Friday, July 22, 2011

It’s time for a new publishing model (give it away)

For a while I’ve been thinking about the way books of poetry are published. First, they’re expensive (compared to mass-market novels, for example). Second, they’re almost solely available through places like Amazon.

There's not a lot that can be done directly about either of those problems, granted, but today I was reading the new issue of Scientific American, and came across this partial solution (spoiler: it's not a new idea, I know), by David Pogue:


I make most of my income writing computer books. To my great distress, I discovered that they are widely available online as PDF files. But when I griped on my blog, my readers challenged the assumption that I was losing sales.

“First of all,” they said, “you’re counting a lot of people who never would have bought the book in the first place. Those don’t represent lost sales. And you’re not counting the people who like the PDF so much, they go buy the print edition or discover from the PDF sample that they like your writing.” One reader challenged me to a test: make one book available both on paper and as an unprotected PDF file. Report the effect of sales after one year.

I did that. The results were clear: Piracy was rampant. The book was everywhere online. But weirdly, my readers were also proved right. Sales of the printed edition did not suffer; in fact, they rose slightly year over year.


OK, so one example doesn’t make for a study, but I think there is a basic truth to this. PDFs are like browsing in a bookstore. Amazon is set up for a version of this sort of thing, where one can browse a few pages from many books. It’s probably about as far as Amazon can go. But publishers and authors can go further. In the way that music labels give away free samplers of their current releases, and individual artists usually have a few mp3s up for free on their websites, I think publishers and/or authors should post PDFs of a good chunk (if not all) of books of poetry.

My first book is out of print, and I have a PDF version of it that I was going to add to this post, but I just realized I don’t know how to do that. I need a hosting site, I suppose. Here I thought it was going to be easy . . .

Oh well (I'll keep looking). So I’m not making the grand gesture (for now). But I do think the time has come for authors and poetry publishers to make this sort of gesture. I’m not sure it will help sales much, but I’m quite certain it won’t hurt them.

I heard Donald Revell refer to the publishing of poetry as a “gift economy.” I’ve always liked that phrase. It’s what POETRY magazine does (in a slightly different version), and it seems to be working fine. It’s one of the things I think they do well. I think the rest of us should join in. Even if it does little for sales, it will do a lot for the community, and the discussion of individual books and poets. One of the things I’ve been bothered by when talking to poets is our lack of shared texts. This would up the discussion. And it’s my belief that if the discussion is upped, sales will follow (even if modestly).


At 7/23/2011 11:48 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 7/23/2011 12:54 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

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At 7/23/2011 1:26 PM, Blogger knott said...

couldn't agree more with your post,

if you're interested in doing your first book as a free-download pdf,

i recommend,

argotist uses them to do their free pdfs

(as do i)

if you run into any problems i'd be happy to offer some how-to tips via private email

At 7/23/2011 1:43 PM, Blogger knott said...


lulu charges nothing to create books

though you have to first open an account with a credit card

plus in addition to the free pdf download edition

you can create a low-priced print edition which can be bought by those interested (or by yourself if you want hardcopies to sell at readings)


At 7/23/2011 2:16 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Bill K:

I was thinking of you while writing this, knowing that you'd been doing somethign fo the sort for a while now.

I'm going over there now. I'll post the thing there sometime this week.

At 7/23/2011 2:18 PM, Blogger knott said...


i don't know your experience with your books or if you care about things like covers/font/blurbs etcet

but i hated every book of mine done by socalled real publishers (FSG, BOA, Iowa, Pitt, Random House and all the others),

i hated the covers front and back, the blurbs they chose, the fonts, i hated everything they did, and i hated most the fact that i had no say about any of it—

one of the big plus factors for me in using Lulu is that i get to make the decisions about those things—

if you redo your first book via Lulu you can choose the font you want, the SIZE of the font, you can design the covers to your satisfaction (for the print edition, but you can also add jpegs anywhere in the pdf)—

as i say, i don't know whether you care about these elements of presenting your work,

but if you do . . .

