...many, most, of the poets outside the academy have [resigned themselves to obscurity]. They pass poems to one another and publish in the handful of publications that accept outsiders. Primarily they work and either self-publish or publish one another in small inexpensive editions that the general public would not even recognize as a book. Most of the poetry I read that might "matter" has almost no exposure at all to an audience beyond a few interconnected renegade cabals in what remains of the literary underground.
Case in point: Jan Jorgensen, the sweet, well-meaning soul who runs the Lawnchair Poetry Soirées I'm featuring in later this month, is publishing a short-run anthology of poems with train travel (which I took to be public transit) as a motif. She also publishes quite lovely commemorative chapbooks of material in her reading series. Lawnchair Soirées? Well, it so happens that at the Nota Bene Papeterie (that is, stationary shop) where the series takes place there are no chairs, so people are encouraged to bring their own lawnchairs, cushions, etc. or else sit on the floor. Hence the name, with a whimsical Lawnchair logo to boot. Like many things printed-word literary in Anglo-Montreal, this one manages to be frightfully English! and not particularly renegade. Even though Jan is probably of Swedish or Danish/American descent(I'll have to ask her), and quite open to a French (as well as other language) presence, which hasn't quite happened yet... en tout cas...
I sent her some previously published work that I thought might fit in her anthology. Here was our correspondence (published with her permission):
From: janette jorgensen
To: Brian Campbell
Subject: RE: submission of transit poems
just wanted to say that I've received the poems... I really like the variety of tone.
cool. (just know that I am given to understatement)
I am tempted to move beyond trains just to be able to include that bus poem.
you know, no one ever buys my poems...
so what do you think I should do about this anthology I am putting out about the trains ? - do I give each participant money for each poem they've submitted? do I give each participant their percentage of the profit? right now I am publishing at a deficit... just for the pure joy of making
little books... what were your expectations?
see, for some of us this is about the only way to get published -
please let me know what you think
Pay us in metro tickets -- or one Toronto Transit token of appreciation.
Pay us not by the word, but by the silence around our words. A com-mute, as it were.
Copies are appreciated, that seems fare.
As for the little books -- well, they're the transfers we need to our destination -- the reader (any reader, even if only ourselves).
She wrote back,
what a lovely poem answer.
Fun that was, indeed. Made my day!