 

This, for me, always meant Australia, and Melbourne’s proven a stimulating, responsive and creatively beneficial base from which to hunker away in silence, and forge forth in administering the first real push towards completing the inaugural issue of “Red Leaves”. I’d espouse that the thing with bi-lingual literary journals within the context of contemporary publishing is that, though they cater for two cultures, they’re often subsequently rendered to a young, prospective reader’s mind as divisive or unfocused and therefore less valuable because they compromise in not promoting the eclectic (and perhaps more “post-modern”) material which is common or associable with American and international publications. I immediately didn’t want this to be the case with “Red Leaves”. I looked to the likes of “Meena: A Bi-lingual Journal of Arts & Letters”, the English-Arabic publication, – whose most recent issue secured an international, bi-lingual contribution from author-editor Dave Eggers, – for inspiration, rather than Australia’s own English-Arabic envisioning of the formula, the two-year old and now-defunct bi-lingual literary journal “Kalimāt”, which suffered (if I’m permitted due external speculation) not only because the readership of Australia’s literary publications number less than 1,000 but because the editor, Raghid Nahas, was intent on invoking an austere breed of scholarship with each issue, rather than motioning towards soliciting interest from writers which the contemporary culture now embraces. 

Not for no reason are publications such as the Vignette Press anthologies, “The Lifted Brow” and Chris Flynn’s “Torpedo” (of micro-publishing company Falcon Vs. Monkey fame) fast becoming – and constituting – some of Australia’s best, independent and most innovatively-receptive literary forays. Readers – okay: the collective of readers that I identify with – by and large, and especially in Japan, are those most reactive towards the “big names”. A robust, bi-lingual magazine such as “Meena” seeks to capitalise upon this: in turn, I hope that “Red Leaves” works to perpetuate and sustain this tradition by contemporaneously incorporating the work of “emerging” local writers (from Australia and Japan) and that of beloved, but ideologically-allied writers (from abroad). Moreover, in this present ethos of candour, I’ll concede that “Red Leaves” also finally privileges me (somewhat selfishly) the opportunity to read my friend Yasuhiro’s non-fiction (composed in Japanese “kanji” text), whilst he’s enabled the capacity to read my fiction without straining from the considerable effort of performing a mental transliteration. So in a way, the journal’s now also become, to my mind, a swap-meet between likeminded (but culturally-disparate) writers.


GN: The art of translation is something that has created much debate over the years. Two schools of thought seem to have emerged, the Eastern method of searching for “affective equivalents” and the Western method of seeking to recreate in one language only the words of the original poem. How have you approached translating the work in “Red Leaves”?

KM: That’s a surprising question, which works to facilitate my deigning it a reply of some depth. What we’ve envisioned for “Red Leaves” is, I feel, a reasonably industrious attempt to designate the “three milieu” – that is, the troika of fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction, respectively – a mostly equitable genre-to-page ratio. In turn, our freelance English-Japanese translators have the obligation to best apply their skills specifically to the sort of work that they’re currently translating for the issue: for example, we’ve separated the fiction accepted for publication from the poetry, and each form is approached in its own respective way. I feel very much that the poetry should be kept as close to its original inception – be that either written in English or composed in Japanese “kanji” text – as can be rendered possible, because the traditional Eastern aesthetic of poetry, I believe, is to perceive the poem as an architectural construct, an exactingly-developed artifice of engineering which upholds the conventions and parameters of the form as specified by traditional teaching. To compromise the verse of a Japanese poem in the translation process is, by this standard, to remodel the architecture, to invent upon rather than to relay its original manifestation. The translators are maintaining a much closer reading of the poetry, therefore, than they are with the fiction, especially because some of the fiction extends to 5,000 words per piece. 