At 7/23/2011 2:25 PM, Blogger knott said...

good luck, John G—

i look forward to downloading and reading your book—

as i said, if you run into any problems, i've done dozens of projects there and know a few tricks i'd be happy to share—

At 7/23/2011 2:27 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Things like that have been much better in my experience. Four Way Books, U of Akron, and BOA (it's a different BOA than before) we're all quite good to work with. True, they all did the final work, but each gave me/us two or three mock-ups to choose from.

TYPE SIZE. Indeed. I'm finding that my ability to read books is diminishing rapidly. I now have to use reading glasses, and have gone through two magnifications so far. Oh joy.

At 7/23/2011 2:28 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I'm looking forward to it. I'll probably send you an email this week, as I'm sure I'm going to run into something. I always do.


At 7/24/2011 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've noticed a discrepancy in perception between poetry and the visual arts. It's business as usual for photographers to self-publish. Some do it in grand style with tradtional presses, but almost everyone has some kind of Lulu or Blurb book. Often it's just seen as a cheap and convenient way to produce a bound portfolio ... the electronic press books are rarely presented in the spirit of "I have a BOOK."

But writers I know seem to have an aversion to self-publishing in any guise. As if it somehow marks you as a member of a lower caste.

Do you think this is commonplace? If so is it in anyway justified? And is it changing?


At 7/24/2011 2:53 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

I’ve been thinking about this stuff in connection with John Barr’s controversial essay—you know, the one claiming that poetry has to change because it’s become irrelevant, because no one cares about it anymore. How do we get people to care about it? Well, first we have to look at all the fat, uglily dressed, functionally illiterate latchkey kids named Tyler and Brittney. They’re the future—the near future. What do they, will they, read? Little or nothing, and the little will be Facebook, instant messages, and emails—or whatever supplants those technological phenomena. People used to say—I remember William Matthews saying this—that poets should be trying to steal their audience back from fiction writers, but now it’s clear that soon even fiction writers won’t have an audience to steal, if they have one now.

Recently Nada Gordon posted a video by a young man named Steve Roggenbuck. That guy is the future. He talks about using Facebook and even stalls in public toilets as vehicles for poetry. Anyone looking for where American poetry is headed should listen to him. What the poetry of the future will look like depends on how people interact with the poetry posted at these new venues. (Roggenbuck talks about punning on the names of people who leave messages on his wall and flarfing their language.) I don’t know whether we can predict what it will look like. I’ve read that Roggenbuck has a collection of short poems that are sentences gleaned from emails between him and his high school girlfriend. That might be a hint.

I don’t think it’ll be called “poetry.” Americans hate that word. They think they hate poetry, but really they just hate the word “poetry.” “Football” isn’t our word for what the rest of the world calls football; we say “soccor.” Similarly, “poetry” isn’t our word for what the rest of the world calls poetry. We call poetry the word for whatever it’s in—stand-up comedy routines, lyrics, movie dialogue.

If you say, “Facebook, texting—I hate all that shit,” I sympathize. But artists move from reputable to disreputable venues like snakes shedding old skins, like moving from SoHo to Chelsea. In Shakespeare’s day, theater was disreputable; science fiction and comics were junk until artists like J.G. Ballard and Robert Crumb transformed them; before WWII, stage actors thought movie acting beneath them; jazz and rock began at the bottom of society, but now many practitioners of jazz and rock are sophisticated and serious musicians.

When I first moved to Ann Arbor, it was a cool, artsy place cheek by jowl with a dump called Ypsilanti. But gentrification drove the cool people—the artists—out of Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti, where the cost of living is lower. Now Ypsilanti is the cool place with lots of artists around. You hear lots of garage bands practicing. I think gentrification is killing the old lit mag/book publishing/MFA program triumvir. The more that triumvir is dominated by people whose Ivy League education enabled them to network with clout, the more people with talent—authentic voices from the wrong class and the wrong parts of the country—will avoid it, drop out of it, get excluded from it. Soon people will look at the literary establishment and see that all the cool people have moved out of it and into formerly déclassés venues like Roggenbuck’s. Those venues will be the Ypsilanti of poetry. And poetry there will be free—given away.

