Tag Archives: Greying Ghost Press

Best Thing I’ve Read This Month: Chapbooks

18 Nov

chap3chap2chap1chap4During overly hectic periods in my life, it’s sometimes difficult to find the time to invest in a full-length collection of poetry with an intensity that gives due diligence to the aesthetic, emotional, and poetic content of the poems therein. For this reason (among others), I enjoy reading chapbooks. Engaging a poet’s work within the confines of 15-30 pages enables me, as a reader, to spend more time with individual poems, to think about the conceptual framework of the entire collection in a more concentrated manner, and to do so in a relatively truncated time frame.

The past few weeks, for me, have been rather busy and, thus, I’ve not been able to dedicate my time to reading any full-length collections. Luckily for me, though, a stack of recently acquired chapbooks have gathered in my apartment; this was the perfect opportunity to read these little books.

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably already aware that there is no dearth of wonderful chapbook presses across the country releasing limited-run titles. Of these, my favorite presses take an artisan approach to constructing their artifacts, creating books that demonstrate a particular type of craftsmanship, attention to aesthetic detail, and a general love of book-making. While I find presses that release chapbooks that embodied a D.I.Y. and/or zine-style approach to their artifacts interesting as well (but for different reasons), I find a certain pleasure in fetishizing a finely-wrought chapbook.

To this end, I would like to offer brief reviews of four chapbooks that are both well-constructed and filled with well-conceived poetry.

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Brown, Lily. The Haptic Cold. Brooklyn, NY: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013.

In “I Tie Down My Fill, Close the Sky,” the opening poem of Brown’s newly released The Haptic Cold, the speaker says:

When I went outside and spoke, metal
was coming out of my skin.
I spoke backwards and others
rotated the phrases back for me.

However strange we need to be to get there.
The skin’s scales speak of failure
to do something. Easy to fail all day,
then use the word to show
a state of non-achievement.

The speaker attempts to articulate herself, but she voices her phrases “backwards” and in a “rotated” manner, thus obfuscating her desired meaning or intent. Moreover, her speech, instead of communicating a message, effects some strange bodily transformation wherein metal comes out of her skin.

To this end, “I Tie Down My Fill,” and The Haptic Cold, in general, address a particular “failure” of language to do “something” which its speaker intends. But this “state of non-achievement” becomes an achievement in and of itself–at least to the extent that these poems disorient their readers, situating them in a linguistic field marked not by utilitarian ends, but by its ability to disrupt understanding through the “violence of artifact” and artifice.

As such, when we encounter strange passages, such the following lines from “Taxonomic”:

I swallowed the doorjamb’s

shine. The threshold
breaks off as I use it.
The water has a breeze

says the dog-eared lady
who owns both.

we need not so much worry about the poem’s discernible logic; but, rather, we should focus on the haptic effects that such linguistic and cognitive dislocations render within and upon our bodies.

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Falck, Noah. Celebrity Dream Poems. Portland, OR: Poor Claudia, 2013.

Falck’s chapbook Celebrity Dream Poems consists of twenty poems, each composed of four couplets that he titled after the name of a famous person.

The poet prefaces his collection an excerpt from Berryman’s “Dream Song 14,” which simply reads: “Peoples bore me.” While, no doubt, the epigraph acknowledges the vacuous nature of celebrity culture, these absurdist poems do not work in service of reinforcing this claim; rather, Falck’s poems enliven the celebrity machine by infusing it with quirky humor through a re-orientation of context. Take, for instance, the poem “Lebron James”:

There is a lake on the moon on fire.
I hold your hand and try to explain

everything as if it were written by
Dr. Seuss. I will not lose anymore

not in the dark, not in the park, Sammy.
Though, I will win seven rings in Miami!

Your tears came out as small green hams. You stood
near a window pointing to the fire on the moon.

