Sunday, February 8, 2009

An End and a Beginning Again

One of the most difficult moments in any creative writing class comes, almost inevitably, when students tell me that they intend to make money off their poems. I've learned to be gentle; one class took umbrage at me when I said "oh no, you won't," as if I were not taking them seriously enough. To be taken seriously means to make money off your labor. So that they take me seriously in my warning (is that what it is?) that they will not earn a dime off their art, I share my books with them--my financial ones, that is. Not the books themselves, but the idea of the book, the bracing idea that there is more than one economy out there and that their actual dreams would have them enter an economy that doesn't make but take money.

The longer I live in classrooms, the more I think it important to transmit these practical details to students. They are not there simply to learn the art of writing. They are also there to learn how to make things, how to edit things, how to talk to one another, and how to publish other peoples' poems. One of my most successful recent classes was a rather impromptu directed reading for six(?) graduate students on publication issues. (Need I add that I am not paid for such courses? I write this not so much as complaint but as further proof of what I'm saying!) We met once a month for four hours and talked about how to set up a non-profit, how to devise a mission statement, how to run a press, how to stitch together a chapbook (the students sewed most of Leonard Schwartz's Language as Responsibility, under the keen eyes of Gaye Chan and Lian Lederman, Tinfish's art director and that chap's designer). And they put together chapbooks of poems by their students, their friends, by women poets; the concept was up to them, but they had to go out and hunt for work beyond the cosy confines of their own desks and laptops. One of the projects was Ryan Oishi's bus anthology, which I've blogged about. Another was Jill Yamasawa's Seeds and Esssse, a hand-sewn book of her students' writings, which she had them dictate to her. Another was an on-line project edited by Tiare Picard, which may still be out there in cyberspace somewhere.

These projects are crucial to fulfilling the cliche of "building community," yes, but also because they demand practical thinking. Now I confess to a certain lack thereof myself, but that's when collaboration becomes necessary. What you cannot do well, someone else can. What you can all do well together becomes a press, a community-arts organization, a reading series.

Now let me share Tinfish's final 2008 report with you. I'm not going to attach all the numbers, or include details of the TARP-like bail-out at year's end out of my own pocket, which Jade Sunouchi put together for our virtual meeting, but rather a list of our accomplishments, and then an acknowledgment that the ledgers did not record profits, or even a break even year. Some of the issues involved in budgeting should become clearer here, too, such as the problem of when and how many books to reprint. All publishers know the phenomenon of the book that gets reprinted and then stops selling. Or, in the case of Lisa Kanae's Sista Tongue, probably our most important book on some level, the problem of reprinting a book that was damn expensive to manufacture, because it was done locally and non-digitally. It helped one important economy, but not ours.

Anyway, enjoy. Hope to see some of you at AWP this year. We are at table 734, next to Achiote Press and Slack Buddha.

Susan M. Schultz

Editor, Tinfish Press

Tinfish Annual Report: 2008

The Board: Susan M. Schultz, Gaye Chan, Bryant Webster Schultz, John Zuern, Masako Ikeda, Jon Osorio.


In 2008, Tinfish published four full-length books of poetry:

--A Communion of Saints, by Meg Withers (run of 1000)

--The Erotics of Geography, by Hazel Smith (run 0f 1000 with cd-rom)

--from unincorporated territory, by Craig Santos Perez (1000)

--Tinfish 18.5: The Book, edited by Susan M. Schultz (1000)

We published one issue of the journal, Tinfish 18, which featured long poems (run of 500)

We published one chapbook, Charlotte's Way, by Norman Fischer. (Run of 300).

We reprinted two chapbooks, Lisa Linn Kanae's Sista Tongue (2nd edition) and Sarith Peou's Corpse Watching. Kanae's book was in a run of 1500, probably too many, but there were cost issues. Peou's book was a run of 250. [Kanae's book is very costly--making more meant we spent less for each book--but making more also meant we spent a ton!]

Our mission continues to be the publication of experimental writing from the Pacific. We had a n emphasis this past year on work about Hawai`i (Withers, 18.5, Kanae reprint) and the Pacific basin (Perez's book on Guam). Many of our designers were from Hawai`i, including Gaye Chan (our art director), Chae Ho Lee, and Alan Konishi.

See for details.

Reading & gallery show:

In November, Tinfish launched Tinfish 18.5: The Book at the Art Department Auditorium and in the Commons Gallery. There were readings by the poets, Kai Gaspar, Ryan Oishi, Sage Uilani Takehiro, Jill Yamasawa, and Tiare Picard, as well as a gallery show curated by Lian Litvin (she curated the book, as well, bringing in artists to respond to the poetry). Gaye Chan and Lian Litvin talked about their design work for Tinfish Press. [Photos of the event and a more recent one can be found on the public facebook photo album.]


In late January and early February, Susan and Tiare Picard, then the Tinfish office manager, attended the AWP conference in NYC, where we had a table at the book fair. Susan gave a talk on translations from Asian languages, concentrating in her case on work published by Tinfish.

Reviews of Tinfish books ran in the Honolulu Weekly, Honolulu Advertiser, Hawai`i Independent, and various websites, including The Literary Lotus by Christine Thomas, out of Kailua. A review of Meg Withers's book appeared in the on-line journal, Jacket out of Australia, and Craig Perez's book was widely reviewed on blogs and in print.

Friends of Tinfish Press, on facebook, has proved a good place to publicize Tinfish books and events. Our current office manager, Jade Sunouchi, recently completed an email list on for sending out our announcements; the list increases when we make sales.


Sarith Peou's chapbook, Corpse Watching, was a finalist for the Asian American Writer's Workshop award for poetry.

SFCA grant for $1,000 for 2008. [I don't expect this to happen again soon, as arts funding is currently being gutted. It's frivolous, you know; just ask any Republican senator.]


By the end of the year, finances were a concern, not so much due to our new publications, but because of the reprints. (Reprints are dicey, because they often seem to be needed about the time sales have plateaued.) We did a lot of begging and received substantial gifts; the editor also put in $X of her own money. Money is now flowing in again, due to the popularity of several of our new publications. [Also significant here is the loss of franking privileges in the English department at UHM, due to budget crises there. That privilege saved us a lot of money over the years. The Kane`ohe postal clerks are now getting to know me all too well. We have added a handling fee to book charges on our website, but given that the cost of sending a $10 book to New Zealand or Australia is over $10, you can see what this might mean.]

2009 Plans:

We have plans to publish two full-length books, one by Paul Naylor (Jammed Transmission) that engages the Japanese zen tradition (Paul lives in San Diego) with an introduction by Norman Fischer, who wrote Charlotte's Way, the other on secret Oregon histories, by Kaia Sand, who lives in Portland. We will publish Tinfish 19 and a fund-raising project by Chae Ho Lee's students of four volumes of poetry in a box set. Chae designed Meg Withers's book and did the graphic design on Tinfish 18 in 2008.

Future goals:

To continue our mission of publishing experimental poetry from the Pacific region.

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