At 7/24/2011 6:10 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

In response to something Lyle Daggett wrote--funny that I don't see it here:

No sir, you're not the only one who prefers to read poetry and other literature in print. I do too. I'm a book man. But I'm afraid that to most young people a book is like an 8-track tape--something oldsters used to listen to, quaint but out of the loop. I'm afraid that poetry wearing a dust jacket is like a classical musician wearing a black tie and tails in Leonard Bernstein fashion--off-putting to most young people. I really hope I'm wrong about that, but I don't think I am.

At 7/24/2011 9:38 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/25/2011 6:07 AM, Anonymous djm said...

The Waldrops also did/do a good deal of self-publishing. Now they're associated with Brown.

Also, the sense that 'the old lit mag/book publishing/MFA program triumvir is dominated by people whose Ivy League education enabled them to network with clout, the more people with talent—authentic voices from the wrong class and the wrong parts of the country—will avoid it, drop out of it, get excluded from it.' is particularly resonant.

I say that as someone originally from the Midwest, working on my first MS & applying to PhD programs, after receiving an MFA on the East Coast (tho I have to say, mine was fairly experimental-leaning, which was wonderful). But acknowledging the fact that I will be disincluded from attending an Ivy League (while others can just pay their way in) is disappointing & frankly sort of frustrating.

Maybe all persons such as myself can do is make our work available for free. But then, in contrast, I also have a very large bent toward the archival, & I tend to favor the physical over the digital for that purpose.

Also, John, you can simply upload the PDF to Megaupload. All you've got to do is create an account, if you'd like to administer the availability of the PDF. Otherwise, no account is necessary.

At 7/25/2011 8:11 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

I remember Anne Waldman talking about the scene in the 60s was largely a gift economy too. Part of the reason, she said, was that there simply wasn't an avenue for a lot of the stuff that was happening. By creating these small, handmade editions, and letting them go for nothing they created a whole audience for that kind of work.

Of course, these are the days in New York where Maureen Owen told me a lot of writers could afford to live in Manhattan on a part-time job.

At 7/25/2011 8:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You may want to remind your friends about some of those who have previously self-published ..."

I'm just suggesting that there's a current prejudice, and like most, it's not rooted in reason or historical evidence—so it's probably not going to be shaken by those things.

I'm curious if other people are aware of it, and if they have a sense of its scope and of whether or not it's shifting one way or another.


At 7/25/2011 8:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's also significant that almost everyone on that list of the (now) famous self-published was born over a century ago. Times change ... in this case many aspects of the relationships of poets to the publishing industry, to academia, and to the public have changed. So it's not necessarily a helpful point of comparison.

At 7/25/2011 9:24 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

You guys ever read John Olson's blog? He makes me wish I could remember something about the 60s other than being scolded for smearing chocolate cake on my sailor suit. He often writes about how, in the 60s, it was cool to be contemptuous of money and possessions; how you could strike up lively conversations about Rimbaud and the Beats and eastern philosophy; how people would show interest when you told them you wrote poetry; how an artist could move to a big city like New York, support himself with a part-time job, spend many hours a week writing or painting or whatever, and still have money left over for some jollies. And he often asks, What happened?

At 7/25/2011 10:05 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

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At 7/25/2011 10:06 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

I moved to the city last year, fresh on the heels of graduation. I work full time at a publishing company. I can afford to pay my student loans, a nice apartment, food, but little else. I spend what time I can writing, which usually amounts to a few poems a week. The only people interested in the fact that I write are other people who write. Aside from them, nobody knows who Arthur Rimbaud is.

