5.26.2005

I Hate Chapbooks, Continued

Scott. I'm not talking about spines.

Remember, I mentioned that I read as much poetry online as I do in print? No spines there. Comparatively little physicality to the poem-delivering object.

I am not objecting to printing poems on stickers, poems on pieces of paper (broadsides), making pamphlets, chapbooks, etc. I myself have slipped them under doors disguised as menus for chinese restaurants, slipped them into weekly advertiser newspapers, stacked them at record stores along with the announcements for concerts, and given them away. I even managed to give my Belladonna chapbook away. Geraldine Monk gave me plenty of Gargoyles to give away, which I did (as Christmas gifts). I am objecting to selling them. I am objecting to being asked, point blank, to buy them for an incredibly elevated price. This is admittedly more common in San Francisco than here in LA, where we don't see that many poets day-to-day.

I am objecting to calling them books, and there are several groups, some in more official poetry in Los Angeles and some in more official innovative poetry here in Los Angeles, who call chapbooks books. They are not books. They are a lot easier to write than books, for example.

I also am trying to draw attention to the ways that they EXCLUDE and INCLUDE not on the basis of "the poems therein" but on the basis of "who you know," in the case of edited chapbook series, and the tricky "who you think you are" of self publishing.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

So if I spend $600 producing 500 copies of a publication of work by a talented poet, if I work with an artist to design a cover, and a screenprinter to press the cover, I should turn around and just give the books away? Why? That is just plain b.s.

Is $5.00 an incredibly elevated price for something that cost roughly $3 or so to produce? That extra $2.00 helping to pay for stationary and future printing? Is that really taking advantage of a reader or book buyer? Not to mention the collectibility of a well made chap. But that aside, what about the collectibility of the poetry that may or may not make it into a full volume, not because it does not deserve it but maybe there are other factors like time or the bottle neck of the bigger publishing houses, or maybe the work is misunderstood... or what if the work is meant to be read now rather than in two years?

It is not product. It is a delivery mode. A vessel. And some of us work hard to make the vessels beautiful. Some are better looking than others true. But do I need to tell you not to judge a book by its cover?

Personally I think SALT books are hideous. Ugly design and generic materials. But do stop buying them? Of ocurse not. It's the work therein I was after. If that same work were produced in another format that wouldn't have stopped me either.

You don't realize that the money involved in producing perfect bound books is going to the printer. That is where the mark up is! Not in chapbooks!

So would you only respect music that is recorded in high dollar recording studios and distributed by large labels? Would you tell a blues musician whose heart and soul is on a lo-fi CD-R, would you discount the body of his work? By your model of course you would.

Because it isn't art until someone else plunks enough money down to have it standardized. And how does it work with painters? Would you say that there needs to be a certain canvas size before it can be considered a painting? I mean how far are you willing to take such rigid criteria?

And chapbooks are a lot easier to write than books? How? Explain that to me.

Again, what is the page count of art?

A chapbook IS a book. Check out the word. ChapBOOK. Look up the word BOOK. look at the history of the BOOK. You are simply wrong.

Please tell me what a book is. Then tell me what poetry is.

I'm not going to change your mind and I'm not interested in helping you discover a very interesting and supportive and creative and serious culture. But I do take offense on behalf of everyone whose chapbook I've produced and will produce and to those whose chapbooks I've read and been blown away by and the designers and printers that make beautiful books of work they believe in.


Scott Pierce

Anonymous said...

"I also am trying to draw attention to the ways that they EXCLUDE and INCLUDE not on the basis of "the poems therein" but on the basis of "who you know," in the case of edited chapbook series, and the tricky "who you think you are" of self publishing"

You are kidding me, accusing the micropresses of politics. Seems you have a press in mind, is this generalizing just more of your venom toward chaps in general? Micropresses should publish whever the hell they want however they want. It's not a democracy. It's a not a charity.

And who a self-publisher may think they are just may be a poet. A writer. Someone not waiting around for permission.

I guess you need the heirarchy but some of us do not need it.

