Friday, January 23, 2015

A poetics of publishing, part deux

This is the second of two facebook posts I put up this week. The first was removed; if you want to know its contents, ask. Otherwise, I think this series of comments speaks for itself. They answer the question posed in the box.

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    Last year my small press publishing class hosted several publishers, by skype and by embodied presence. Among them, Charles Alexander and Kyle Schlesinger impressed us with their voluble enthusiasm, their sheer love of what they do. But Eric Chock, who co-founded Bamboo Ridge Press in 1979, talked honestly about the "scars" editors get over time. There's something about being an editor and publisher in a place that is radically diverse and post/colonial that causes scarring. My "home" community is probably "white experimental," but my publishing practice is not. That makes certain assumptions in publishing--reciprocity, for example--much more rare than they are in coterie situations. Let's face it, a lot of publishing concerns are coterie or devoted to a single ethnicity/race/nation, and that too has its place. Hell, Modernism was coterie, and there are publishers who specialize in Asian American or indigenous American or Hawaiian or African American literatures. Or in marking the generally invisible category of "Euro-American literature." That's important work.
    Over time, I have come to realize that Tinfish Press's vision is impossible in the real world; King Tender had that right years ago in a review of Lee Tonouchi's book she published in the old Jacket magazine. I still hold to that notion of a community composed of difference--and hell, it works in my daughter's soccer community, or my son's school--thank you, Cecil Giscombe, for reminding me that diversity is not always difficult. But there are hopes that need to be "surrendered," as CA Conrad said in a very different context at Naropa in October. In that surrender there remains the present tense of making beautiful objects out of poems, which is what really matters. Eric Chock, again, laughed one time at one of our long lunches, which we share every few years or so, about how he used to think I wanted "to change Hawai`i literature." Oh my. Perhaps, in my middle age, I no longer want to change anything, just be in the practice of publishing and teaching. Publishing as meditation, rather than agitation and the expectations it arouses. Publishing as a possible world. Albert Saijo in his cottage in Volcano telling me he no longer wanted to be published was a great lesson, too.

    I want to thank those of you who commented on my post the other day and helped me think and feel through this complex of emotions attached to publishing. Sometimes the lessons I think I've learned return and need to be rerun with a difference (one hopes positive). I've been asked to take that post down. Because I do not want to feel wedded to my own strong emotions, or disturb anyone else's, I will do so. What hurts and angers us is our teacher, and I will look to that teacher for further advice over the next few years of publishing and being a poet. I will also allow a feeling of joy occasionally to wreak havoc with my scars.

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