Publishing and Illusions of Permanence

Arltunga - a mining ghost town
I have been following Patrick Gillespie for about 6 years or so now at his blog Poemshape. This year he has been creating a Haiku a day, but I originally subscribed to him due to his criticism and writings on Frost and Western poetics in general.

I made comment on one of his posts about the difficulty in tracking down the published works of some Haijin (particularly Anita Virgil) which prompted the following response: 

Last night’s comment—that the poetry of many haijin can be hard to track down—reminded me why I stopped pursuing publication. Poetry seems to disappear once its published. I would rather poetry be found and freely read.
When I was ten years old my friends next door made a fort under a stairway and decided not to let me in. I picked up a hammer and nails for the first time. I built my own fort. It wasn’t beautiful but it stood for many years. Later, when I was writing poetry, I used to submit poems to any number of publishers. They all rejected me. I suppose, in starting my blog, I built my own fort. [Read On].

Now Scott's work is as good as any I have seen published so the sentiment I see expressed here is not some disgruntled creative balking at the first hurdle, there's a creative choice being made here.

But the discussion did get me thinking about publication from both ends i.e. as a creator and as a consumer appreciator of poetry.

On appreciation

As I stated in the comments I tend to have issues reading from a computer screen. I am not sure if its to do with screen proportions or something else but I generally have much greater success/enjoyment when reading works on an ereader or in paper form. (tangentially: apparently there's been some research on reading in hard copy being up taken/encoded more easily, something to do with haptic feedback)

But I think the major reason why I don't tend to enjoy poetry on screen is that I don't place an emphasis on its need to be read of this moment.

I find that having it on a website means that I have a tendency to say to myself “this work will always be here I will direct my attention to other works that might disappear”. This may be just perception but I have a feeling that there’s an illusion of permanence offered by the internet.

Similarly it took me years to purchase a collection of Robert Frost’s because I assumed that he would always be in print. The end result, I only ever read or went back to the works I was exposed to in High School.

Now I enjoy collected works of , shall we say, working poets (those with one or two collections out) because these collections are often more than just a rolling collection of poems, there seems to me to be value in the container of the collection ie the sum is greater than is parts.

If a poet's work engages me enough, I wan't to buy it and have a copy to hold in my hand (this is why borrowing from the library is killing my bank account).  Is this just being part of a possessive capitalist culture, the desire to own something rare?

I am not sure, but I don't think so, not entirely.  As I am finding out in my year of poetry there is a wealth of good poetry published just in Australia every year, then beyond that in the UK, the USA, an that's before you get to quality, free poems on the internet.

I think publication helps me condense this abundance into something digestible, otherwise it's like I am at an all you can eat buffet.  I am not sure a permanence on the web results in work being read (it does for Patrick) or read in great depth.

On Creating

I entertain hopes of publishing a poetry collection (maybe even more than one) but I realize this poetry "journey" is one where I am forever learning the language of poetry, its tools and refining craft, often with nothing but books to guide me.  This is a goal just beyond the horizon and may remain so for quite some time after I have the enough quality work to fill one.

I have free poems on this blog, links to poetry that I have been paid for which you can read for free.  I am helping collate the Post-It Note Poetry event where we post the good the bad and the ugly of what we can think up in a day.  And yet this still doesn't feel permanent to me.

I have a contributors copy the first anthology I was printed in and that feels more permanent to me. Perhaps my feelings are biased because I have had access, to poetry, to the ability to type and publish it on the net, to read it in electronic form, taken away (technical issues and living remotely).

I write all my poetry now long hand first and my poetry collections never need recharging.

But getting back to the title.  Does publishing in either format (online/in print) confer permanence and the chance of being read?  And does this in the grand scheme of things mean anything?


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