Tag Archives: SPUNC

Poetry Picks of 2010 – Kent MacCarter

Like the word ‘poetry’ and the capacious, ‘mysterious’ confines that tag along with it, so too does the word ‘jazz’ trigger a huge abstract space. And I have noticed that these two words occasionally flummox and alarm, if not downright scare people. ‘It’s all too hard and complex,’ they say, as if poetry and jazz are perceived as bizarre, unpredictable juggernauts they’d rather not touch in the way they’d not dare slink up to a dozing grizzly bear and poke it in the chops. Frustratingly, this effect immediately tunes out the gun shy from sounds or words filed in either office. If you write poetry – or play jazz – you know that this need not be the case (which is not to claim that there’s no peril or that there’s not plenty to avoid in each form depending on one’s taste). Publishing poetry nowadays takes love and guts, but publishing poetry about jazz, as Extempore does, requires a healthy dollop of moxie on top of that as well.

Extempore gots moxie. I’ll just put it like that. They have much in common, jazz and poetry do, and they intersect wonderfully in issue 5 of this journal.

Editor Miriam Zolin has once again produced a terrific collection of poetry, reviews, stories, musical composition and images about or in some way referencing jazz. In full disclosure, three poems of mine appear in this 5th issue. But I’m bored of those, drafting and writing them long ago. It is everything else in this issue (let alone the MO of the journal itself) that continues to pique me. All the other ‘finished products’ work. Terrific poems by Kevin Gillam, Helen Lambert, Nathan Shepherdson and Geoff Page, just to name a few, work. The journal’s well made and well laid out. It works in your hands.

Extempore appeals to me because I adore sound. And jazz (again, the portion of which I make time for: Django Reinhardt, anybody?) feels like raw sound versus the refined sounds I enjoy every bit as much; refined sounds like Kitty Wells’ lilt through a honky-tonk bawler or the angular math that pipes out of a Wire or Saints song. This raw versus refined bout registers in my head the same way a garden full of vegies seems raw, unrefined until such time as it becomes a wok concoction. Now, I know that most poems are fussed at, reworked, and worried at like a loose tooth at age eight. Poems are refined many times over. But poetry, finished poems, still have a rawness about them I can’t resist. So, when this rawness gets doubled up – as it is in Extempore – well, the result kicks a truly good bit of arse.

I adore the pure sound of words, stripped clean of any definition, every bit as much as I enjoy building poetic narratives with them. I am particularly drawn to pieces about a certain type of sound – jazz, say, or the call of birds. Or the squelch from a Geiger counter. Extempore is riddled with such sounds. Poetry is riddled with such sounds.

I have written many poems triggered by sound; this is to say, I was moved to write them after hearing X, Y or Z. One piece I’ve written was all because of the sounds coming off an old supermarket cash register and what they unlocked in my memory. Now, much of the written works are pieces about jazz, not writings as if to be jazz. But reading poems as jazz is a mode any reader can try out if they care to. Extempore is the perfect journal to have a go.

Tom Waits had something to both scrawl and bleat about the intersection of ‘Heartattack and Vine’. I’m going to end on a massively hokey note and encourage you – somebody, anybody – to see if your cigarettes still light or if that tabby cat ever shuts the hell up at the intersection of poetry and jazz.

 

 Kent MacCarter, expatriate of Minnesota, Montana and New Mexico, is now a permanent resident in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and two cats. Answering the question, “Where are you from?” is always a difficult one for him.

In the Hungry Middle of Here is first collection of poetry, published by Transit Lounge Press. It’s a book that navigates the world, seeking the sounds, textures and tastes that characterise its parts. His work has appeared in many publications both here and outside of Ausralia. He currently sits on the executive board of SPUNC: The Small Press Network, an advocate association that supports small and micro presses. He is also an active member in Melbourne PEN with some exciting projects planned for 2011.

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Building Your Tribe

In my weekend trawl, I came across this interesting article on the SPUNC Blog.

In the article, author and entrepreneur Seth Godin, explores the notion of tribes in the realm of publishing. ‘At present,’ Godin says, ‘local publishing has the potential to shift our very notion of what books mean to us as a society.

