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DIY Poetry Publishing Cooperative

May 16, 2006

It's Jen Benka's turn over at Kate Greenstreet's place

Jen Benka is the author of A Box of Longing with Fifty Drawers recently released by Soft Skull Press.* (She's also the writer of the very cool grrrl comic Manya, in collaboration with cartoonist Kris Dresen.)

Jen questions the received notion of "first book" by letting us in on a little secret: her first was actually a hand-bound collection of haiku "about basketball and dead frogs" that she wrote & produced in an edition of one in the seventh grade. She also talks about the limited-edition hand-bound version of A Box of Longing (previously known as A Revisioning of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America) put out by Booklyn (linked in sidebar).

Jen also happens to work for Poets & Writers, so she really knows that of which she speaks:
What are you doing to promote sales?

In the U.S., poetry basically exists outside of the economy--with only a few exceptions, books of poetry do not make money, they lose it. Poetry is all about losing money. Poetry is antithetical to capitalism. The poem and the dollar share only that they are both printed on paper. Thankfully there are many visionary people running presses who believe deeply that poetry matters and find other ways to cover publishing and printing costs. They are my heroes.

While this can raise questions for some about why there is a lack of demand for poetry in this country or reinforce for others the marginalized status of the poet, it is also a demonstration of the democratic nature of the art form. Poetry is free.

Read the rest.

A side note: Half Empty/Half Full (linked in sidebar) produced a limited edition broadside of "Order" from A Box of Longing with Fifty Drawers for Book Expo America last year. It's out of print, but you can see it here.

*NB: I didn't personally work on Jen's book, except in a broad support capacity.


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