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ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French de, from Latin datum
A new poetry magazine from House Press, operated out of Chicago, is seeking submissions. The deadline for work is July 1st. We hope to have the magazine put together for late summer or early fall. The format will be 8 1/2 by 11 inches, staple bound. Please send up to 10 pages of work. We would like to have a minimum of 3 pages of work for each poet. The magazine will also include a cd for sound work. Please include a short bio with your submission (if you'd like), and send as an ms word attachment to small_machines at yahoo dot com.
How has your first book changed your life?
2. Andrea Baker
How has your life been different since? Were there things you thought would happen that didn't? Surprises?
First I'm so happy about it and proud of it. "My book. My book!! Oh my God, I wrote a book!!" And that's all very good and never changes, even through all my bleak thought.
But there is a lot of bleak thought. Primarily, my trouble is that the book has no real weight and/or the weight it does have is false and I cannot reconcile this with how important it is to me. One problem is that poetry has nothing to do with my real world, the place I really live. If a book meant that the next time I might get an advance that would pay for time to just write, that would mean something pragmatically. Or if I wanted a teaching job and a book meant I might be able to get one, then it would have an impact. But I don't want to teach.
Though these things are just true and always have been true, I feel more deeply in touch with the fact that hardly anyone cares about poetry and that it really does not matter. For some unaccountable reason it matters A LOT to me--and it also matters to me that I am read, but vanity is the only reason I come up with.
I have also come to understand that I had expected the book to transform me on some level... Make me smarter?? Bring me money?? Make writing easier??
Obviously, it's done none of these things. It is important to me as a security object, but I find that highly suspect. I didn't learn to read until very late (dyslexia)... then my highest degree is high school (perpetual college drop-out)... But the book means to me, "It's all OK. I turned out alright after all." Which is completely nuts. One can't judge one's self on outside approval. Oh, but I do! and in these senses it brings out parts of me that I don't want to see.
But then even this relentless questioning drives me crazy because it can quickly sound, even to myself, like ungratefulness. And my book makes me so happy. I feel a sense of awe when I think of the people whose commitment to poetry enabled its production.
What influence has the book's publication had on your subsequent writing? How do you feel about the critical response and has that had any effect on your writing?
I suppose it's alright to admit that I hang on every word of every review and keep a little list of reviews I know are due out and reviews that have come out. The reviews are the first time I've gotten real your work is about x, y, z feedback about my writing. I'm an intuitive writer and probably a bit blind to whatever I find my way into, so having that sort of feedback is valuable. I want to be more accessible and knowing what I'm doing is important for that. Proceeding from that point is not without difficulty though. I plan to write reviews of other people's work because I know how much those have meant to me.
I read somewhere that second books are as challenging as first books, then it gets easier... I'm not sure if that was in reference to getting the books published or actually writing them. I'm not concerned about getting work published but I'm a little worried about managing to finish poems. I hope it won't be this excruciatingly difficult forever...
I feel accountable to whatever warm reception my book has had. It's very easy to slip into a self-defeating perfectionism.
What did you do to promote sales of the book, and what were those experiences like?
Just before the book came out, I did a very very small northeast "tour" that Slope arranged for me. After it came, I sent out many review copies and made sure the book was entered into a least a couple after-the-book-is-published contests. I have read around the city whenever I've been asked but turned down opportunities to read out of state, which would disrupt my daily life and not pay for themselves. I feel torn, again, about promoting. While I want my work to be read, the energy I have put into promoting has taken away from other aspects of life and can easily become frenzied and obsessive, but for what? And why? What on earth do I have to gain when poetry offers no real rewards? I have to question my own motives.
Did Slope pay your travel expenses on the tour?
They offered to rent a car that I would share with another poet I had never met and they would pay for gas and arrange sofas/floors for me to sleep on. I like things to be simple but I'm also a fairly private person and these arrangements would have been too uncomfortable for me so I went with my family in our own car and paid for hotels. When I look at the economics of promoting poetry it really seems like a wonder that any poetry gets promoted at all.
Can you know how well your book is doing? Does your publisher tell you anything?
Slope will tell me once a year--so far that means I have yet to hear. All I know are the Amazon sales rankings. Those were impacted by the Poets & Writers feature I was included in and also seem to be affected by on-line reviews (but not print reviews--perhaps because those reach a different purchasing culture...or maybe just have a smaller audience(??)--I'm clueless).
