How do we?

Leave a comment
Publishing

How do we support the emergence of new voices in literature?

This is a project in literary history only in so far as it unveils lessons about publishing that can be used to understand our current era. While my research agenda ostensibly examines the networks within literary publishing through the evolution of little magazines during the 20th century, I do so with a primary interest towards the present day.

Difficult realities of the book world

Publishing

An article in Publishers Weekly (October 23, 2017) highlights with specific, though anonymous, examples of sexual harassment in the publishing industry.

Another difficult reality of the book world is that, arguably more so than other industries, success really is tied to who you know. Those looking to get ahead need to make connections outside of their nine-to-five jobs; many women said they realize now how the social aspect of publishing put them in particularly vulnerable situations. We heard from a number of women about incidents that happened in the literary community at large—book parties, readings, networking events, literary festivals, writers’ conferences—where comments and behavior cannot be addressed by HR departments after the fact. Women spoke about encounters, ranging from uncomfortable to dangerous, where, even if they had wanted to, there was no one with whom to file a complaint.

UK poets – midcentury and later

Little Magazines / Midcentury

Authors selected mostly from the following sources: Gingerich, Martin E. Contemporary Poetry in America and England, 1950-1975: A Guide to Information Sources. vol. 41., Gale Research Co, Detroit, Mich, 1983.
Sherry, Vincent B. Poets of Great Britain and Ireland since 1960. vol. 40., Gale Research, Detroit, Mich, 1985. Sherry, Vincent B. Poets of Great Britain and Ireland, 1945-1960. vol. 27., Gale Research Co, Detroit, Mich, 1984.
Simic, Charles, 1938-, and Don Paterson. New British Poetry. Saint Paul, Minn.: Graywolf Press, 2004.

 

Robert Creeley on Artists & Poets, 1950-1965

Midcentury

“Coming of age in the forties, in the chaos of the Second World War, one felt the kinds of coherence that might have been fact of other time and place were no longer possible. There seemed no logic, so to speak, that could bring together all the violent disparities of that experience. The arts especially were shaken and the picture of the world that might previously have served them had to be reformed….

“…As a young man trying to get a purchase on what most concerned me–the issue of my own life and its statement in writing–I knew little if anything of what might be happening. I had gone through a usual education in the East, had witnessed in shock the terrifying conclusion of humans killing one another, had wobbled back to college, married (mistakenly) in the hope of securing myself emotionally, had wandered into the woods just that I had no competence to keep things together in the city, even left the country itself, with my tolerant wife, hoping that some other culture might have news for me I could at last make use of and peace with. But the world, happily or unhappily, offers only one means of leaving, and I was returned without relief again and again to the initial need: a means of making articulate the world in which I and all like me did truly live.”

– Robert Creeley

Situating the midcentury editor

Midcentury

Imagine yourself living in the 1950s, living in the decade after a war in which millions had died. You may have even fought in battle. You likely knew someone or many who died in the war. You certainly experienced rationing of food, gasoline, and other items. The 1950s started out with an intensive military conflict on the Korean peninsula that never really finished. Tensions with what was then the Soviet Union hung the dark cloud of the Cold War over the world. The US was governed by a general. The emergence of television presented a tranquil black-and-white screen that masked reality. Cinema, TV, and popular music offered an escape, as entertainment should.

See yourself standing in time, wondering about what you need to do in this world. The poet Robert Creeley described how he left college and then left the country:

“But the world, happily or unhappily, offers only one means of learning, and I was returned without relief again and again to the initial need: a means of making articulate the world in which I and all like me did truly live.”

You’ve made the decision that writing is your life, but you don’t know if you’re any good at it. You are well read. A shelf in your room is lined with chapbooks and an assortment of literary magazines, some of which are produced by universities and others assembled by individuals on a shoestring budgets. Inspired by the writing life, you envision starting a literary magazine. How would you go about it?

What about booksellers, libraries, publishers & readers?

Publishing

The tagline for this site on literary networks is authors, editors and translators. Of course, there are other roles in literary networks, namely those of publishers, booksellers, and even libraries and readers. However, I’ve chosen to focus at this stage specifically on authors and editors. In cases of literature in non-English, the importance of translators is essential. And translators are also authors in the role of authoring the translation. And, often, translators are authors of works in their own language.

The role of editing is intertwined with that of publishing. At the other end of the publishing spectrum are the readers that make writing worthwhile. In the middle are the booksellers that provide the essential distribution network that ensures works wind up in the hands of the reading public. Of course, on the web, particularly with most current literary magazines, the distribution network is the web itself. And then there’s the libraries that preserve the efforts of writers and editors.

All these different roles will receive varying degrees of attention in this study of literary networks. The tagline is not intended to privilege one over another except in an effort to focus my own research efforts and to avoid a lengthy, awkward tagline crammed with every possible role in a network. In other words, don’t read too much into the tagline.