Similar to the gossip and entertainment magazines found in the checkout lanes at the grocery store, the poem provides a brief engagement with a celebrity figure. But unlike those magazines—which frame their subject as person who is “Just Like Us” through images and captions of him/her performing banal tasks—Falck’s poem creates a little, surreal world for us to lose ourselves in momentarily.

And that world, populated by burning lakes on the moon, tears composed of miniature green hams, and an impromptu Dr. Seuss adaptation, is decidedly nothing like the one in which we normally find Lebron James. Instead, this world effects a bizarre yet enjoyable milieu, wherein an NBA superstar is a rhyming astronomer who watches the moon burn impossibly.

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Fortin, Jennifer H. Give or Take. Salem, MA: Greying Ghost Press, 2013.

Give or Take is a series of fifteen prose poems that, more often than not, offer reflective meditations on a particular subject matter. For example, the collection’s first poem “Hawaii” begins:

My work is to point out the inescapability of neglect and call for a slower, deeper interaction with it. As we reached the end of our inaugural experience of neglect, our attention returned to skin, the sonic sibling of skim. Neglect just means you don’t pick something up, and you don’t or can’t handle it.

While the poem’s title references the island state of Hawaii, Hawaii is never addressed throughout the course of the poem. Hawaii becomes the neglected object through non-engagement. Rather, the speaker presents us with other subjects, such as skin, skim, apples, doorknobs, and forks. Most importantly, though, she addresses the concept of neglect itself. To this end, the title of the poem is a “cheap kind of attention”: in other words, invoking a term for the explicit sake of non-engagement.

The subject matter of each prose meditation alters quite a bit from piece to piece. One of my favorite reflections occurs during the collection’s title poem:

There’s a “you”—probably now a me—described that morphs from character into concept via the inappropriate. The absolute is all over the place. “You” is all over the place. When it comes to assessing you’s emotions, it gets very serious. And anytime there are big feelings involved, tender complexity is not far away.

In this passage, the speaker of the poem investigates the protean nature of pronouns and the manner in which the second-person pronoun can sometimes refer to the first-person through a morphing of character. Moreover, these alterations in antecedents usually correspond to some “serious” emotional states that tend to involve a “tender complexity.” Just like pronouns and the emotional states affixed to them, Fortin’s prose poems are both tender and complex in concept and delivery.

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Kaminski, Megan. Gemology. Houston, TX: Little Red Leaves, 2012.

Megan Kaminski’s chapbook Gemology works through a troika of tropes: the word, the flesh, and the city. The collection, in many ways, seeks to collapse these three distinctive terms so as to render their differences unintelligible. Take, for instance, the following excerpts:

                                    Name me perception
                                    name me economy
rows of turnstops
lanes of traffic
halls cubicles queues
                 order number and sign
                 away my body
                 one department or another (4)

We implore you exhale city smoke and invite us
within garneted sanctuary damp cavern
architectures making way songs and bodies
rending walls porous to sound silken soiled (5)

Vowels roll drip down thighs
conjunctions across backs

I put on my city

city built line on line body on body
alphabet buried beneath street
concrete-riverbed-city
cross-sectioned-fluid-fattened (7)

Yes, the poet builds the “city” from “line on line” in the poem, but also of “body on body.” But these bodies themselves are made of language, such that “Vowels roll…down thighs” and one can find “conjunctions across backs.” The city, likewise, becomes a body, at the least to the extent that the speaker claims that she can “put on my city” as if it were a detachable skin. Furthermore, the city is language, wherein one can “exhale” it through articulation, capturing its “architectures” in “song.”

No longer can we tell where one entity begins and another ends. Instead, all three are enwrapped in a tri-folded chiasmus such that they are indistinguishable from one another.

Indie Lit Classics: Greying Ghost Press

5 Jul

In 2009, Ryan Call called Greying Ghost Press “a press to be excited about” and he was right and is right and seems like will be right for a good while to come. Check out Ryan’s spotlight from four years ago over. Then check out the rest of this post for 2013 Greying Ghost chatter from myself and others.