To do this, we need synergy: a diverse and self-subsistent publishing network of like minded readers, writers, editors, bloggers, festival coordinators and publishers. A celebration of engaging, provocative and inspiring literature. A blueprint for redefining our literary culture.’

This is an article well worth checking out. To read more about Godin’s synergistic approach and view a video of his presentation head on over to the SPUNC blog.

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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 5) – an interview with Lyn Reeves

The final interview in the series with small publishers is with Lyn Reeves from Pardalote Press. There will be future interviews with online publishers, but for now, let’s see what Lyn has to say about the current state of poetry publishing and distribution in Australia.

 

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

Recently I attended the Publishers’ Market run by Australian Poetry Centre at Glenfern. An informal forum, ‘Is Poetry Worth Publishing’ identified marketing and distribution as the main problems faced by small press publishers. Another area we discussed was the difficulty of getting our books reviewed in major newspapers and journals. However, we didn’t come up with any real answers.

Other major challenges are lack of resources – time, staff and money. Most poetry presses are run by poets, simply for the love of doing it. These poets have to find time for their own writing, and the tension of balancing both pursuits is not easy to resolve.

It’s not inexpensive to produce books, and if sales aren’t returning the outlay and bringing in enough to keep the press afloat, it will fold. Print runs are usually small, which increases the cost per unit. Booksellers and distributors take up to 70% of the RRP; the royalty to the author is another 10%. This doesn’t leave much for the publisher once printing and design costs are met. Direct marketing is the most efficient way to sell, and to avoid the books languishing in bookshops, becoming shop-soiled and unsaleable. Pardalote Press has been fortunate in receiving a number of grants, donations and sponsorships to produce its books and enable it to keep going, but it isn’t a profit-making venture.

The most challenging area for Pardalote, as for many other small presses, is promotion. I run the press alone, facilitating all aspects of proofreading, design and printing. These are the things I enjoy and can do well, but marketing is not one of my skills. Though I’ve tried a range of approaches to getting the word out – website, media releases and review copies, launches, emails, mail-outs, distributors, advertising – I’ve found that the most successful way to sell is through the authors themselves. When authors are active in giving workshops and readings and promoting their books in other ways, they usually manage to sell a good number of their books. Hopefully SPUNC (Small Press Underground Networking Community) will help address some of the difficulties in promoting to a wider audience than small presses can afford to reach on their own.

 

Why is 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?

It’s a reflection of the fact that poetry isn’t a money-earner and the corporate publishing houses are interested in the bottom line. Poetry doesn’t have a high profile in our society. There are the well-known Australian names like Les Murray and Dorothy Porter but the main audience for poetry is other poets. Poetry is considered an esoteric and fringe activity by mainstream culture. The general public would rather buy books on sport or gardening or biographies of celebrities or, when it comes to literature, books by writers they’ve heard of. Even when some boutique bookshops stock poetry they rarely take more than a few copies, and these are usually hidden at the back of the shop somewhere out of sight.

‘Reader Education’ can help overcome some of this resistance, and there’s often talk about how to do this, but it does need effort, funding and coordination to be effective. I’ve found that when, as a poet, I’ve been involved in taking readings to new audiences outside the literary community, people are generally very positive about poetry.

Small presses have arisen in response to the decline in interest by the corporate publishers, to meet the need for poets’ voices to be heard and read. I doubt if any of them actually make money out publishing, but that’s not the point of it, though it would be nice.

My own experience with using a national distributor wasn’t successful, so I’ve set up a shopping cart on my website. I still rely on the poets to let people know their work is available, and to personally sell and promote their books. Pardalote also hosts books by a number of other Tasmanian poets on its site.

 

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

That does seem like a pretty bleak picture but people will go on writing and reading poetry, so there will always be the need to share their words abroad.

