Much of the poetry (and indeed art and music), much of the “arts” that we have come to know and love has come to us via individuals who have been inspired to support their art form, to connect their work and the work of peers, to a larger audience. Some of those people have ended up creating bigger presses–Coach House Books, Anansi, Greywolf, Coffee House, Brick Books–and bigger galleries–Stephen Bulger, Monte Clark, Sonnabend, Cue, and magazines such as Geist, etc. But most of what we know as firm in our art worlds, in fact in our world, was born out of an individual passion for something, whether it was shoes, plumbing, money, or poems.
In these times of turmoil, economic and otherwise, it’s important to remember the role of the individual. It’s also important to remember that we have all, in our way, bought in to, and helped create the major disruptions of our own industry–by that I mean those of us who abandoned local book stores for Amazon.com, those of us who abandoned local music stores for iTunes; those of us who prefer to buy American or British poetry and not Canadian, or Canadian and British and not American, and so on; those of us who prefer not to buy music, but to “take it” for free, those of us who prefer to find texts on the net, rather than subscribe to journals, magazines, and presses.
Each of those decisions has a ripple effect in our communities. With that in mind, and with my own resolutions in mind, I bring up the idea of the subscription. Presses, from Coach House to Brick books are offering subscriptions now, and that’s a good idea, but Coach House and Brick are also distributed. Other presses such as belladonna, for example, can pretty much only be found if you show up at a reading in New York, or you order a book directly from the series organizers. Presses such as BookThug in Canada, which is gaining strength by the month, are offering subscriptions too, on top of providing a way to buy smaller press articles online. These are presses that really do rely on reaching a direct audience.
If we want poetry to be a viable pursuit, then we need to support it. Which means we buy books, or we subscribe like any other subscription audience does–be it the symphony, the theatre or as a member of an art gallery, so that these small presses can actually fund their projects, whichever projects and/or presses you want to see around in the future, that’s where you need to give your money now. It doesn’t matter who you support, it only matters that you support someone. To be crass, it is a right-off. It is a professional expense.