Distribution Automatique

Tuesday, November 18

I happen to be friends with
one of the most
writers online,
Mr. Ron Silliman,
who urged
me to publish a
version of a
letter I wrote to him

[in his letter Ron
mentioned that
someone had
commented to him
how greatly the
number of poets
had increased
since WWII]

Said Mr. Silliman:

> My aim is to be open
to what's next, not what was....

Dear Ron:

Heartfully said by a
true blogger! One of the best...

My hunch is that the very existence
of web and blogging technology
makes those numbers irrelevant,
because unlike a book made of paper,
there is space for everyone, and
the search functions make the
numbers irrelevant. Few readers
have ever read all that widely in
poetry or any field. They (mostly)
allowed the given system of
patronage to determine who
was worthy of reading, whether
the author was alive or dead.
This has always been the only
game in town. With the possible
exception of publisher's readers-
irrelevant in poetry- whose poetry
was read was always determined
by the hopefully soon-to-be
antiquated system of patronage.

The number of writers,
I suspect, has always
been mind-boggling.
Even before WWII.
it's just that most
of them couldn't or
wouldn't be published.
But then the publishers
were the kings; the
magazines and
reviews were the
princes; and the
critics were the courtiers.

The main difference between
the current situation and the
earlier one is that patronizing
may, hopefully, become much
less powerful. It is still important,
though, as link lists, including
your own and my own "crush lists"
are still important in drawing
attention to specific blogs
especially coming from writers
who made their reputations
under the aegis of the earlier
technologies; and especially
in this early stage. But the
difference, considering the
earlier system of patronage
and the current freer situation,
is that in order to build a
readership one must respond
and attend to other bloggers.
They system of meme technology,
so much swifter and more concrete
than patronage, will soon displace
the earlier system,I have the hunch,
if it hasn't effectively done so already.
Book publishing,
and the system of
patronage surrounding it,
may be about to go the way
of music reproduction;
possibly the same with films, etc.

Some writers have bemoaned
the community building
of bloggers; why should readers
have any impact or power,
thinks the elitist writer.
Hopefully, soon to be over
are the days of the all powerful
critics and publishers determining
who will and will not express
themselves or their ideas.

No crocodile tears from
me to see the end
to elitism in publishing.

Very good to discuss
all this a bit with you.



Of course, I don't wish to imply here
that there is no value to book publishing.
Quite the contrary. I am not thinking
in particular of small press book publishing
for the most part. Publishers like James
Sherry, Lyn Hejinian, Leslie Scalapino,
Douglas Messerli, Charles Alexander,
James Meetze, Stephen Ratcliffe and
many others, all of whom are distributed
by Small Press Distribution (see my
sidebar for their URL) will continue to
make a major contribution to contemporary
poetry as they function in the interstices
of the giant literary publishers.
Charles Bernstein mentioned to me once
that the *New Yorker* continues to
publish at a loss, because the value
to the owners is the lliterary power they
can wield via their patronage.

However, even within the poet/small press
relationship and dynamic, as well as the
reading series/ writer dynamic,
it seems
that the impact of blogging
will continue
to grow and mutate the
literary field, hopefully
towards an ever
more open