As editor, I can risk being brazen by reifying that, for me, this is okay: fiction transliterated from a language to another, particularly English to Japanese (and vice-versa), very often suffers from a “verbatim” interpretation, becoming either obtuse and distorted in its meaning or uncompromisingly region-specific and consequently inaccessible. This for me has always constituted a problem; a work of Murakami’s proves to be a successful, subtle, and generous English-language translation because we, as Westerners, aren’t privileged immediate accessibility: it would be unwise of publishers to champion an epical, bloated and serendipitously excursive novel like Murakami’s 700-paged “Kafka On the Shore” without taking three years to do its translation justice. In this case, an “affective equivalent” is always more beneficial to the translation process than by sustaining an unnegotiably, almost narratologically word-by-word reconfiguration: I’ve read translations of Japanese short-stories which, not possessing the publishing mettle or marketability of a new (correspondingly, direct-bestseller) Murakami novel, have forged forth in the effort to retain – excuse the jargon – as much of its self-contained nipponophilia, as much of its “Japanese-ness” as possible, to a state where it hypostatises, where it atrophies, allowing a curious Western reader no real access. 

I’m no linguist, and I certainly won’t claim to be, but by staying too loyal to the language, I’d conceive that you can risk communicating or instantiating a guardedness within the prose which can read as either offensive or clumsy, and that’s not what I want people to experience from “Red Leaves”. Fortuitously enough for me, Yasuhiro is acting as our Tokyo-based co-editor, which means he’s ordained “final say” on specific translations, and for those words or phrases which are so anachronistic, colloquial or of their time and place as to be indecipherable to an international audience, we try very hard to excise them from the body of the text in the translation and furnish what we feel is an appropriate substitute.


GN: What can readers expect from the first issue of “Red Leaves”?

KM: In my dogged pursuit to incorporate thematically-synchronous work by both new and lauded writers, the first issue of “Red Leaves” contains fiction by Toby Litt (one of “Granta” magazine’s 20 Best Young British Novelists), Nathaniel Rich (fiction editor for “The Paris Review”), Travis Jeppesen (contributing editor to the underground, experimentalist online British literary magazine, “3:AM”), Nicholas Hogg (New Writing Ventures-award winning debut novelist of “Show Me the Sky”) and Patrick Holland (first-prize recipient of the 2005 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Best Emerging Author), whilst showcasing the work of some no-less-talented local talent, such as the graphic novelist and comic artist Mandy Ord, celebrated poet and editor Ivy Alvarez, and the prolific Brisbane-based young man-of-letters, Christopher Currie, who maintains the “Furious Horses” online weblog. Right now, we’re commissioning pieces from Japanese authors and those fluent in writing “kanji” until the 1st of June; Yasuhiro is working fastidiously on his personal contribution; and Liberty and I are discussing editorial and design. We’re striving for an equilibrium between aesthetically minimalist and textually-provocative, which basically means we’re being insufferably indulgent with the white space. Contributing writer-artist Anne M. Carson and photographer Christina McCallum have provided us with a gorgeous cover shot. If we do our job right, it should manifest itself as the tactile type of handsome. For further musings and news, go to: http://www.myspace.com/redleaveskoyo.


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Jumping the Poetic Hurdle – what can we learn from the music industry?

All this music talk has got me interested in how the literary establishment can learn from the music industry. We all remember the death of the music industry articles that were circulating at the start of this decade, how the industry was haemorrhaging with the invent of Napster and other download technology. Well the Jumping the Poetic Hurdle interviews I did recently tell a similar story… So, this Lost Shark has been doing some reading and thought these articles were well worth sharing. We may stand to learn alot from what the music industry has been through.

Can the publishing industry learn from the music industry?

Why Amazon Should Try a “Radiohead Experiment” on the Kindle

What If the Kindle Succeeds?

What the literary establishment must learn from Hip-Hop

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Publishing for Profit – How do you do it?

A big thanks to Amanda Joy for putting me on to this article this evening. It is a really great read and provides excellent information to follow on from the Jumping the Poetic Hurdle interviews.

SELLING PAPER: Can publishing be profitable in the 21st Century? raises some very interesting points about free content, the difficulty in publishing for profit in both print and electronic media and the role of advertising.

The article concludes by examining the public radio model as a successful way of monetising content.

A thought provoking article and one that I hope you enjoy.


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Do publisher’s dream of electric books?

I was recently reading Electric Alphabet and came across an article that provides some great reading around the topic of publishing and distribution:

Do publisher’s still dream of electronic books? is a great interview with Soft Skull Press main man Richard Nash about what is happening on the digital publishing horizon and the cultural economy of books.