Thanks for the tip on the blog, David. Seems like there's some good stuff happening there.

At 7/25/2011 10:48 AM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/25/2011 11:25 AM, Blogger knott said...

"a young man named Steve Roggenbuck. That guy is the future."


good luck to him, i applaud all such populist efforts—

sounds like what he's trying to do is what John Hegley does in England,

though you've probably never heard of him—

we have a prejudice against Britpos
here in the U.S.,

we have this Wake Forest University Press wasting all its money (you've seen their fullpage ads in APR and PoChiMag) publishing every thirdrate Irish poet here,

but great or at least worthwhile Brits like Hegley and Roger McGough and Wendy Cope et al

have no distribution in this country—


At 7/25/2011 12:56 PM, Blogger knott said...

oops my last post is wrong— we do see Brit poets offered here in the US,
but they are usually

mainstream elitists like Glyn Maxwell et al

or avantgarde (Cambridge) elitists like Prynne et al

but not the populists like Hegley/McGough/Cope et al

At 7/25/2011 2:21 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

No doubt you're right about the prejudice against British poets, Mr. Knott. And though I'm anglophilic, I've never heard of Hegley. My knowledge of British poetry gets no au courant-er than the Martian School. I tend to go back to Larkin or old Tony Harrison books, or way back to the Metaphysicals and Elizabethans. I'll check out the British populists you listed.

At 7/25/2011 2:55 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

I used to mail a chapbook of new poems to anybody who asked for one each summer. Actually, there were a couple dozen of us who did that -- we called it the Self-Publish or Perish Initiative.

Some of the poets involved now publish a book a year or so, no staples involved. Some like me bring out a chapbook every few years. And some have stopped showing their work publicly altogether.

At 7/25/2011 7:28 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/26/2011 5:14 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Hey Gary, he's a real poem for you:


paper triangle,
if you are a kite,
you have lifted a heavy iron

on which the dahlia beast
mapping forkles

That's by Lanny Quarles. (I think I asked him once if he's descended from Francis. I think he said no.)

At 7/26/2011 1:33 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/26/2011 1:37 PM, Blogger adams24 said...

I don't see a gift economy happening if poetry is to continue to be a career venue. Or not for the bottoms: D revell and C Keelan on the other hand gets oodles of books for free I imagine (at-least based on looking at their home office); note: they are my friends and I love them--this is not a diss.

adam strauss

At 7/26/2011 1:37 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/26/2011 1:58 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/26/2011 2:13 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

Ah, Gary, you protest too much. Does part of your shadow lie in avant-garde writing?

You're not far from imitating Ashbery.

You remind me of the town atheist who gets saved...

At 7/26/2011 4:00 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/26/2011 5:02 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/26/2011 5:39 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


This is a very real question: "I'm curious if other people are aware of it, and if they have a sense of its scope and of whether or not it's shifting one way or another."

I've no idea what the answer is. There is a knee-jerk skepticism against self-publishing in literature that is not there in visual art or music. Literature, for better and worse, tends toward the "evaluation of peers" model to give the work legitimacy. Like I said, for better AND worse.

That said, self-publishing happens all the time. Jordan mentions that here, and just today Maxine Chernoff published a book on Lulu:

But Jordan and Maxine are both established writers. The same with Bill Knott. I think it's very different for writers who aren't already established. Kind of like what Adam is pointing to here.

At 7/26/2011 6:11 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/26/2011 6:35 PM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Well, as a young unknown, the appeal of having poems published by some larger authority than the circle I hang out with does exist. For me, the appeal is strictly in audience. I can only self-promote so much. However, magazines, both online and in print, have established audiences with the potential to put my work in the hands of other readers and writers of which I'm unaware. That, I think, is what is important: getting more people into the conversation.