I don’t think of it as being inside a dark tunnel. I think you have to accept your limitations as a small press, the appeal of poetry to a large market, and work within those parameters. It’s more like being in a field adjacent to the bigger marketplace, but that field is full of the light of many voices, the joy of creativity, both in the writing of poems and the making and sharing of books. The rewards are in the doing. It would be nice to reach bigger audiences; as communicators we all want that. So we go on trying different approaches. And we do need to break even so that we can keep on producing the books.

Electronic delivery of poetry will play a greater role in publishing and distribution. There are more and more journals going online. Though it’s been slow to catch on, the e-book seems to be gaining more acceptance. The problem seems to be how to pay for the product, but in digital format it’s less expensive to produce. The internet will certainly play a role in making poetry more available, but the printed book won’t be ousted altogether. There’s something about the intimacy of poetry that harmonises with the tactile pleasure of a lovingly made book. We spend so much time in front of screens, it’s good to relax and get comfortable with a book. There’s less distraction and for me it’s a more focussed way to engage with the writing.

 

What is on the horizon for Pardalote?

Pardalote Press has been publishing poetry for a little over eight years now, beginning with a chapbook by Eric Beach, Red Heart, My Country. Initially I set out only to produce chapbooks, something affordable that could be sold at readings, but soon the lure of ‘the book’, beautifully designed and presented, took hold and I’ve continued to strive for a high standard in production values, as well as content, in the fourteen titles that make up the Pardalote list to date.

The most recent collection is Postcards from the Asylum by Karen Knight. The manuscript won the Alec Bolton Award in 2007 and is a powerful book. Reviews to date have been consistently stunning.

At the moment I’m editing a new collection of translations by Ian Johnston of ancient Chinese poetry, a sequel to Singing of Scented Grass, which has been my most successful book so far. The poems in Waiting for the Owl are taken from an earlier period, mostly from the Han Dynasty. That should be available some time later this year.

Because I work alone I can only do one manuscript a year, though there have been times when I’ve done two or three. I’d like to do more. I’ve had to send back some wonderful manuscripts by very fine poets that I would have loved to publish, and sometimes had to disappoint people I’ve had a tentative arrangement with, because life events made it necessary for me to cut back on how much publishing I could do. I try not to plan too far ahead. There’s another collection under way that may come out before or after the Chinese poems. But I’m also working on finalising a manuscript of my own that a publisher has offered to take up, and I’m doing some postgraduate study. It’s important to find time for my own poetry this year. At the moment I can’t accept any new submissions.

As well as producing these collections I need to empty my cupboards by selling more of the books that remain in unopened boxes, to make more room and bring in some funds to help with making more books. I wish for a marketing person, committed to poetry and willing to work for virtually no financial reward. Although I use a distributor in Tasmania, poetry really needs passionate representation that distributors don’t give it.

I often think it would be good to work with a small team of people with a mix of skills. That way we could get more poetry books out there, and there’s no shortage of worthwhile manuscripts to choose from. I’m also interested in the idea of e-books, especially for those titles that are out of print. Learning how to do that will be a whole new journey.

 

About Lyn:

Lyn Reeves is a poet, editor, managing director of Pardalote Press and an associate editor of the literary journal, Famous Reporter. She has collaborated with painters, print-makers, musicians, photographers, workers and scientists for various poetry events. Awards include grants from Arts Tasmania and the Australia Council, and residencies at Varuna, St. Helens, and Darwin. Lyn has been a featured reader at many festivals, including the Queensland Poetry Festival, Sydney Writers’ Festival, Word Storm, The Tasmanian Poetry Festivals, and at other venues in Tasmania and interstate. A collection of her haiku, Walking the Tideline, appeared in December 2001. Her poetry collection Speaking with Ghosts was published by Ginninderra Press in 2002. More recently, she has published two chapbooks, Beads (Picaro Press, 2007) and the ink brushed distance (Walleah Press, 2008). She is one of four poets whose work appears in the award-winning anthology Seasoned with Honey (Walleah Press, 2008).

Find out more:

http://www.pardalote.com.au
http://www.the-write-stuff.com.au/archives/vol-7/lyn_reeves/index.html
http://www.pardalote.com.au/authors/reevesl/
http://www.styluspoetryjournal.com/main/master.asp?id=395

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