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The first Greying Ghost chapbook I ever encountered was I Am In The Air Right Now by Kathryn Regina. It might’ve been the first chapbook I ever bought myself, like looking back to remember the self-titled Savage Garden CD as the first I ever bought with my own money. I had never seen such a skinny, beautiful book–mirrored title, diagram stuck in the middle, maroon page spooning the cover. And the poems! The poems are not shy, though they might want you to think they are. In the air, they are, with their whimsy and their spirit, their new touch on the old heartbreak.

from “i thought there would be no one in the air”

the air is empty but

there are several families living in my chest.

I am going to open my own store and sell only

things that i especially like. puppets, diet coke,

spell books, beautiful rocks. i am going to sell

these things to the families in my arteries.

some of the people in the families die. there is a funeral

in my kneecap. the grandmother throws herself

into the grave. the children play at empty plots.

And 99 numbered copies later, poof, they are gone, have been gone, tucked away on select important shelves, just like so many of GG’s finest releases.

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Matt DeBenedictis, publisher of Safety Third Enterprises, on the radness of Greying Ghost Press:

Every chapbook I’ve ever ordered from Greying Ghost Press felt like they had me in mind when they made it, or they had a faithful hope in a cumulative reaction of cornerstone thoughts on first glance: the little details etch themselves like romantic gestures that can’t fade into the past.A circular die cut on a thick cover stock reveals a map and a nestled ampersand (J.A. Tyler’s Our Us & We), books folded like pamphlets are given wraps and buttons like they are gifts. I feel like a thieving’ little shit when I open some of them. I’ve been tempted before to just immediately frame their chapbooks on the wall (without opening a page) and just let the reviews on Goodreads be enough of a satisfaction.

The care that Greying Ghost Press puts to each chapbook is a knowledge that printed words are far from over; we still have so much imagination on how to rest ink onto paper.

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Cassandra Gillig, keeper of that dumb poetry blog, on GG’s hosting the Corduroy Mountain archives:

Probably the part of Greying Ghost I enjoy the most (since it is very easily sharable & free to access & this is something of great value to anyone looking to get into a press & find out what they are doing) is their online archiving of Corduroy Mountain.  Corduroy Mountain was, unarguably, something too special for human consumption–a literary magazine worth all of the awe & envy most can & should muster.

You can see everything that was published in Corduroy Mountain on Greying Ghost’s Issuu Site, which is an incredible thing.  CM also does a great job of showcasing the perfect brilliance GG publishes on a regular basis.  In addition to making things that are frustratingly gorgeous, GG has published some of my favorite writers.  Becca Klaver’s Inside A Red Corvette is kinda funny, way good, & so honest.  Dan Boehl’s sometimes perfectly sparse and always overwhelmingly perspicacious Les Miseres et les Mal-Heurs de la Guerre is nearly too wonderful for words.  Paige Taggert, Kathleen Rooney, Jac Jemc, & Sasha Fletcher all released stupidly good things with the press.  Not to mention the JA Tyler & Schomburg chapbooks which I feel are adored universally by those who have read them.

The appeal of Greying Ghost is, of course, their willingness to take risks and to publish writers who are experimenting with form, and, while this is not necessarily the first press to do it, the work GG has championed is perfect and enriching and, wholly, presses like GG are the reason small press publishing is so exciting right now.

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Matthew Mahaney, author of Your Attraction to Sharp Machines (Bat Cat Press), on his favorite GG chapbook, Sugar Means Yes, by Julia Cohen and Mathias Svalina:

The silver-blue wallpaper cover pages define the room of this chapbook, the physical borders of a world in which brothers and sisters use foxes, masks, razors, and salt to teach us the true, dark meaning of every object and action, and where a new lesson will find you each time you visit.

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And when you order one of these fine fine cared-for chapbooks, the envelope also comes stuffed with bonus goodies, a.k.a. pamphlets, these little brushstrokes, printed and folded goodness, from folks like Danniel Schoonebeek, Wendy Xu, Jennifer H. Fortin, Brian Foley, and more.