Today on Electric Alphabet, Kate has also raised the idea of a poetry publishing co-op. This is a great idea and a role that the newly formed SPUNC may fill with flying colours…

Here’s hoping!


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Jumping the Poetic Hurdle (part 4) – an interview with John Knight

Part four of Jumping the Poetic Hurdle continues the discussion with independent Australian publishers of poetry about the current and future state of poetry publication and distribution. This time I spoke to John Knight, the founder and manager of Brisbane-based publisher, Post Pressed.

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

Survival — poetry isn’t profitable! Ironic, it seems more people want to be published than want to buy poetry.

I like to publish well-crafted books of verse — they’re so much nicer than CDs or on-line journals — and more durable too. People don’t want to spend more than $15 or $20, but a low unit cost is contingent on high volume printing — and the books sit and moulder. Perhaps I should downsize to chapbooks…

Most bookshops don’t want to stock much verse — except for the ‘big’ names — it doesn’t sell — or if they do, will only take ‘on consignment’. And promotion/advertising is expensive.

The best avenues of sale are direct — by proactive authors — at readings, other poetry events, to friends and relatives. Or else gratis!

Some publishers get by with vanity press set-ups — the poet pays and is published regardless of quality. We don’t — we have a review panel of competent poets, and generally I meet the costs.


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?

Big publishers want sales of 3000 copies, and books remainder quickly. (Big publishing is definitely a post-modern game?)


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

Not really. If only teachers, parents and the media could proselytise the joy of language, of verse, of creation. I expect there will be a continuing shift to Chapbooks, CDs and the Web. For the latter, e-zines or self-sponsored web-sites. Also more self-published books, of varying quality. Plus vanity publishers snaring even more of the unwary or incompetent.

Perhaps we need government subsidised publishers? (Grants have always been beyond Post Pressed because we’re not an incorporated business.)


What is on the horizon for Post Pressed?

Post Pressed is committed to continue to publish quality emerging local and regional poets who would otherwise not gain the recognition they deserve. In the queue for 2009 is work by Pam Schindler, Katherine Samuelowicz, Agnieszka Niemira and Laurie Brady.


About John:

John Knight is founder and manager of Post Pressed, an indie publisher of verse, fine arts and academic books since 1995. An accomplished and internationally recognised haijin, he is a foundation editor of Paper Wasp, an Australian journal of haiku. He also served as poetry editor of Scope and Social Alternatives for a number of years. His published verse includes Wattle Winds: an Australian haiku sequence (Paper Wasp, 1993), From Derrida to Sara Lee (Metro Arts, 1994), Extracts from the Jerusalem Archives (Sweetwater Press, 1997), big man catching a small wave (Post Pressed, 2006) and Letters from the Asylum (Sudden Valley Press, forthcoming). In a previous life he was an Associate Professor in The School of Education, The University of Queensland, with a particular interest in policy studies and social and literary theory. After his retirement he has worked in a mentoring relationship with doctoral students at QUT and elsewhere.

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Jumping the Poetic Hurdle (part 2)

The first article generated some interesting discussion around the idea of collaboration and the ‘poetry reading’ as a way of connecting with audiences and breaking down the publication barrier. This brought to mind a quote by Les Murray:

“The public reading is the real hope of poetry at the moment. Far more people will come to a reading than will buy a poetry book. Gathering warm bodies for a public reading doesn’t automatically translate into more people heading to a bookstore or poring over poems on their own time. And of course, if a poem is ill-presented—as so many so often are, since a majority of poets either act as if they’re encountering their own poems for the first time, or else histrionically wring every atom of significance from them—potential book-buyers can be driven away from poems that work wonderfully on the page.”

taken from the article, The Peril of the Poetry Reading by David Groff (http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5913)

This, as Groff points out, is at once a double edged sword, as on one hand, Murray praises the poetry reading as the real hope of poetry and on the other, outlines the risks associated with a poor reading.

In the coming weeks I will be talking with several poets who have had success both on and off the page about poetry and the spoken word and whether there is a line that separates them.

Until then, let’s consider this… if conversation is what humanises the world, is it not the responsibility of the poet to bring poetry back to the public sphere in its spoken form to increase the visibility and audibility of all manner of dissenting ideas about poetry?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Filed under poetry & publishing