comments from the fringe –

4 May

When I get a new book of poetry I enjoy carrying it around in my pocket. Random sure but it’s my thing. This is not a process repeated with novels or biographies or magazines. (Which the exception of Playboy for reasons different that what you are thinking) Just poetry.

As I travel from place to place I take my book of poetry. Sometimes I will read a few poems but generally it just travels with me. Sometimes I forget it at a coffeeshop, bar, or strip club, but generally it stays with me. I threw one out the window of my car while stuck in traffic. Turns out that is considered littering even though the cop sympathized with my unique editorial commentary.

Eventually I read the book from cover to cover, make notes, bend corners and, finally, tuck it away on my shelf with the other well traveled, well read poetry books. The good ones or, at least, the ones I like, sit at eye level. Those that hold a lesser value sit on low shelves, in a cabinet or I bury them out back behind the coral tree. I have buried more than I have kept as only a handful sit at eye level.

The latest book I have set at eye level is Puma Perl’s Knuckle Tattoos. At some point I will post the review I wrote for it but that’s for another day.

One day in early May, while staring at the handful of eye level books I began to wonder why there are so few. There are literally thousands of poetry books adrift on-line and in print. Literally thousands. And for every new book there seems to be a new press. Thousands of books and thousands of presses. As I there in the warm dust filled light of late afternoon I realized the cause of this manic proliferation: The internet.

Just as video killed the radio star the internet has nearly hammered the last nail into poetry publishing. It may not be dead, but it is damned near. I realize that many of you will disagree with me, at least the three that read this, and that’s fine. But thanks to this egalitarian virus of overnight publishing and authors far too green to be in print, the value of poetry has diminished greatly. There is simply too much product.

When a press shows up and tries to make a small profit they are doomed to failure from the start. The internet offers many havens of free product. Don’t get me wrong, free product can be a good thing. But over abundance of free product it dilutes the value of for-profit product.

I am all for small press, freedom of expression, the advocation of publication and such, but the continued output of poorly written, weakly edited and uninteresting work will eventually hammer down that last nail.

Of course this is my opinion and likely an unpopular one. I shut down all my publications because I didn’t have time to do it right. The work suffered because I didn’t have time to edit properly or proofread or promote or a million other things. In other words, error city.

Ultimately, some will suggest that poetry is subjective. My bitch is not about the poetry or the authors. Editors and publishers need to think outside the box with their poet and poem selections. They need to find the structure within a particular poets style and keep them reigned in. And, at a minimum, use fucking spell check.

Okay so it may be premature to call for the imminent demise of poetry publishing and I am sure for every new poetry book there will be a new publisher. I will continue to carry my books of poetry around but I won’t wonder about the limited number of books eye level on my shelf. Poetry may in fact be subjective but I really don’t give a shit.


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