Two more Morning Porch poems from Luisa Igloria and a comment on free culture

This entry is part 3 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11

Windy, with mottled gray
and white clouds, and a muddy
yellow smudge for sun: as in
a fingerpainting—and a siskin’s
sharp-edged note to peel the first
layer of morning away from darker
dark. Here, too, I tense and quicken
toward what might haul and bear
me over from the depths. Up
from the underground cistern,
the bucket pitches and sways;
above, that patch of sky
and the wind’s wide hands,
writing and rewriting
what the day might be.

*

High winds stir the trees like surf.
The racket they make is counterpoint
to the quiet I want to make in my heart.
There, a dead branch crashes
every few minutes. But yes—
even there, birds forage: their small
hungers, twittering like blue
flames in the birches.

Luisa Igloria
11.30.2010

* * *

Luisa left these in the respective comment strings at the blog, a better place for archival purposes than Facebook, which can’t be trusted to preserve anything. She says, “I could do this all day long instead of the work that’s lying on my desk!” And I wish she would. Aren’t they terrific? (Click the first lines to see my original posts.)

As I commented over there, I am always hoping that other writers will remix my words like this — that’s why my Creative Commons licence is “share alike” rather than the more common “no derivatives.” Each time someone has done something like this, the results have been delightful, and my only regret is that it doesn’t happen more often. Perhaps I need to set a better example by making some remixes of my own from other writers with copyleft-licenced work.

I first talked about my change in philosophy about copyright in an August 2007 post, “Should poetry be open-source?” I probably should’ve said “open content,” but that’s O.K. I remain convinced that a copyleft licence is not only appropriate but necessary for literary culture to flourish at this point. Here’s one example of why I feel that way. At qarrtsiluni, we’ve been soliciting for submissions to a translation-themed issue for three weeks now, and have received relatively few actual translations so far. Two different poet-friends have told me that it’s just not worth the effort to try and track down the copyright holders for the 20th-century French poetry they’ve been translating. They don’t mind taking the risk of publishing such translations on their own blogs (I’ve done much the same with translations of Spanish-language poems here), but we can’t risk it at qarrtsiluni.

It shouldn’t have to be this way. Copyright laws all over the world should be amended to explicitly permit literary translations; U.S. “fair use” provisions should be instituted everywhere and expanded to cover certain other forms of remix; and heck, as long as I’m fantasizing, the international norm for copyright protection of author’s lifetime plus 70 years should be scrapped in favor of something more reasonable, such as lifetime-plus-25. But I don’t see this happening anytime soon, so I think it’s incumbent on us as authors to apply copyleft licenses to our work if we want to extend to others the freedoms we’d like for ourselves.

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10 Comments


  1. timely that you post about copyright and remixing. why? i was thinking about your poem for yesterday’s post when i was driving (probably yesterday) and that the poem was simply there on the blog, available for the reading to anyone who visits. it’s not (that i know of) in a literary journal online or in print. as far as i know, it didn’t have to pass through any gatekeeper (like an editor) in order for it be there for us to read. (not that i have anything against editors) and i thought wow…kind of amazing.

    Reply

    1. Thanks for the comment. Seven years into this blogging thing, I still haven’t gotten over being amazed at it — both the ease of the technology, and the richness fo the literary culture that’s grown up as a consequence. But my decision to give away my work on my blog rather than try for first publication elsewhere has less to do with generosity than impatience, I’m afraid!

      Reply

  2. Great pieces.

    It’s funny, I have a list of things I’ve been meaning to do with my site and one of them is to change the rights to a cc share-alike type license. I share many of your concerns about copyright especially the fact that our copyright laws seem to be doing everything possible to ensure we become a civilization with no shared/public culture. That bugs me and I don’t really want to be a part of it. Perhaps I’ll move that change a little higher up on my to-do list.

    Reply

    1. Cool, glad I could give you a nudge. Obviously there are other copyleft licenses than the Creative Commons share alike — the Wikipedia articles on open content, open source and free culture have plenty of links if you want to research it. A lot of people go for the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence, though the free culture purists criticize the noncommercial part. I am comfortable with applying an Attribution-Share Alike licence to my writing, since my poetry isn’t very likely to make anyone a fortune, and if it does, god bless ’em. But I figure most people who are going to want to use my work in any real money-making way will want to include it in a standard copyrighted work, which means they’d need my permission to lift the share-alike provision, for which I can demand a payoff or royalties. In practice, it’s only my photos that have attracted that kind of interest, and to date I’ve been easy, only asking for a copy of the book at most. (Got my mom a beautiful hardcover book on golden eagles that way.)

      Reply

      1. I’ve been researching it and found myself reading some of the debates regarding the NC portion of the license. Interesting stuff, and I like your take on the function of the SA piece. Hadn’t thought about that.

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  3. Of course, the seventy years after death rule is ridiculous, but I understand it was made that long because of pressure from the folks at Walt Disney (it used to be 50)
    I love your work, I do like to submit to journals from time to time though, so I’m not quite ready to go Creative Commons at this point.

    Reply

    1. Yes, I think that’s true about the influence of the Disney Corporation. As if I needed one more reason to hate them.

      I don’t think using a Creative Commons license and submitting to journals are mutually exclusive. Applying a CC license to your work in general does not prevent you from lifting its provisions for individual works — and in any case, copyright reverts to you after publication in almost all magazines. Some of the online ones might even be amenable to posting a link to your chosen CC licence after the piece if you asked them to.

      It’s book publication that gets a little tricky. Fortunately, Phoenicia Publishing was willing to include my CC licence in my chapbook, but I’m not sure how many other literary presses would be so amenable. And it’s a bigger deal for me since a book represents a sizable collection of work — I’d really want to make sure readers know they’re free to reproduce and alter it.

      Reply

  4. I came back to look again at your remark about deciding to share your work freely on your blog rather than trying for first publication elsewhere.

    You’re the first person I’ve bumped up against who’s made such a statement, although there surely are others I’ve simply not found.
    It feels like an affirmation of my own instincts in this matter of publication. Even though it’s a nearly reflexive response to anyone who can string a few words together, I’m beginning to hear the “you should write a book/get published/stop giving your stuff away” mantra more often.

    I may be nuts, but I’d much rather spend my time researching and writing, and developing relationships with my readers, than devote myself to “getting published”. I’ve had two poems anthologized and published a handful of magazine articles, and my feeling about it all was, “Well, ok. Been there, done that. Now – back to work.”

    Anyway – I didn’t mean to run on so, but this whole business of it’s-not-really-writing-unless-you-get-paid drives me crazy. More thinking to be done on the subject, for sure.

    Reply

    1. Glad you found my thoughts useful. Of course, with poetry it’s an easier decision since we’re not really giving up any chance to make real money by posting it online. The kind of well-rounded and insightful essays you publish at your blog might indeed make quite a lot of money if you submitted them to magazines. One of my brothers makes thousands of dollars a year writing pieces for a political magazine; I told him he’d be a fool to blog! ‘Cause he needs the money, and blog advertising revenue wouldn’t come close. So online self-publishing is not a one-size-fits-all solution by any matter, though I do tend to recommend it to poets — especially since there are so few general-interest magazines and newspapers that publsih poetry anymore. We have a far better chance of reaching readers this way.

      Reply

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