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Monday, October 20, 2008

A Poetry Publishing Scandal

This past August, the poetry blog-o-sphere was abuzz with a publishing scandal involving poet Stacey Lynn Brown and the Cider Press Review. Stacey's manuscript was chosen by Tony Hoagland as the winner of CPR's book contest, to be published by the press, but after a series of miscommunications, the offer of publication was recinded. The whole ordeal was spelled out on Stacey's blog, with poets all across the internet writing in their support, or blogging their responses on their own blogs.

This blog kept its nose out of it, not sure from where the problems were stemming among the understandably heated debating. The current issue of Poets & Writers has arrived to provide some perspective, asking the question, "who should have final approval over a book's content and design - the author, who is the ultimate authority on the text, or the publisher, who knows how best to present that text to readers?”

2 comments:

julie platt said...

My 2 cents:

Among the many things that bother me about this whole unfortunate situation is the assumption that the publisher knows how to best present the text to readers. That any individual poet would have a complete lack of agency into the way his or her work is presented is scary to me.

Being a publisher does not dictate that one has editing or design skills sensitive to the needs of individual artists. Presenting a primarily non-visual art visually is a rhetorically complex process.

Publishers need to work together with poets, visual/graphic artists, and book binders and producers to ensure that all parties have their stakes represented fairly, and that the work is the highest quality it can be. I'm actually doing some research on this very problem right now.

Anonymous said...

I think Julie Platt's two cents are truly valuable - the point that rings especially true is the statement that "[p]resenting a primarily non-visual art visually is a rhetorically complex process." There are points in the Poets & Writers' article that, as a writer, shock. If one assumes, of course, that writing is an art. I’m not feeling too precious to bring up Emily Dickinson's dashes - and their elimination and alteration in some editions. In the condensed world of poetry the littlest representation alters and informs. Alice Fulton’s “bride” punctuation, Susan Howe’s & Charles Olson’s gesture poetry, the caesura, etc. Demanding a cover photo and overestimating the offense of blurb modification is one thing, inserting titles in sectioned poems where they’ve no place and requesting an okay on incorrectly presented page proofs is another. In an appeal to the prose writers I bring in the recent revelation of the slash and burn job done on Raymond Carver’s work. Don’t get me wrong, a healthy editor / publisher / writer relationship can lead to the best art out there – but the tip included in the Poets & Writers article to self-publish if you don’t like the way someone is going to publish your art smacks of the kind of arrogance that is more akin to nationalist zeal : if you don’t like America, then why don’t you get out. Errata: where the last sentence says “America” read “independent publishers.”