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Carrie Lorig, author of NODS. (Magic Helicopter Press), on her two favorite pamphlets (one of which happens to be mine, awww shucks, WOW):

In South Korea (a town called Imjingak / 임진각), there is a Pamphlet/Leaflet Launch Site. It is about getting information across a young, sore border. Now that there is a ban, and they use large balloons.

According to the OED, the word ‘pamphlet’ is named for a popular love poem, Pamphilus, seu de Amore, with a Greek name (It has not been tested in French. -OED) that means “friend to everyone.”

At my catering job, during a lull in service, the sweating girl next to me mumbles, “If your wedding is going to be this big, you need to just do the food family style.” Big bowls for whole tables. Passing and touching moves it fast, spreads it fast.

Pamphlets, flyers, leaflets. Like ants or my friend Bridget’s bees, I hardly imagine them alone. I see them as the sudden waterfall swim they cause in the air. I see them devouring a part of the ground.

My two Greying Ghost pamphlets were pressed to me. Right before M.G. Martin left a dance party in Boston, he put “Sister, Thank You,” (#47) in my hand. It was fucksnowing, I’m sure, when I opened the manila envelope with “Don’t Reason” (#40) by Tyler Gobble inside.

“Don’t Reason” – The symmetry, the railing against the title, in Gobble’s “Don’t Reason” is as beautiful and smallbig as HALLELUJAH. “I can’t believe / that was you “, “You can’t believe / the words,” “The fact we need / God,” “The fact we need / Meth Sun,” “How can they talk / about so many overturned cars,” “I heard a man / singing a song / on a bus” A prayer is a thing you assemble and aim with don’t reason. You assemble it in the face of no galaxy you can reach into. You put your head in the fridge to cool off. You don’t do it to get an understanding of why we send these floating, desperate chunks of flower and human ash and plane crash and hum drifting out.

“Sister, Thank You” – I don’t always think repetition is as conscious as we insist it is. What if every time you say a word, you are not as aware that it is the same word as the previous word you just uttered as you are that you are saying the word however you are in that moment, on that part of the page, in that blank space of the conversation. It doesn’t matter what comes after it or before it. This might be how the constant onslaught of thank you interrupted by “roses, sister, language, mouth, tongue, deep, without, bones, skin” is thinking about repetition. I can echo through them all together, taking in the longitude and population and spelling out carefully as it gets big enough to be a Thank You nation-state. Or, I can encounter each of them alone, failing alone, struggling alone, to get to a sister. There are 11 rocks in this one, two in that one. A beluga that won’t be touched unless you are naked.

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Jamie Iredell, author of lots of good stuff like The Book of Freaks (Future Tense Books), on the lasting goodness of Greying Ghost Press:

I’ve pretty much always loved GG. This goes back to the early days of the “online lit” thing, or “alt lit,” whatever you wanna call it. And maybe they weren’t even really the “early days” either, but whatever. I bought Peter Berghoef’s “News of the Haircut,” “Help” by Adam Fieled, “At The Pulse,” by Laura Carter (a very close friend of many years), “I Will Unfold You With My Hairy Hands” by Shane Jones, “The Tornado Is Not A Surrealist” by Brian Foley, “Walden Book” by Allen Bramhall (this was a huge book for me; it was amazing and amazingly designed), and “Naturalistless” by Christopher Rizzo. I was blown away by these books, and at the time I was writing my own stuff and was publishing it in literary magazines. Carl was, at the time, putting together stuff for the first Corduroy Mountain issue, and I submitted. He liked what I’d written, and asked if I had enough to make a chapbook. That was the middle section (“When I Moved to Nevada”) of what became my first book, Prose. Poems. a Novel. Since all of that went down, I’ve still been a GG fan, as Carl has continued to produce amazing work: “Inside A Red Corvette” by Becca Klaver, “I Am In The Air Right Now” by Kathryn Regina, “Our Us & We” by J.A. Tyler, “Pretend You’ll Do It Again” by Josh Russell, “Sky Poems” by Nate Pritts, “The Poughkeepsiad” by Joshua Harmon. And they just keep coming. Amazing books, Careful attention to language and design. Carl Annarummo is a diamond in coal field of contemporary lit.