The real measure of how well it's doing seems to be in critical response and general "buzz." I know that bits of it have been taught at a number of colleges and that sure makes me the proud parent of my poems but I assume that has been Xeroxes and not book sales.
Did you find that you sold many books at a reading?
The most I've ever sold is four. This is completely depressing, but a lot of people who come to a reading already have a book. And the book wasn't printed in time for the initial readings (the "tour"). I'm a quiet seller so that may be a factor.
Do you enjoy reading?
I find it a bit painful if the audience is very small (I'm talking under 10 people). I've also read a couple times when the audience was very large (over 100)--these were for the Poetry Society and in nice, quiet auditoriums. I enjoy that a lot. But those are the extremes. Most readings have had maybe 15-30 people. They can go really well--one I did for Drunken Boat was an evening with so much energy. The more there are other arts involved, the more energy there tends to be. I read once with Charles Valle and that was also great because he had a visual component.
What advice do you wish someone had given you before your book came out? Or what was the best advice you got?
I didn't get any advice and I'm afraid that all I have to offer is my own account of the experience.
Do you want your life to change?
No. I actually think everything is just right.
But I really wonder how all this makes you feel. Do you find it bleak? Do you want your book to change your life? Have the responses you've gotten so far altered your perceptions?
I remember this Yugoslavian cowboy painter who had slicked back hair and very formal Roman busts in all of his paintings. Matisse sat on his balcony turning things over in his mind: mat, fish, bowl.
[Hear Andrea read "Preface" here.]
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26 APRIL 06
Curious about how others were finding their first-book experience, I made a list of questions to ask a few poets who have one full-length book out so far. I'll post responses (in Q&A form or in paragraphs) as they roll in. My basic question seems to be
How has your first book changed your life?
I remember where I was when I got the news that Winnow wanted to publish the book. I was home, and Corrine Lee (the publisher) called, and as she was telling me they'd like to do it I immediately started to panic. I'd changed the entire book since I'd submitted it. It was about 30 pages longer, had a new title, and though there was a little bit of overlap between the book I'd sent her months before and the book I ended up with, it felt completely different to me. I explained everything, and was very relieved when she said revisions were fine, and that a new title was even fine, and that she was looking forward to reading the improved manuscript. After Winnow made the announcement, there was a little bit of a backlash about the contest--I don't really want to get into the specifics--but I had a couple of difficult decisions to make and had to really think about whether publishing the book with Winnow was going to be worth the potential trouble. At one point I withdrew the book, backed out of the contract, which I had signed but not yet mailed. But we kept talking, and in the end decided to go ahead.
It was a Saturday (last June) so my husband was home, which was fun. The book was even more beautiful than I expected. I felt (and still do) very grateful to Corinne and everybody at Winnow for taking such care with it.
So the book existed but wasn't officially "out" for several more months. The publication date wasn't until October. So nothing changed then, not really. It was exciting to show it to my friends and just to say "hey, this thing exists." But I think my take on the experience might be a little different from some first-time authors because I've been through the process with so many people as an editor and publicist. I think I had a better idea of what to expect, and what not to expect. Still, after the book was officially out, now, it's great to be able to answer that inevitable question "do you have a book?" with a yes. Of course that's great. I'd like to say I shrugged off the pressure to publish before Down Spooky was accepted, but I hadn't completely. I'd been a finalist in another contest already with another book, and the MS that became Down Spooky was really the third full-length collection I'd written. I took the others to the prom and they didn't dance. And I felt that disappointment, and that pressure. I dismissed it as well as I could. I was just about ready to publish the book myself through Half Empty/Half Full, because I'd had so much fun doing the chapbooks.
In addition to the readings, she and I also gave workshops and visited all kinds of classes. We did one performance workshop, where I just sort of assisted Jen (she being the true Performer and having the slam background and all), and a couple on publishing/book design, which reversed our roles. But most of the time we answered questions about our books, which the students had read in advance of our visit, and "how to get published" questions, and "what's it like to live in New York" questions, and "hey do you wanna go get a beer" questions.
I learned a lot about reading and performing on the tour and from Jen--I'm still learning this part of being a poet, and until a few years ago wasn't able to read in public at all. Even now, I get nervous and bomb about 1 in 7 times, but that's lots better than 4 in 5. I like reading. It just takes practice. Readings are also a great way to sell books, and I'm obligated to my publisher to sell as many as I can. They put in a lot of money and effort, taking a chance on me. Gotta hold up my end.
