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DIY Poetry Publishing Cooperative

April 27, 2006

Illuminating the Why in DIY

Scott Pierce (of ever effervescent Effing) & Shann Palmer have been talking chapbooks vs. "real" books in the comment boxes dangling from Ron Silliman's blog, & as a result Scott has articulated in an open letter something of his love for making poetry.

See, I don't see the problem with handwork. Exercise and serious intent are for you, and you, and you. There is an issue of outsourcing here in our complainy poetry world too, see. It fits into the big-ass picture. I don't see how it is vain to go to the end of what you've started. What if, bear with with me, what if you are an artist. Say a mind and body not wholly satisfied or sated by merely writing, by merely seating the buttocks in the chair at the machine and its hypnotic glow. What if the artist writes and then the artist wants to do more with the words, wants to wrap them in silky cornleaf too, wants to make art of the vessel, maybe extend another of one's interest in the arena of graphics and textile manipulation to blend together in a thing called Book? What is a book.

A business so small and crucial you will be allowed to keep your day job. You will be allowed to think of others.

Is the choreographer that performs her dance vain for doing so? Is it a vanity dance?

Vanity art: a new movement in the age of inkjet?

I wonder if the inventor who tests her own creations is vain. Did not the Lumiere bros not make their own films with their own cameras? Wright bros? Did Ford drive a car?

Chefs cook vanity meals when they taste their own recipes?

To read Scott's letter is to vicariously settle your butt in that chair & feel your beer growing warm from the extended concentration of printing, trimming, binding & burnishing. Even simple bookmaking is a meditative experience, repetitive but not dull, exacting but exhilarating, that is difficult to convey. Hooray.

UPDATE: Kristy Bowen adds her thoughts about books vs. chapbooks, legitimacy & vanity here. An excerpt:
The vanity thing is complicated too. I think it's a loaded term with negative connotations. And I agree with Shann, we're all vain in the creative arts, and maybe there's nothing wrong with that. In regard to the other arts, the means of delivery are not quite so dependent on distribution and legitimacy bestowed by a third party. Visual art, while yes, getting into a posh gallery is one way to show your art, another is to rent out a space and show by yourself or with some fellow artists. End result is the same. Same with music. A hit record is nice, but no one calls it "vanity" if you put your own record out, or filmmakers vain when they shoot an indie without a big Hollywood budget. Literature, in general, seems so fucking squeamish about this. And maybe it's all the bad things that are passed off as poetry these days. Some of them ironically published by big presses (And how much of an advance did Billy Corgan get for his book with Faber and Faber? Does that make him a legitimate poet?) . We feel like we need that sort of legitimacy or we're no better than the woman writing and publishing poems to her cats.

Have I mentioned that I've got an essay about these very things in the latest issue of the Tiny? (I'll reprint it here, eventually, but not until their next issue comes out, & that's several months from now. Anyway, you should subscribe!)

PS: If you're interested in letterpress book arts, stay tuned for a week of daily notes as I take this class at the Center for Book Arts in May.

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