According to the lovely myth, Pallas Athena - goddess of wisdom, skills, warfare - was born from the head of Zeus, "in full armor, shouting her war-cry and brandishing her spear, most horrible to behold." In an analogous way, but under the aegis of Mnemosyne (Memory and her daughters, the Musae), the writer and artisan may be 'fully-armed' as well. It is always a pleasure to highlight editors/publishers who strive to energize and deepen the alternatezine/smallpress. Though I have 'met' these folks only through snail/e-mail, their substantive publications - journal, broadside, chapbook - are on my desk daily. My enjoyment of writer and illustrator, and my knowledge of the problems and aspirations of the az/sp, come through these alert, caring, imaginative and stalwart men and women! These are people who have jumped in with both feet, who have endured beyond the 10th issue - who are making genuine sacrifices in order to enliven Literature and Art. RD Armstrong assembles the monthly LUMMOX JOURNAL emphasizing "the creative process" (interview, essay and market). He also publishes the LITTLE RED BOOK pocket-size poetry series, now on #30 (each up to 54 pages long). Website: firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail-mail to: POB 5301, San Pedro, CA 90733-5301. Lindsay Wilson assembles UNWOUND, a quarterly and also two broadsides, GLUESTICK and 2+2=1(2 artists/2poets); and, with Nathan Graziano as co-editor, THE FRANK REVIEW (essay/ chapbook review). These are essential publications: POB 835, Laramie, WY 82073. Seth and Cari Taplin are past their 6th issue of KATNIP REVIEWS, their 31st issue of JOEY AND THE BLACK BOOTS, and their 15th publication from their KITTY LITTER PRESS. Contact this wonderful team at POB 3189, Nederland, CO 80466-3189. To the East, one must appreciate and note Christopher Harter's journal BATHTUB GIN, and his review zine, BENT. Contact at: POB 2392, Bloomington, IN 47402 or the website, email@example.com. John and Nancy Berbrich publish THE SYNERGYST (poetry) and BARBARIC YAWP (essay, poetry, story, review). Their MuscleHead Press is past its 12th title. Write to: 3700 County Route 24, Russell, NY 13684. Nathan Graziano publishes the general zine, BROWN BOTTLE and the broadside, HAPPY HOUR (free with a subscription to BB). Do not miss Scott Gordon's STAPLEGUN - "poetry that humps your leg" - because his raucous contribution to the az/sp has past its 10th issue: POB 190184, Birmingham, AL 35219. And, finally, one cannot omit the heroic - "out of my own pocket" - efforts of Ian Griffin at GREEN BEAN PRESS: POB 237, New York, NY 10013. The 20-year effort of Mike Hathaway at CHIRON REVIEW is obvious (702 N. Prairie, St. John, KS 67576-1516); as is the important review/market publication SMALL PRESS REVIEW, edited by Len Fulton: POB 100, Paradise, CA 95967.
I have not tallied the cost of the above mentioned because it is negligible: a part-time job anywhere in America - for only a week - would put all of these publications on the table by your reading chair for a year! More important, a personal contact to one will immediately open the rest to you because, as pointed out, these editors/publishers are both enduring and serious: they neither ignore their own responsibility, nor ignore their obligation to the wider success of the alternate-zine/ smallpress. Certainly, the above is not an exhaustive list, but it is a beginning??EAL DOOR into genuine - non-mainstream - Literature and Art.
ADVICE TO BUDDING WRITERS
I suppose this will be a little article where everybody listens - but no one hears; yet I will be an optimist (new millennium) waxing bright with fresh Hope and Faith. Here goes. Though writers of poetry and prose are often shy, each must - MUST - find a buddy or bud-ette to give a final edit to one's work: recurrent and silly errors, in the hands of an editor, make the submitter seem either #1) a clutz, or one who is saying #2) "I don't give a damn about the appearance of my effort." In the one-man production of my poetry zine, MUSE OF FIRE, I read 10,000 submissions (printing nearly 4,000). NO ONE appeared in any of its 130 issues without editing. NO ONE!
Be consistent. If you use upper case letters on the left margin, do it all the time; if not - don't. Get a dictionary?? use it every day! I own 8 different dictionaries and use 4 or 5 of them - for distinct purposes - every day. I cannot recommend the Spell Checker in many a new typewriter/computer because words in creative works are often 'nonce' words, but do believe that I recognize nonce words as opposed to misspellings or inconsistent use of diacritical marks, etc. I was not only a zine editor for 6 years, but a teacher for 21...and marked (edited) 250,000 papers by over 6,000 students. During that time, managed to have 1,000 of my own poems, articles and reviews accepted at over 400 zines (which means I passed muster with over 400 editors I'd never met)!
