Publishing news: two reviews and a call for artist(s)

Most poetry chapbooks are lucky to get any reviews, let alone one as kind as this, from long-time blogger Jonah at Love During Wartime in response to Twelve Simple Songs:

Song Two, “My parachute knapsack,” is another example of the dialogue between photo and poem. The poem closes with the lines “That’s what it was like / being alone.” The photograph is of a pair of boots on a red porch, a white wall behind them and white snow bordering the left of the porch. This is possibly the most “illustrative” pairing in the collection, yet I don’t see this as cloyingly obvious. There’s no self-pity on either the verso or recto: both speak of being alone, rather than being lonely. Each offer images devoid of sentimentality.

Do read the whole review… and of course check out the collection if you haven’t already. (And note that I still have some 20%-off coupons available for the print-on-demand version.)

Last weekend, Jonah blogged another review, this one for a collection I haven’t even bothered to publish aside from the series at Via Negativa and accompanying audio recordings: Manual. He wrote, in part:

I read through this brief collection in a few hours. But each poem deserves its own hour. Many of us think of poetry as some code that must be deciphered. These poems are a fine antidote to that fear: they are approachable, friendly (in their imperious way), tender, often whimsical, and sly.

It’s always gratifying when one’s work garners these kinds of close reads (especially of course when the reader has such a favorable reaction!). Both these projects have also sparked unsolicited artistic responses — close readings of a sort — from the Dutch filmmaker Swoon (Marc Neys): a single, seven-and-a-half-minute-long film for Twelve Simple Songs as read by Nic Sebastian, and a series of five films for poems in Manual. What a gift.

I now have a number of cycles of poems like Manual that feel complete and could be made into books. The question is always: Would the effort to design and produce a book be worth it? How does one measure such things if you’re giving your work away? How many downloads and purchases are enough? Or should I submit these collections to other publishers on the chance that they may be able to do a better job reaching readers, even though it means in most cases giving up control over design and the chance to have digital versions? Right now I’m putting most of my effort into an anthology of newly revised work which I may also self-publish; it’s clear to me that this book will offer value to readers simply as an act of curation from my too-voluminous online corpus. And I’m thinking I’d also like to pursue an idea suggested by Jean Morris in a recent comment here: an illustrated version of Bear Medicine.

So here’s the proposal: I’m looking for an artist or artists with an affinity for bears to collaborate on a small book incorporating my Bear Medicine prose poems. I’m thinking woodblock prints, but paintings or other media might work, too. Publication would be digital and print-on-demand under the Via Negativa Press imprint. I can’t afford to pay much. Contact me if you’re interested.

2 Comments


  1. Those really are lovely reviews. What a gift!

    I think there’s a lot to be said for releasing one’s own work, especially given the utter crapshoot which is poetry publishing these days. Perhaps you might opt for the nanopress model, where you find someone you trust to serve as onetime editor / collaborator?


    1. Getting critical readers in advance of publication, including ideally a copy editor, is very important for self-publishers. I am not completely sold on Nic’s nanopress model, however, for two reasons: 1) I like the continuity of having the same micropress for multiple titles. For one thing, it ought to cut down on the number of new websites one needs to set up and domains one needs to register. 2) Part of the point of having an independent editor in Nic’s conception, as I recall, is to give the book more respectability. But I feel poets should just embrace the disrespect in which we’re held by the rest of society and quit trying to fight it with our endless preening and prizes and whatnot. Also, not every collection needs a preface or forward — in fact, I rather think most don’t. Though blurbs can be nice for press releases and flyers.

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