Monday, October 05, 2009

a matter of debate

Recently we moved to new digs, which is why it took so long for this entry to appear.

At the beginning of September, I was asked to participate in and to curate an hour for the Art in the Park festival put together by the Towson Arts Collective. One of those who organized the event was Christophe Casamassima who during the afternoon railed on a bit about being "DIY" and raising self publishing as the ultimate goal of everyone concerned. Well, I am a publisher as well as a poet, as well as a blogger, as well as - etc. and it was the publisher in me that took issue with the "anyone can do it for free" line that Casamassima was uttering. First of all, he had created a series of small chapbooks FREE, but they weren't free exactly : someone paid for their publication, it just wasn't Cassamassima. He was using the facilities of the college where he teaches. Someone paid for their making. The students through their enrollment? The fees charged? The college endowment? It wasn't free - it was just free to him.

Now, I say this as a first generation punk rock/DIY guy, someone who believes firmly in doing it myself whenever possible. But it all costs something. Even if you use a xerox machine. Nothing is FREE. The means of production have costs involved. I say this now as a publisher for over 10 years of Plan B Press. The idea of a "free lunch" is just an idea. One not based on reality, in any way shape or form.

Additionally, not every THING ought to see the light of day. Not everyone who has a collection of poems or a bit of prose should be in print. There is this thing called "editorial control". There needs to be some filtering. There needs to be someone at the brakes, and that person needs to pull the switch when necessary. At Plan B Press, we have to decline most of what we receive since it doesn't mean the standards we have set for ourselves and the work that would be imprinted by us that would represent our Press. Our running man doesn't just run like a chicken without its head. He has a direction, and so do we.

Other companies have different policies, but remember I just used to the words "companies" and "policies". To a lot of folks, publishing is a business. With a capital B. Some of these publish damn-near-everything. Some are indeed "vanity presses" (YOU pay for your work to appear in print). And on and on it goes.

The main reason that I have established a "SAVE A TREE" distinction in my rating system in this blog is because there are times that a book is so bad one wonders why a tree was killed for its making. As I said : not everything should be in print. I wish to GOD that someone had had the balls to stop Mein Kampf and to burn the copy sent to them!

Enough of this for now. It's an issue that I feel strongly about. The same way I feel about e-books and Michael Bolton (and John Bolton, come to think of it..)

These are the chapbooks I picked up or were handed at day in early September :

Ladies Love Outlaws.
Buck Downs
Edge Books
Washington, DC

Do they? Do ladies really love outlaws?
Unnumbered pages. Clipart cover. Very low tech production. eh (shrug)

Menagerie for Louis & Erza (Horse)

laa (Gary Snyder)

Incidents i-iv

End Lines
'Harmonium' by Wallace Stevens
truncated by
Christophe Casamassima

Four of Casamassima's "free-for-all" chaps. Various sizes. No publication info, no contact info. Stealth publishing (described above). Some of the work is interesting. I would like to hear the poet READ it aloud.