5.26.2005

And a litle bit on graphic design:

I started my career working as a writer for a graphic designer, and I have done a great deal of design work myself, although I am very much a "B" designer, mostly because I do not take the time and trouble researching other design and materials that a true designer might.

In some ways, too, fine letterpress, inks, etc. are very much the same to me as coffee, tea, cheese, fine chocolate or fine wine. I have done all the work, classes, learning, experience parts; I can very definitely appreciate the difference between different types of inks and paperstock, between chocolate that's been flown in cooled and not, or between a great vintage year of a great bordeaux and "another bordeaux." But, since when it comes down to it, if there's a hershey bar in the house at midnight I'll eat it, if there's a bottle of two buck chuck and friends, if there's a poem on the internet, well, I'll grab that, then I don't stand on ceremony, or a certain type of quality to the physical object, or try to be pedantic about it.

And, frankly, I have plenty of California friends who do. If it isn't organic, or macrobiotic, or vegan, or whatever, forget about it. If it isn't fine letterpress, if it is just a printout, well, then why read. And I think that is rather small minded.

But I'm a midwesterner, and I am very middle class. The 99 cent store shampoo is still foamy, and I don't save those nine dollars I could have put toward shampoo, I spend it on draperies, art, antiques -- pretending a screenwriters' salary in Los Angeles garners something more generous than a resolutely minimalist lifestyle.

Because new age California puritanism demands the moral high road, I really have no choice to admit -- yup, I'm that old rabbit-harming, non-hemp clad person with thousands of books and four computers, not a semi-mendicant on a zafu with a small pile of 100% cotton rag and soy ink in a white room with polished wood floors (actually, got those wood floors).

As I mentioned, I am cheap.

I am not arguing for or against the worth or quality of individual poems, or groups of poems. I am saying that I am asked to give my work away for free, and I do. I am asked to give away my work when I MUST PAY for the work I'm giving away. I am asked to give my work away and then I am asked to pay for the work of other people, without knowing what the quality of that work is before purchase, and also knowing that it is entirely possible that I can find the same or comparable work in the electronic formats I prefer for free (less, of course, the cost of my high speed bandwidth), and that it is very possible that I have no interest whatsoever in the poems contained therein, and it seems to me that there is no fair exchange here.

And if we are considering a gift economy for poetry, then when we are talking about selling poetry, we are talking about establishing a monetary means of exchange for only that poetry which is sold. And it seems to me that we are then considering paying the paper man and the designer, but not the poet, because 100% cotton rag and soy ink that looks neat has more worth, perhaps it is morally superior or enforces a morally superior lifestyle, than the free poem.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"I am not arguing for or against the worth or quality of individual poems, or groups of poems. I am saying that I am asked to give my work away for free, and I do. I am asked to give away my work when I MUST PAY for the work I'm giving away. I am asked to give my work away and then I am asked to pay for the work of other people, without knowing what the quality of that work is before purchase..."

Who asks you to give your work away for free? And makes you buy the work of other people and why don't you know anything about the quality of work in a chapbook before you purchase it?

Just sounds like your economics and shopping habits are skewed.

What does this have to do with chapbooks I am not sure.

So if you know about paper and printing why on earth would you say that chapbooks should not cost a few dollars? The price should compliment the materials, I definitely think that.

You are making my argument for me like this. Surely you understand what kind of work and material purchases go into such production. And letter press is not the end all of printing. There are lots of methods, see.

Next you are going to say that Walmart is a blessing because it lowers prices.

"I am not arguing for or against the worth or quality of individual poems, or groups of poems."

Yes, yes you are. you clearly stated that in an earlier post:

"But again, my objection is not about the format. It's about the work, the poetry."

And another thing I forgot to bang against is that b.s. you said a few posts ago:

"Actually, [chapbooks] generally come before a writer publishes a book."

You obviously have no idea what is going on. Yeah, a chapbook can preceed a full volume. That makes absolute sense and that is often the very point! But if you really think chapbooks end there you are crazy.

Case in point: returning from San Francisco I came home with many recently published chapbooks by very established poets. I guess someone should tell Joanne Kyger than her chapbook is not important and should be for free! You can be the one to tell Duncan McNaughton that his chapbook is for vanity! Do I have to go on?



Scott Pierce