Thursday, March 05, 2009

I've been thinking a lot lately about Dean Young. Specifically, the words Dean Young left with the patrons of The Empty Bottle the night of the No Thousands reading. In fairness, I must admit to having already left (I was trying to squeeze in both this and JMW's Rabbit Light Live), but there have been rumblings of it ever since, like how dog shit, if not properly avoided, winds up getting everywhere.

Janaka Stucky said this: Dean Young gave a great little speech before his closing reading at our event on Friday night (which packed the bar with roughly 200 people, causing the Fire Marshall to come and make them stop serving drinks) and talked about the declining publishing “industry” and the growing “tribe” of poets. In a nutshell: it’s not publishing that’s on the decline, but the big industry built around it—which was never designed for poets, who should revel in their growing numbers despite the doom-and-gloom predictions for the business around them. It was moving to see him step into the role of that night’s poet laureate unabashedly, but with humility. Bravo Dean.

This isn't necessarily a new idea; those of us working and living in the tribe have been aware of this for some time. However, I think its still significant in the sense that here was a man who can easily exist outside the tribe and is a commodity in the "big industry," finally recognizing all the work that is happening below him...and not just recognizing, but celebrating it. There are many writers in this world who bash the small press outfits for inundating the market...making it so there are more books than one can possibly ever hope to get their hands on. Saying that it takes the significance out of "properly" placing a manuscript. The big hiccup in this argument is that I, a poor-small-press-founding-blogger/poet, probably spend more money on poetry books in a year than Ted Kooser and fucking Billy Collins combined, but none of that is spent on presses like Random House or Penguin or Harper Collins, because they don't usually publish work that is of interest to me....most of my money goes to Octopus, Black Ocean, Cannibal, Greying Ghost or into my own press to make books that, I hope, others will find interesting. The important distinction to make though, is that the big publishing houses hope for broad audiences, the Barnes & Noble readers...them. Most of these small presses, would love for their books to be read by as many as possible, but we realize and market to our actual audiences...other I have theories that this might be an extension of MFA workshops and the consistency of new work always floating around, a subconscious, but powerful interest in all things contemporary...but that seems a different post altogether. Anyway and in conclusion, I like the tribal nature of this community, and though you do have to prove your worth to be accepted, in the sense of the more traditional (read: actual) tribes won't bring in another mouth to feed if that personal has no skills benefiting the group. The upside? Once your in, you've got this ever growing community around you that actually wants you to the New Pornographers or Broken Social Scene. And, we don't exist within a business model...we break Rocky vs. Drago.

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