Wings To Fly With Publishing

As a poet, I know what a long slow process it can be to get a poem published in a journal or magazine; and how difficult it is to have a book published--and then 1,200-1,500 copies or so is considered a big printing. One of the first things I searched for on the Web was "poetry," and I found some very interesting sites. I also found Native American literature--poetry and stories-- anthropological and ethnological material, and some good newsgroups. It has been like browsing in a worldwide library of great richness and diversity.

Because of this, I have decided to publish my own and other people's poetry on the Web, instead of relying only on other gatekeepers who control the flow of information. Access to information may be constrained by lack of resources and funds, or because of ideological, stylistic, taste, personal preference, and other considerations. With the Internet, every person can be his or her own worldwide publisher, free to say and read what one wants; free also to discover what others have said and done, to look at what is out there, and to speak to other people. I plan to publish about a dozen poems of my own each month, and also to publish other poetry. This is not instead of printed books, but in addition to them. Out of about 100,000 books published in the U.S. annually, only about one percent are books of poetry.

"Although the number of poetry books published yearly [in the U.S.] dropped from 1,400 in 1979 to fewer than 900 in 1990, the genre is apparently recovering and more than 1,100 volumes are expected to be published this year."

"Last week, a group of Nobel laureate poets blasted the plethora of poetry on the Internet, saying serious verse belongs in books, not in cyberspace. 'I'd rather have just one person who reads and feels my work deeply than hundreds of thousands who read it but don't really care about it,' said Derek Walcott at an appearance with other poets in Miami." [article by Sally Jacobs,Boston Sunday Globe, April 14, 1996, pps. 75, 77].

Similar things were probably said about Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press, which made knowledge, information, and ideas accessible to masses of people, where before such access was the possession of an elite.

To the Gatekeepers
I tell you
keepers of the gates,
watchers of the dark,
who would wall up the night--

You cannot keep the stars
in their courses,
catch the moon,
nor sweep up its light.

(© 1996 Carol Snyder Halberstadt)
(Published as epigraph in The Porthole to Time, by Michael Eugene Stoddard 1999)

Most poets I know write because they have to and want to--if one person or a hundred thousand read their poems, all the better. It is wrong to assume that "hundreds of thousands" of people on the Internet who might read someone's poetry "don't care about it." For example, I had heard of Luci Tapahonso, a Navajo poet, and could not find any of her work in my local library. I did find several of her poems on the Web, put there by Karen Strom, and have since requested that the library buy Tapahonso's books. I have also found a number of excellent web sites listing books for sale, new and old--including university presses, Native American resources and bibliography lists, poetry, and much more.

In April, the Academy of American Poets launched a site on the Web for National Poetry Month.

Indeed, books and electronic media will not remain divided for long. My son predicted several years ago that in the not too far distant future a computer interface would be developed that is as comfortable to use as a printed book. The May 1996 issue of Scientific American reports on such a development, using new liquid crystal displays (p. 32). Meanwhile, here is another venue for poetry.

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Copyright © 1996 Carol Snyder Halberstadt, Migrations. All rights reserved.