The reason self-publishing doesn't exist as much in writing as say, music, is the end game of all this. Even our most famous poets are more unknown than middling rock or pop stars. We could set up a gift economy, and I think we should, but I don't think we'll see quite the reaction that we have for file sharing. When put like this, I see more and more dissimilarity between the two art forms. Putting poems online doesn't encourage people to attend readings the way having a demo does. Few poets tour like small bands trying to make it. Lastly, publishing houses don't have A&R people scouting out the next big thing. Really, they're entirely different business models.

At 7/26/2011 6:43 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Indeed! And one seems to be working better than the other. Not that a music industry business model would have much of a chance in the poetry world. They're trying that here and there with SLAM, but it doesn't seem to be performing all that much better than the current structure.

It reminds me of a link Don Share posted on facebook this week to the idea that keeps coming back that the reason poetry is so disliked is due to the way we teach it in elementary school. If it were banned, then it would be more popular. I don't know if that would be true or not, but I rather like it.

And what if they made Contemporary Music Appreciation a subject? Would that harsh the mellow?

At 7/26/2011 7:27 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/26/2011 8:26 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

I sub in elementary schools now and then, and I think children love poetry--at least in the early grades, which I enjoy teaching most. They love it when I break out the teacher's Shel Silverstein books, and they like other silly word-play poetry so much they'd probably like John Hegley's "Amoeba" ( The genitalia and outré sexual proclivities would have to be bowdlerized for the parents, but I think kids would laugh at this poem. Or Roethke stuff like "I once had a donkey,/ That was all right,/ But he always wanted to fly my kite," etc. And I doubt they're taught anything about poetry. The high school and college students I teach certainly know nothing about poetry--nothing about figurative language, nothing about prosody, nothing about famous poets. My college students have never heard of the Beats, and they seem complacent about their ignorance.

Maybe the problem's in middle school. SOMETHING dims their view of poetry between 10ish and puberty, because when I try to teach Whitman and Dickinson to high school students I feel like I'm reciting Cypress Hill raps at a Baptist prayer meeting. Everything I say ricochets off a force field.

At 7/27/2011 6:31 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...


Maybe banning it would at least increase the interest. In the 60s, it seemed like readership increased for the "cool" poets (the Beats, anyone socially engaged or counter-cultural). Even in punk rock, a lot of those people were pretty well read (Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Richard Hell, etc). Perhaps schools should start with the contemporary and work backwards? By the time they reached say, their senior year, Shakespeare might make more sense to them.

Then again, the musicians could do a lot to get exposure out there. I'm willing to bet a lot of those people on the independent music scene have a favorite poet or two. Someone should start a zine or blog where they interview musicians about the influence writers have had on their work.

At 7/27/2011 6:49 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Fuzz! That would be a great idea. I doubt one would find the kind of interesting answers one would find back in the 60s = early 70s, though. I remember Neil Young talking about reading Hart Crane in an interview back then . . .

Come to think of it, I'm sure you're right. I just remembered that several indie musicians, I've seen, have lit degrees.

David, you're right, too. This was something I talked about a lot a few years ago and what you're saying matches my experience. First through fourth grade, you know? You can give them anything, almost, and they'll go for the language and images. Then after that less and less. Their imaginations go elsewhere for whatever reason (school? hormones? peer pressure? pop music?) and language play and the kinds of meaning found in poetry (not to mention the usual examples of poetry the come across, which tends to be the most "friendly" "mainstream") are traded away.