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Two of my favorite GG releases, for both their perfect design and dropping-of-the-jaw poems, are Imaginary Portraits by Joshua Ware (full disclosure tag: Vouched contributor) and Plus or Minus by Weston Cutter. Two very different books, but paired together in my heart. Ware’s is a pocket-sized thing, sturdy dark dark cover with die-cut window for the title to peek out from its yellow home. Cutter’s book is sheathed in a map. Ware’s poems are vignettes masquerading as visions. Cutter’s poems are uncompromising meditations. Moving poems and unique cases, these are two of the newer and most fitting representations of the stellar work Greying Ghost produces.

from Cutter’s “Yours, Alaska”:

in cragginess and distance, in separation

and bearing; in your imagination Alaska

I want to know if you see my Minnesota

as the dumb cousin pestering for a pass

during the post-Thanksgiving football game

and what about Montana, Alaska? Okay,

no one can ever be as cold, Alaska, but

let’s start a band, call ourselves the Chills:

you’ll wear a trucker’s hat, play the bass,

lay a beat for the rest of us to throb

longingly along to but Alaska you know

you can’t stay frozen forever, yes?

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“The quality of their productions alone make them one of the most sought after small presses to work with — if you ever get the chance, jump at it!” – Hosho McCreesh, author of several awesome books

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Grab yourself a subscription for Greying Ghost’s 2013/2014 catalog or pick up one of the few past releases still available. This stuff is hot.

“Sister, Thank You” by M.G. Martin (Greying Ghost Pamphlet #47)

3 Apr

Greying Ghost is beautiful, is about beautiful, objects and pieces, stories and pamphlets. A box comes in the mail and it’s the Greying Ghost chapbook you ordered, say Plus or Minus by Weston Cutter, and you’re stoked, this beautiful (truly! truly!) handmade, map-covered chapbook, but then some more stuff shakes out, PAMPHLETS, those beautiful little sheets of paper, well-fonted, neat designs, stunning work.

One in particular, pamphlet #47, the single poem, “Sister, Thank You,” by M.G. Martin keeps shaking to the surface, to be re-read, for me myself to be re-shaken. It’s this uncontrolled, uncontrollable emphatic song, yes from grief and loss, but mainly and most remarkably of appreciation, an unapologetic and unrefined repeating, interrupting thank you.

you thank you are thank you
the thank you blood thank you
drop thank you dropping thank you
from thank you white thank you
roses thank you black thank you
fever thank you of thank you
the thank you spirit thank you
my thank you name thank you
is thank you without thank you
mouth thank you my thank you
mouth thank you without thank you
voice thank you my thank you
voice thank you without thank you
language thank you language thank you
without thank you tongue thank you
tongue thank you no thank you
you thank you

Buy a Greying Ghost chapbook and hope hope hope you get this beautiful pamphlet poem with it.

Oxford, Michael Bible, and the “Real” World of Writing

27 Mar

Last week, we were on spring break, so Melissa and I made our way up to the University of Mississippi for this year’s Oxford Conference for the Book. We had a great time–walking around the square one night on our way to or from dinner, I overheard someone say that she liked living in Oxford because “the weather is mild; the food is good; the people are nice.” And I have to say that, based on our time there last week, that’s a pretty fair assessment.

We met lots of great people during our time there and bought lots and lots of books and heard lots of brilliant people say lots of brilliant things, but I want to spend a minute here to mention a session on Saturday morning titled “Virtually Published: Blogs, Internet Journals, and Online Writing.” The session was moderated by Anya Groner and featured Jack Pendarvis, Maud Newton, and Michael Bible, whose name I recognized but couldn’t immediately place–it turns out his chapbook Gorilla Math was published by Greying Ghost about the same time as mine, and some of his work has been discussed here on Vouched.