The best advice I got before the book came out was from two former teachers: "Ignore the assholes," and "Publication day is the worst day in a writer's life. The writing process itself is where you should get your satisfaction." Both of those things have really been helpful to keep in mind. Writing the poems is much more fun for me than anything else.
A poem from Down Spooky by Shanna Compton:
The day of prophecy has come and gone.
Suppose he had, in his white suit and hat,
It takes two years to dissipate the shock
Its flickering cinema features two films:
The soundtracks mingle through the walls. Listen:
. . .
. . .
14 sentences, week ten:
Before the fever eased, waking often from short sleeps. Once returning from being tied up, blindfolded, with wide tape across my mouth--kidnapped--traveling in a car and after a while I really needed to piss. First I tried saying it inside the tape (useless), then tried repeating a physical gesture (but semi-crossing and uncrossing my legs was making me appear merely restless). Suddenly it struck me that I should use a song. What I thought of was "How Sweet it Is To Be Loved By You," which I began humming at the title in the chorus, and though I doubted my choice at the verse (hard to hum effectively), I just gave it all I had, and after "I want to stop and thank you baby, I just want to stop--" I stopped and stayed completely still. We rode in silence for a few seconds, then the car pulled over and one of the guys in the front seat said, "You need to stop?" I nodded yes and they laughed, sounding good-natured, not like real kidnappers at all. They'd understood, and were (I felt) pleased by our small triumph of communication.
I do not have a therapist nor am I on medication. My father often used the expression: That book is closed. Personal matters take so much time and seem to have nothing to do with me. There was a bar across the street and late at night sometimes there were fights on the street. We were the ones who made sure that the right stuff got saved. A subtle manipulation of the cube... and the ramp goes nowhere.
22 APRIL 06
Also in the mailbox: the new journal Practice: New Art + Writing. You really have to look into this. If you send your address to email@example.com, the editors will mail you a free first issue. Practice publishes "poetry, fiction, nonfiction, art, and photography, as well as work that defies these genres." See their site for the full list of contributors to Issue One (including poets Janet Holmes, Cole Swensen, Graham Foust, Dan Beachy-Quick, Aaron McCollough, Rod Smith, Susan Tichy, G.C. Waldrep, and visual artists Anne Wilson, Paula McCartney, Karen Barbour) and to read about the goals of Practice Press (one of which is to provide "significant financial assistance annually to writers and artists"). Practice is currently reading for issue Two. And get this: each contributor is paid $200, plus 5 copies, and "fine loose-leaf tea." Oh yeah, simultaneous submissions are okay, and did I mention that the magazine is gorgeous?
If you're in the NYC area, The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel release party is today, Saturday, 2 pm, at the Frequency Series at the Four Faced Liar. And one final evening of inappropriate exploration happens tonight at the Flarf Festival, 8 pm, details here. The launch for Magazine Cypress 4, with readings by Brenda Iijima, Drew Gardner, Karen Weiser, and Matvel Yankelevich, is tomorrow at the Bowery Poetry Club, 5:30 pm.
20 APRIL 06
Erín Moure, from the essay And Poetry/:
As well, to me there's a relationship between physical processes, presence, and voice that is articulated only in relation to, that is constituted only in relation to other beings. Those links we have to each other, so well buried by the social constraints built into our speaking and perception, I'm more interested in the links, the movement of those linkages, than in "objects" or "conclusions" at either end. If you damage or conceal the links (as we do in damaging the earth or in underfunding AIDS hospices and medication), what are the consequences for the individual? I believe they are grave.
The structure of the poem? To me, absolute structure is motion. Structure as motion. Being is always in excess of this structure. Remains while the motion is, already past this place. Shock of that. Here we are. The body requires motion for memory. To explain context. Memory being only a part of the construct of a present context: that is, "the plausible." The brain puts forward plausibilities by selecting neural paths we have previously traveled. At the same time, the paths themselves "murmur," sign to each other. The paths alter themselves....
I believe also "poetry is a limitless genre; its borders are only in ourselves and can be moved, in our lifetimes, if we dare to."
from obedience by kari edwards:
Emily Dickinson: 341
The Feet, mechanical, go round—
This is the Hour of Lead—
. . .