At 7/27/2011 7:57 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

John and Fuzz, I'm for mixing it all up. First, they need to be saturated with poetry, and they need to be thus inundated by teachers who aren't total fucking idiots. Second, the kinds of poetry need to be mixed up. Bits of Shakespeare, Marlowe, the King James Bible, etc., should interspersed with contemporary bits. How about funny or just wildly imaginative pieces by Padgett, Edson, Knott? And lyrics should be mixed in--just because they help young people connect with poetry. (Theoretically, at any rate.) So you could go from some hilarious Shakespearean insults (thou whoreson beetleheaded flapeared knave) to "Crossroads Blues" or Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner." When they get a little older you could maybe slip in story-like Bukowski poems--not too ribald ones--or something like Sonic Youth's "In the Kingdom #19," which is Lee Renaldo reading his gruesome prose poem to the jamming of his band...Well, there are so many possible choices. You know, work some Issa haiku in there. But I feel that the contemporary needs to be mixed up with the judiciously chosen old, and there just has to be a lot more of it and a lot less video games and other stultifying manifestations of modernity that pour hydrochloric acid on the brain.

At 7/27/2011 8:04 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Or you know that Black Flag song "You Let Me Down"? That's just a guy reading a hurt, angry letter to dark, gnarly musical accompaniment. Why couldn't that be used to teach poetry? How many poems are just impassioned letters?

At 7/27/2011 8:07 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


Sounds good to me, and the argument must continually be made to administration, gov boards, and ED programs. Such a thing is currently, to the best of my knowledge, much in the hands of the teachers themselves. I wish it were, but education, like so many things, has become centralized. Or close to it.

Test scores on standard tests are the results that people think matter, currently. And benchmarking. And yada yada.

At 7/27/2011 8:08 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

I'd be seriously interested in starting that project, but I don't have enough of a connection to the music scene to do it alone. I set up a show for Ecstatic Peace psych-folk duo MV + EE when I lived in Boulder. They crashed on my floor and stayed up with my friends and I talking about Ted Berrigan and playing guitar until about 4AM.

If we could get a few people with a big net of musical tastes, the responses, regardless of whether or not you like the poets named, would expose a whole range of people to the scope of poetry, contemporary and otherwise.

At 7/27/2011 8:12 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Or how about Radiohead's "Fitter Happier."

But, on the other side, when I was in High School, there was a push by some teachers to do that sort of thing. Some Beatles, some Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen . . . and some of my friends use Hip Hop and Rap . . . but I've never been persuaded by that approach. I'd rather bring in wild and not wild poems (Stein and Frost, Olds and Stevens, they all have a place. Even Billy Collins can be useful in a class.)

At 7/27/2011 8:15 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


Oh, I agree. But the indie scene is SO much bigger and $-ier than the poetry scene. But hey, if it means I might get dinner with Neko Case, you know, I'd give it a try.

At 7/27/2011 5:47 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/29/2011 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Wasn’t there a recent album by a famous popular singer (Patti Smyth? Natalie Merchant?) that was all famous poetry?

Did it sell?"

That was "Leave your Sleep" by Natalie Merchant. I don't know how it sold. It's all poetry written for children, so it has a sing-songy nature to begin with.


At 7/29/2011 8:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Surely you jest. And I suppose you consider Flarf to be poetry as well."

I think you'd have to dig pretty deep into history, maybe past the 20th century, to find the kind of normative definition of poetry that would exclude flarf.

Which is not to say that you have to like it. But declarations like "that's not poetry" / "that's not art" are going to exempt you from most meaningful contemporary conversations. Even if there will always be plenty welcoming nooks on the web for this kind of ranting.


At 7/30/2011 2:22 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/30/2011 5:42 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 7/30/2011 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Examples, please"

What are you asking me for examples of? Outmoded normative definitions of poetry? They're easy to come by.

"'Flarf' is to poetry what the 'Tea Party' is to politics:

That's actually a more reasonable judgment. I don't agree with it, but you're expressing a defensible opinion.

Tea Party politics may be insane politics, but they're politics. Flarf may be insane poetry (although I just think it's fun, and that it's fun in a way that is highly relevent to new media, information structures, and social dynamics). But it's still poetry.

"But first, look up the definition of 'Flarf'."

Flarf, if it's anything, is a loose movement. Reading examples of it will be more instructive than any one person's definition.

I think you should take a closer look at what the flarf people are up to. If you look at the movement as itself a critique, you might find yourself more in alignment with it than you currently assume.