Now tell me that driving a car is the only way to travel.

Scott Pierce

Catherine said...

"So if I spend $600 producing 500 copies of a publication of work by a talented poet, if I work with an artist to design a cover, and a screenprinter to press the cover, I should turn around and just give the books away?"

Yet, I am asked to give my books away -- continually. And I'm just the author. I have to buy them, for 9 and 12 dollars respectively.

Why shouldn't you profit from the chapbooks? Go ahead. It is not the poetry that's worth more or less. It is your legitimatization of that poetry -- your opinion and the stuff you bought -- that you value.

You are also saying that, pound for pound, your product is worth more than mine.

"So would you only respect music that is recorded in high dollar recording studios and distributed by large labels? Would you tell a blues musician whose heart and soul is on a lo-fi CD-R, would you discount the body of his work? By your model of course you would."

Nope. It is not the packaging, which I refuse to pay for. It is the product.

Sure, I have a few EPs, when those were issued before a band got on a real label. But I only bought ones I knew would become valuable novelties / that I could use for my show -- ones with b sides or etc. or liner notes that didn't make it to an album.

But it is pretty difficult for me to keep on top of small press book publishing of poetry in English (Canada, UK, Australia, US, mostly -- some East Asia-in-English) and epublishing.

I would point out that as for painting (I'm a "Sunday painter", but haven't had time to paint -- much less write -- for months), works on canvas are almost always worth more than works on paper for an artist who works on both. The exception here -- an it applies to chaps -- is the author, like Spicer, who almost always works (perhaps best) on paper or chapbook -- where the book or painting on canvas is anomalous.

I hate the word chapbook, too. Very pretentious. Let's say, "5-20 pages saddle stapled, generally with a heavier stock cover." Pamphlet, generally 2-10 pages. For book, let's say "codex, spine/glue or stitching, 25-200 pages."

Anonymous said...

"Yet, I am asked to give my books away -- continually. And I'm just the author. I have to buy them, for 9 and 12 dollars respectively."

Who is putting the gun to your head? Who asks you to give your books away?

And this is not about book trade or worth. If someone traded you a small chapbook for one of your large books, yeah that does not seem like an even trade, if you are comparing costs. I get that.

But no one forces you to give your books a way. Stop doing it. Make a case that it costs you money. Maybe you are just being too nice?

scott pierce

Anonymous said...

regarding painting.

I'm not saying canvas vs. paper, I'm saying the size of the canvas.

is a smaller painting easier to paint than a larger painting?

Why then is a chapbook easier to writer than a book (a CODEX, as you prefer it)?

"Why shouldn't you profit from the chapbooks? Go ahead. It is not the poetry that's worth more or less. It is your legitimatization of that poetry -- your opinion and the stuff you bought -- that you value.

You are also saying that, pound for pound, your product is worth more than mine. "

When you say profit, let me be clear about that. rarely does a chapbook break even but why would I let that stop me? It isn't about profit. It's about sustaining funding for future chap/books.

Regarding value, any time design occurs it should be in terms of supporting the literature. If a bad poem was set in gold i imagine the "price" of the poem (let's say it is a golden broadside) would be the "price" the gold.

Yes, I'm not going to make a chapbook with premium paper and original artwork and not consider those materials when setting a price for the book.

(but note, all effing press chaps are $5.00 regardless if it is 12 pages or 60 pages, it's a matter of principle for me at least)


"You are also saying that, pound for pound, your product is worth more than mine."

No, no I'm not. Poetry if it moves you is priceless. Any money trading hands is for the support of the sustainability of a press and its future books, which is a material concern not having to do with the "worth" of the art. Obviously, if one aims to print and bind anything they believe there is some worth there and of course that is a matter of opinion.

"I hate the word chapbook, too. Very pretentious."

Then let's just call it a book. Supply whatever preceeding adjective you like. But the root noun is book.


Scott Pierce

Aaron Tieger said...

"Sure, I have a few EPs, when those were issued before a band got on a real label."

"Real label"?

The message here, then, is that legitimacy is conferred by the sellout?