VOX PRESS, INC (a non-profit literary press in Oxford, Mississippi) is in its initial stages of organizing a literary symposium for the summer of 2011, in Oxford. Mississippi. The purpose of the symposium will be to examine the current state of small press literary publishing, with particular emphasis on the problems and challenges faced by small presses and the resources and innovations that publishers like yourself are using to achieve your mission. In order for VOX to have a better understanding of how the small press literary world might benefit most from this event, please take a few moments and respond to the following questions:

Based upon your experience, what are the key challenges and concerns that small presses face today? (Please list in order of importance.)
On a scale of 1 to 6 (with 1 meaning "not at all interested" and 6 meaning "extremely interested"), how interested would you be in attending a symposium designed to examine and address these challenges?
If you would be interested in attending this type of symposium, which of the challenges and concerns that you identified would you most like to included in the event? (Please list in order of preference.)
What resources, innovations, solutions, etc. have you found to be most useful in addressing the challenges and concerns that you face in your work?
What type of formats and activities (e.g., formal presentations, panel discussions, workshops, "best practice" presentations, etc.) would be most useful for examining and addressing these concerns in a symposium setting?
Have you or any other members of your press ever participated in a literary symposium or festival of this sort? If so, did you find that to be a satisfying experience? How could it have been improved? What specific benefits did you gain from participating?


If you are interested in this type of symposium, can you think of any problems or obstacles that might prevent you from attending and/or participating in the event?

It is my experience that these types of symposia / conferences charge the attendees; generally this is because attendees are academics with a small travel/conference stipend they MUST use. Unfortunately, it puts non-academics in the position of having to PAY to DELIVER a reading or talk. Then there are invited STAR readers or "keynotes" who are paid -- usually quite handsomely -- to deliver their work.

It establishes a hierarchy from the get go.

Would you be interested in leading a workshop or participating in a panel discussion on one of the topics that you have identified above? (While the topics will be largely determined by the responses of potential participants, topics for the symposium might include: goals and strategies for greater inclusiveness, the role of new technologies, etc.)
Would you be interested in writing an essay and/or giving a lecture on the theme: What Is the Current State and/or the Future of Literary Small Press Publishing in the 21st Century? Are there other related themes about which you would be interested in writing an essay and/or giving a lecture?
Finally, are there any other issues that you would like to raise or recommendations that you would like to make for us at this time as we begin the initial planning for this event?
Thank you for your response. Your comments and recommendations will play a vital role in the design and implementation of a literary symposium for you and your colleagues in the small press community.


some more thoughts about materialism vs. spirituality

one of the marks of several of the more experimental writers who can be said to have a serious spiritual component in their writing is an involvement with the material culture -- particularly the texts, anecdotes, objects, figures -- of religion, and so this is a spirituality which depends on the graphics of a Lull, or the sephirot, or the texts of the gnostics (Hillman) or the talmudic tradition of text and layers of commentary rather than palimpsest

in another way, too, the ritual, even at its simplest, the ritual of sitting zazaen, for example, it a way of objectifying a process -- what about that zafu? incense? etc. -- or an experience -- what about those visions and visualizations?

Jason Quackenbush published an essay re: Adam Fielded's at Wet Asphalt:

Reading it has led me to attempt to clarify what I think about Fielded's essay re: materialism and spirituality in poetry.

I think Fielded is rather disingenously ignoring over-the-top spirituality in much mainstream poetry including what I will call the "experimental mainstream," or transcendentalism, new age, gnosticism, or buddhism of a great deal of american poetry. Judaism.

Especially poetry written by women. So, one question is, how can one write essays about lack of spirituality in poetry? By considering a select group of men who wrote from 1900-1970. By not considering:

Leslie Scalapino
Judy Roitman
Maryrose Larkin
Anne Waldman

Ann Lauterbach
Lee Ann Brown

Elizabeth Willis
Martha Ronk

Anne Carson

Brenda Hillman

Jorie Graham
Lisa Lubasch

Fanny Howe
Annie Finch

Adeena Karasick

and then, there are the alcoholics, who if 12 stepping, return to active religious faith, such as Mary Karr

Another peculiar thing about both essays is that there's a loosey-goosey definition of spirituality. Spirituality vs. religion. Spirituality vs. metaphysics. Spirituality vs. mysticism.

It is really even appropriate to call for a characteristic in poetry that is associated with acceptance of a belief structure or practice? At its loosest definition -- because not all of the poets above are believers -- in spirituality, we (and I think Quackenbush implies this) a conflation of philosophy, in particular phenomenology; and in materialism, we have philosophy and politics (which are ever entangled with religion), and thus we have duelling philosophical schools. What is this loose definition? Perhaps this from wikipedia:

Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or immaterial reality; an inner path. Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop an individual's inner life; such practices often lead to an experience of connectedness with a larger reality; with other individuals or the human community; with nature. Spirituality is often experienced as a source of inspiration or orientation in life. It can encompass belief in immaterial realities or experiences of the immanent or transcendent nature of the world.

Something that -- at its most simple, removed from religion or belief -- is important to note is the similarity of contemplation to thinking, of prayer to poetry, and of an "inner path" to any ongoing journey of learning and artistic practice which involves intangibles, such as ideas (wikipedia mentions Plato). One of the magic things about Buddhism is it nicely negates the idea of the self.

Mysticism has also been conjured here, as the sort of speculative experience of what is ineffable, difficult to put into language without changing, utterly, the nature of the thing. Perloff talks about this when she talks about indeterminacy, although differently than I would, and I think one can also see that Yeats, Lowell, Eliot, etc. were certainly spiritually motivated poets, and it is in fact spirituality that connects there work strongly with the French Symbolists, Pre-Raphaelites, mumble mumble.