Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

April 17, 2008

mid-April notes: poetry and the larger community

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 6:37 pm

Lots of activity here at KSE Central!

Jim D. Deuchars’ new PIECES OF EIGHT is ready, about two weeks early, for you to order, and the June release—-Adrian Manning’s WIDE ASLEEP, FAST AWAKE—-is pretty much all edited, the cover is complete, and I’d expect that one to be ready by May 1st, even though it’s the June release.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m excited about new poetry releases and I always have been. Since my teen years in the 1970’s, I’ve always bought at least two small-press poetry books per month, the same way I buy small-label music each month, and seek out independent film. One problem with the overall poetry scene since the 1970’s is that poets are often writing to other poets—they read and review each other’s books; they publish each other; they validate each other; they sleep together (nothing wrong with that, necessarily); they have an insular, incestuous world that they expect outsiders to grovel in front of if they want to be accepted in it. It’s kind of like a literary circle jerk.

Poetry can be—-and should be, as it was in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s—-part of the overall arts scene, appealing to those who buy new music, see new exhibitions and installations, seek out foreign and independent film. I’m proud of the fact that KSE’s first major distributor was not a bookstore, but an underground culture merchant (Volcanic Tongue in Glasgow). People would pick up on underground music and score a few KSE poetry chapbooks at the same time. I’m also proud that, when I have done readings to support my two “real” poetry books published by Word Mechanics, about 80% of the audiences have been people who don’t read much or any poetry. They come up afterwards to chat or have a book signed and say things such as “wow, is that what poetry’s like? I like THAT!” Then I drop a few names that they might enjoy such as Diane Wakoski, James Tate, Cid Corman, Paul Blackburn, Gary Snyder, Jimmy Santiago Baca, etc.  (people whose books are easily available—-unfortunately, Doug Draime or Ronald Baatz or Misti Rainwater-Lites books aren’t available everywhere….yet), and a number of those folks start to integrate poetry into their aesthetic life and start checking the poetry sections when they are at indie bookstores in major cities. I believe that our work as small-press poets and as small-press publishers should be in attracting those kind of readers, not just to the wares offered by our own presses, but to the indie poetry world in general. I know there are cities where this is happening to some extent, but we don’t all live in San Francisco or Boulder. I can’t believe what an incredibly fertile time we’re living in right now in terms of the arts—in terms of the number of quality products being produced on a micro-distribution level by all kinds of artists in music, film, the visual arts, performance art, poetry, this decade is blowing away the 1960’s. Computer technology and the internet have caused artistic productivity to not just blossom, but take off into the stratosphere. Future generations will have to spend a LIFETIME to collect and digest even a small amount of what’s being produced now.

As many of you know, Kendra Steiner Editions will publish our 100th chapbook in July—in fact, it will be NEXT EXIT: SEVEN by RONALD BAATZ and LUIS CUAUHTEMOC BERRIOZABAL. I was asked by a friend the other day if we will issue some kind of collection to mark that event. No, we won’t. My attitude is that there will be time to “collect” and “review” when I’m retired and in my dotage. Right now, I want to keep the flow coming. There are so many fine poets doing so much fine work, and KSE is doing its part (with 27 poets in our stable now) to get some of that work out there, months or even weeks after it is written. And speaking for myself as poet now, not as publisher, I am regularly producing what KSE readers/customers seem to feel is quality work, and getting it into readers’ hands…and getting immediate feedback from those readers on three continents is exhilarating, and gives me the inspiration to keep writing, to reflect this crazy kind cruel lovable incoherent maddening and endlessly fascinating world in which we live, and more specifically Texas, my own little postage stamp of soil.

And I am inspired on a daily basis by the poets I have the privilege of working with on these KSE chapbooks, as we work together from conception to draft to editing to covers to finished product: the wisdom and zen calm of a Doug Draime; the dry humor and love of life and Classical knowledge base of a K. M. Dersley; the passion and dead-on social criticism and scathing wit of a Misti Rainwater-Lites; the hipness and cultural literacy of a Michael Layne Heath; the insightful vision and playful sensuality of an MK Chavez; the understated shaman-like transcendent clarity of a Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal; the craft and flow and smoldering righteous anger of a Christopher Cunningham; the bottom-dog working-class life experience and scalding case-hardened language of a Brad Kohler; the dizzying verbal acrobatics and sly ironic perspective of a Jim D. Deuchars; the Scottish psychedelic and philosophical poetic explorations of a Stuart Crutchfield. How could one NOT be inspired by working with such people?

At $4 each postpaid ($5 outside the US), each KSE chapbook is a concentrated poetic experience, all killer, no filler. Melts not in your hand, but in your mind. Try a few—-any 3 for $10 postpaid in the US. For pictures and brief write-ups of dozens of our earlier offerings, check the listing for KSE at Volcanic Tongue:

As always, thanks for reading the blog and for your support of our poetic offerings. Check back every week to see what’s happening.

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