At 8/01/2011 3:29 AM, Blogger Jeffrey Side said...

I should point out that Maxine’s ebook was published by Argotist Ebooks and not by herself. Here is a link to their other ebooks:

At 8/01/2011 7:59 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


Indeed! Sorry if I gave that impression. I was thinking of the "free download," give it away aspect.

At 8/01/2011 11:25 AM, Blogger Jeffrey Side said...

That's ok. I was pointing it out as someone left a comment thinking Maxine self-published it.

At 8/03/2011 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Knott quit giving it away:

At 8/04/2011 7:19 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Oh no. That's a terrible place to get to. I hope he doesn't stay there long.

He's right. None of this stuff moves very well. Even giving it away.

At 8/04/2011 7:45 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Recently he said he was going to stop writing poetry and just make visual art, but I kept going to his poetry blog, and soon the drafts began to appear again.

At 8/04/2011 8:23 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Well, if or not the PDFs return, I hope Knott gets to an OK place with the whole thing. I understand his frustration. Books of poetry just do not sell, no matter what one means by "selling."

At 8/04/2011 3:27 PM, Blogger knott said...

your post and the various comments made me think about what i've been doing for the past 3 or 4 years and whether it has been worth it, whether i've wasted my time and energy—that, and the imminent delivery of a Selected Poems which I hired a professional editor to put together has also hurled me into a state of insecurity . . . I'm going to stop the free pdfs, and just sell my books from now on, and if no one buys them, well, that won't be any different than it has been in my lifetime of publishing books: no one bought my Farrar Straus & Giroux book and no one bought my U of Pitt book and no one bought my two BOA books and no one bought my U of Iowa book and no one bought my Random House book and no one bought my two Barn Dream Press books and no one bought my Sun book and no one bought my Release Press book and no one bought my Cloud Marauder book and no one bought my Salt Mound Press book and no one bought my Munich Editions book and no one bought my Proper Tales Press book and no one bought my Saturnalia book, et al, so I don't expect anyone to buy the ones I will be selling from now on at my new site:


At 8/04/2011 3:36 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Well, I bought The Quicken Tree. So that's one there.

Anyone who has published a book of poetry can sympathize. It’s really amazing how few of them get sold. The other day, I saw on Amazon, that a copy of my newest book had sold. I felt like calling whomever it was who bought it. I wish I could have. I wanted to thank them, or apologize to them or something.

Good luck on your new plan.

At 8/04/2011 5:19 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 8/04/2011 5:34 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 8/04/2011 5:35 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

And the situation has to be worsening, John, because every day we bookworming anachronisms crawl inexorably closer to the buzzsaw. Soon the only people above ground will be screen and keyboard people--people who'd as soon pick up a two-headed hitchhiker as a book.

I checked a couple Knott books out of the Detroit Public Library a few months ago. I don't think they'd been cracked in a long time. Lots of great stuff rotting on the shelves there...

At 8/04/2011 6:29 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 8/04/2011 7:49 PM, Blogger Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

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At 8/30/2011 7:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Late to the party, but this just in at Boston Review:

"... what we’ve very clearly demonstrated by putting it for free online is that reading the book online has absolutely no negative impact on sales. Why in fact would it?
In many respects we’ve got a real Stockholm Syndrome around the model of publishing as it’s existed up until now. We just take for granted that it is the way it is because that’s a good way for things to be. And when something diverges from it we look for proof as to why it should diverge. But I’m interested in trying to reframe questions. Why do we think that a person won’t buy a print book because in theory they could read it for free online? What is it that people are buying? What is it that people want? In many respects what people want is to read it on their own terms, so in many cases, people don’t want to have to read it on a screen. Then the other thing is that people want to feel like they are spending money. It is their way of feeling good about themselves. It is their way of voting for something with their dollars."

(Richard Nash, Revaluing the Book)



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