So, have an editing buddy or bud-ette. So, too, have a dictionary and use it every day (don't forget)! A couple of other minor items: buy a box of #9 envelopes for the SASE, and also buy a box of #10 envelopes (the former smaller, fitting into the latter without folding, etc.). And always remember to write a signed cover-note, mentioning little things like, "I raise tulips" or "My trip back-and-forth to work each day, in my SUV, is 36 miles" or "I write from 5 a.m. until 7 a.m. daily...before the family gets up." Say something in your cover-note to show that you are HUMAN, that you CARE about something, that you BELIEVE in this or that. It does not have to be an innermost secret, but remember that your publisher-maybe-to-be is definitely flesh and blood...wants to accept the efforts of others who are also flesh and blood (even if the cover-note is a 'rant'). Doesn't matter - just write something REAL!
Finally, never quit your day job unless you can afford it. Creative writing is NO WAY at all to make a living. Even Bobby Frost spent all his working life as a college teacher/guest lecturer. Even ol' Billy Shakespeare was - first - an entrepreneur with real estate (the Globe theater, etc.); and Herman Melville wrote one of his finest novels - last one, Billy Budd - while doing a 20-year stint at a Customs House in NYC. Don't fool yourself! Work and play hard, raise a family, take walks, enjoy the back yard, and block out some of those 168 hours you waste weekly for poetry or prose. Oh, pay yourself first, too - save 10%. Also, don't spend $50.00 for a subscription to TIME or THE ECONOMIST. Check those out from the library - for free! At the same price, subscribe to 7 zines, like LUMMOX JOURNAL, UNWOUND, BROWN BOTTLE, BATHTUB GIN, BARBARIC YAWP, LILLIPUT, STAPLEGUN?? hundreds of contemporary poems, stories, essays and book reviews by your peers, your fellow non-mainstream writers, illustrators. Work hard, good luck - and listen!
Though we have an atavistic urge to classify, we should abandon 'schools' of poetry: meat, street, avant-garde, L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E; mad housewife/factory worker/Vietman vet/Affirmative action, etc. Put in an old-fashioned way: we have run out of 3X5 cards; put in a www. way: we have run out of bytes. Better to explicate - and judge - the billions of poems crossing the desk as rational or irrational expressions of tone, persona, and voice.
Why? Well, first, the mind of each and every human probes reality in such a way that ALL human beings are poets. Though 99.99% cannot reach the epic landscapes of a Homer, all can reach the day-to-day description of a Hesiod - the Works and Days of ordinary, yet nonetheless as startling, valuable, an existence. Second, the mind of each and every human is filled with tropes, a natural ability and process which will 'twist' the ordinary use of language to express the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" we are all heir to: anger/ joy...love/loneliness...hope/despair, etc.; these dozens of emotions ever against a backdrop of the natural world, personal history, cultural parameter (and limitation).
A Brazilian Indian, his life in transit from slash and burn agriculture (some hunting and gathering), may well write poems lamenting the loss of old gods?? traditions, choosing the bedlam of Sao Paulo as against slow starvation and no opportunity for betterment in the hinterland. Such grief - choice - is a rational expression of his state-of-being. Obversely, the poet in a NYC apartment or condo, commiserating - conjuring what he imagines to be that Indian's emotion - is an irrational use of poetic tone, persona, voice; is, perforce, political, and is also, perforce, a patronizing - dangerously debilitating - violation of another's human heart. The poetry critic should say so, judging the latter pseudo-poem as irrational bafflegab (and should advise the NYC poet to describe his own Works and Days)!
The previous paragraph, in a nutshell, also defines 'rational' and 'irrational.' Poetry uses language to define an individual's tone, persona(e) and voice against a backdrop of the natural world, etc. For the poet to leave that 'home' is, of course, quite all right, but poetry created from that fantasy world - or as an ersatz podium for political harangue - is, of necessity, irrational. It is, I suppose, my personal good fortune to like the modern world, from the easy-to-prepare tapioca pudding from its wee box made by a gargantuan corporation (9 minutes in my microwave, stirred 3 times), to hopping into a car and driving ANYWHERE in America - without a visa - across 40,000 miles of the National Defense Highway system (so wisely envisioned and begun by President Eisenhower in 1956)! Yet I also agree, in my rational way, with Ray Bradbury, who was asked by reporters to comment on the supposed boon of the personal computer and instant world-wide e-mail. To paraphrase, Bradbury quipped, 'Why should I want to talk to morons around the world, when there are plenty right here at home?'