In the early 90’s, I was one of many folks who got together with friends and attempted to give self-publishing a go. We were three undergrad women frequenting a male-heavy music scene, getting our consciousnesses raised via women’s studies classes and the daily lessons life doled out. Our zine, Shrill, was an attempt to get our critiques & opinions on the scene heard, but it didn’t last past one issue: our band of xx chromosomes split up and headed for grad school lands, among other defaults.
So far this century, the equivalent of the zine seems to be online indie mags such as Luzmag and Adam Fieled’s P.F.S. Post. These hot little spots give the everyman & woman a chance to showcase their tastes, and moreover, express their appreciation for published and unpublished writers alike by waving a flag and pointing out the poems they’ve solicited or received by word of mouth. You know the old adage, “If he tells a friend, then they tell two …”
Of course, electronic zines have their place in the publishing world. They turn surfing poets on to other like-minded poets, get their quirky verse picked up in search engines, and glean some attention & acclaim, however major or minor, for the writers themselves. Even well-known writers find happiness in sincere fan letters. But one major difference between the big publishing world and these smaller venues is that the latter allow for more communication between publisher and writer and writers and writers, and we all know what communication builds: community.
Just who makes up these communities, I’m sure, ranges from students in MFA programs, to urban dwellers seeking a certain aesthetic to the Midwestern professor stuck in her house under snow, wanting to know more about the currently evolving poetries of New York, Georgia, and France. The internet allows for the disparate & the geographically far-and-wide to find each other. And I’m not even touching on the promise & possibilities yet of the more “official” online journals such as Coconut, MiPo, and Octopus. While the cautious are still pondering the legitimacy of publishing online, there are whole communities of folks who have gathered through electronic means and praise or discuss each other’s work because, well, they think it’s valuable & noteworthy.
It’s no accident that I’m posting a short note on this phenomenon today, though I’m sure the implications of such grassroots-yet-global publishing are more multiple and evolved than my blog indicates. After some friendly banter on poetry, Lars Palm solicited me from his home in Spain for a few poems. I’m happy they appear in Luzmag today for several reasons.
First, I’m lazy to a fault. I almost never send work out on pulp products. I associate printing paper with work that occurs in my office, which is work-work. Poetry is a pleasure for me; printing pages for work might be pleasurable now and then, but I’d rather just be writing. So the easiest & quickest way to submit work is right from the computer I put the poems into (manuscript submissions are an exception). Does this resistance hurt me? Maybe. Most established print journals don’t accept email submissions. I don’t send them. I’m terrible, I know … but the tides are changing, I think. More print pubs are accepting work via electronic means than ever before.
Second, “legitimate” audience: how do I know that the audience for a major publication is any better (more widely read? better educated? more discriminating? more astute? richer? ad naseum…) than the international one Lars has gathered for Luz? It seems to me that Lars has been actively communicating with people around the world who are keen on a range of poetries, and I’m happy if any of them find my own worth reading. How does a poet go about getting an international audience otherwise? Some have already speculated on the sheer numbers of people seeing work online versus in-print, a feat I don’t have the resources to guess at. Unfortunately, the debate often hinges on the “either/or” mentality of publishing too, as though one cannot validly publish in both electronic and print venues simultaneously. More poets discussing where & how to send work here.
Third, I wanted to lead into, however cursorily, the idea that these self-pedaled publications are an integral part of the DIY gamut these days. For the uninitiated, “DIY” stands for “Do It Yourself” publishing, which can be a singular or plural venture, depending on who you know and want to work with. Very few publish poetry for fame or fortune, so each project is generally approached with a sincere purpose & unifying aesthetic, which tends to be the desire to share what they deem decent work with whomever might share similarly discriminating tastes.
Shanna Compton has thought far more intensively about the DIY sentiment and its practicalities, in an exceptional way. Compton’s “DIY Publishing + DIY Pub Web Ring” is one resource I plan to use more in 2006. It also includes “micro-press” publications and chapbooks as well as semi-DIY resources. If your work is unpublished or you want more control of your book distribution & profits, take a peek. One example of the varying degrees of control can be seen in the recently released No Tell Motel Bedside Guide. You can purchase it on Amazon for four dollars more than at Lulu (a self-publishing press & gift to DIYers), and I’m guessing now, but I would bet that the publisher makes more profit if you purchase directly from Lulu. And I bet that little bit of “profit” pretty much goes back into the press or defrays whatever costs she incurred in her hopeful effort to gather poems she likes and put ‘em in our eager-to-read hands.
Apropos, Lars Palm is looking for more work. Perk: he answers your submission quickly. Also, don’t be fooled by his journal’s simple design; whenever he links to me, my site hits skyrocket that day. Lars’ LUZMAG has an audience. And yes, that is a rarely seen photo of the man I convinced him to hand over. Enjoy!
Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is co-editing with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edited the anthology Bettering American Poetry 2015 and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.