There were lots of great moments in the session, a session which was something of an anomaly at a conference that puts a great deal of emphasis on the printed word. Asked how the internet had changed his writing, Jack confessed to a growing inclusion of exclamation points and unicorns (no kidding!) in his online writing. When one of the old guard challenged the reality of all things online, Jack mused about what happens to things when they disappear from the internet (not a system of tubes, perhaps, but maybe a giant hole we were collectively filling? One day, would the hole be completely filled?), and when this audience member complained that his grandson “only has friends on the internet,” Michael was quick to quip, “At least he has friends.”

Things might have turned very ugly there but didn’t (thanks, Jack, for keeping things a little light in that moment). Instead, they mostly turned philosophical, as audience discussion turned to the question of what it means to call something real.

And we might talk for a while about whether or not things on the internet are real–that is, if we could first reach some agreement about what it means to say that something is real. But I think what’s at stake for most people in that sort of a discussion isn’t metaphysics (which, unfortunately, was where more than one member of Saturday’s audience wanted to steer things); rather, I think what’s at stake for most people here is the issue of authenticity. Does an internet publication have authenticity? Is it authentic? Can it speak with authority? Or, we might say, does a writer published on the internet have any claim to the title author, with its implications of authority?

Yes, I’ll say. Or at least, sometimes.

I think that people who challenge the authenticity of internet publishing base that challenge, mostly, on the fact that there’s so much junk online. Tons and tons and tons of it. There’s more drivel published online than you could ever read, not if you started now and spent the rest of your life doing nothing else. If we were to think of the internet as a giant system of tubes, those tubes are largely clogged with writing you’re probably better off not reading. Or if the internet is a giant hole, it’s a hole filled mostly with junk, to be sure (Lolcats, anyone?).

But if there’s lots of junk online, we have to admit that there’s junk in print, too. I mean, I’ve read Dan Brown’s work, and I know for a fact that there are plenty of books published by major publishing houses that have shit for prose.

Now, it may be the case that the legions of editors in the print industry (not to mention the economics of print publishing) have kept a great deal of drivel out of print. But if we agree that in spite of editors’ best efforts, there’s still a fair amount of drivel in print, then we also have to agree that the discussion of online versus print, at least as it relates to claims of authenticity, is a discussion of degree, not of difference. Both print and online publishing have made public some great work along with loads and loads of terrible work. Perhaps there’s more terrible work online than in print, but perhaps not, and in any case, it isn’t the terrible work that really matters, in my opinion.

The issue of how we define great work and terrible work is really outside the scope of what I’m writing here, but what matters, I think, are the words that people have written that mean something, words crafted so that they get at something about this thing we might call the human condition, or (more broadly speaking) life–words that give us a way of seeing the world in a way we might not have seen it before, that show us something we know in a way we didn’t know it. And we can find those words, we can have those experiences, both online and in print.

Which brings me back to something that Michael Bible said at the beginning of this session in Oxford, something that much of the old guard seemed to have forgotten by the time they were complaining about the “unreality” of the internet.

I’m paraphrasing here, of course, but Michael began with the comment that he didn’t think that any of us–us meaning people who were publishing online–were using ebooks or web journals or the like as a way of bringing about the death of the printed book. On the contrary, he said, we’re doing it because we’re so firmly committed to the continued life of the book. The end goal of all of this, he said, is the book.

It also brings me back to a status update on the Vouched Facebook page the other day:

The other day at Ball State, someone asked me what I thought of eReaders, and I think they expected me to say how much I hated them and rant about the end of literature or something, because they looked really confused when I said I loved them and had one myself.

It’s fascinating to me, as well as more than a little sad, that so many people seem to think (or to assume, perhaps) that the worlds of electronic publishing and print publishing are opposed, or even at war with each other. Maybe that’s what it feels like to some people, but from where I’m sitting, it feels like we’re on the same team.

