I COULD JUST SCREAM: I submitted Wake to BOA Editions during its open reading period earlier in the month. Today I received an email stating that they wouldn't consider the manuscript for its Continuum series because Better To Travel "doesn't count" as a first book since it was done through iUniverse. BOA suggested I enter the book in their "first book" prize instead. My response: absolutely-fucking-not.
I'm proud of Better To Travel and I refuse to relegate it to non-existence because of a short-sighted set of rules. The book has sold nearly 1,000 copies, was nominated for local and national awards and reviewed in national magazines, including a cover mention in the Lambda Book Report. I worked my ass off to promote the book and was invited to readings all over the country because of it. But at BOA, it "doesn't count."
BOA is home to many of my favorite poets (and friends) like Cecilia Woloch and Richard Garcia. I have always been impressed by their books and the poets they choose to work with, but, as I suggested in my response, it is time for BOA and other publishing houses to change the rules. Indie and micro-presses are publishing the most interesting poetry these days and by unique voices. The old "self-published" condemnation is a gatekeeper still in place at many publishing houses and magazines. What are they scared of? It's more likely who are they scared of...mainly old contributors who want their poetry from familiar names (or those vetted by those names) and editors who are just looking for the next MFA casualty. Wake up.
We keep hearing horror stories about how small presses are in financial trouble, are being gobbled up by larger conglomerates and that poetry is either dead or nearly dead. The scenario I just outlined is one of the symptoms of a much larger problem. However, the problem is not only being solved but circumnavigated by the indie and micro-presses who are fed up with tradition and rules and are changing the world of poetry publishing in this country -- one chapbook and POD-published book at a time.
Speaking of wanting to scream, Dana Gioia's commencement address at Stanford last month made me vomit in my mouth a little. Tania Rochelle has the perfect response at her blog...and love and thanks for the shout out.