A Penny for your Thoughts? –Pt. One

30 Oct

When individuals use money, they know very well that there is nothing magical about it–that money, in its materiality, is simply an expression of social relations. . . . The problem is that in their social activity itself, in what they are doing, they are acting as if money, in its material reality, is the immediate embodiment of wealth as such.
     –Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology

One of the things I enjoy about running is the time spent outdoors, away from websites and televisions and cell phones and nearly every distraction, save the occasional armadillo or coyote or neighborhood dog. It affords time for reflection and, when I’m not running alone and when we’re not running especially hard, for conversation.

A few days ago, I was out for an easy run with the cross country team that I coach, and one of my runners asked me about my writing. “Why do you do it?” Scott wanted to know. “Is there any money in it?”

Of course, if you’re reading this on Vouched, then you probably have good answers to both of these questions already. But it did provoke a long conversation about the ways in which writing can become a commodity.

At the beginning, I told him, I wrote a lot of things that weren’t very good. Some of these, I sent to editors who sent back pre-made postcards in the mail or who stuffed photocopied rejection slips into my self-addressed, stamped envelopes. But eventually, I wrote things that were, I hope, better, and a few editors said yes. And then a few more. And then an especially kind editor offered to publish a chapbook.

And then, I told Scott, if you do this long enough and diligently enough, maybe one day you start to get the occasional editor who seeks you out, who asks you to send your work to her journal.

“What about then?” he wanted to know. “Then, do you get paid?”

Not hardly.

But then I told him how enough of these sorts of publications could lead to a book deal, which probably wouldn’t amount to much money, either. But that a book deal (or two, or three) could help a writer secure a teaching or editing position that was paid–so that, if you were lucky, eventually, you’d have a job that paid you to do something else but that supported your writing.

Which brought me back to the question: Why do writers write? I know Stephen King’s answer, of course, but in the world of small presses and independent journals, is it ever about the money?

And of course, my answer is no. The writing is not about the money. And, for that matter, I told him, neither is the running. Now, I’ve met a few elite runners who have sponsorship deals, who are paid to run, but for most people, running isn’t about the money any more than writing is–running a great time in your local 5k race isn’t about the money any more than having a poem published by PANK.

A couple of months ago, Jeff Edmonds–a philosopher and a much better runner than I am–had this to say:

I’ve said this before, and I will say it again: one of the best reasons to run is its utter uselessness as an activity. . . . The fact that a run has no exchange value on the open market is a mark that it, as an experience, cannot be exchanged. Its value, like that of life itself, is inherent and singular.
     –Jeff Edmonds, The Logic of Long Distance

Like a good run, a good poem really has no exchange value on the market. Now, we might pay for it–we might pay the runner who wins a race, or we might pay the poet who excels at the craft–but even in the act of paying, we disassociate the payment from the act. It is not payment for the act, as it might be when we take a car in for repair. When I ordered Matt Bell’s How They Were Found, for instance, or Molly Gaudry’s We Take Me Apart, I didn’t really consider–in a monetary sense–the value of the book, or of the time, or of Matt’s or Molly’s craft; but when I had a new battery installed in my truck last weekend, I certainly considered the value of the battery, of the time, and–to some degree, at least–of the mechanic’s craft.

I know for a fact that I have never written a poem and then said, “This poem is worth ten dollars.” Or a hundred. Or a thousand. Or one.

So why do we buy and sell these things? Why do we, here, right here on this website, ask you to buy books? How do I tell you that a particular book is “worth it”?

When I (finally) made the decision a few months ago to offer a print edition of Willows Wept Review, I agonized. How could I ask people to pay for something to which I could not assign a value?

If Žižek is right in his reading of Marx, if money “is simply an expression of social relations,” then we might begin by asking what the social relations are in independent literature, by asking not only what values we assign those relations but also how we assign them.

What are, we might ask, the economics of expression?