While I've written about building and maintaining platforms myriad times, I've never purposefully looked back on the platforms I've built and examined how and why they deteriorated over time. Over the next few weeks I'm going to organize my thoughts and write about three of the most important ones—partly to properly document them, and partly to offer any relevant takeaways I might have.
What started as a bit of a lark back in March 1998—when myself, Lynne Procope, and Roger Bonair-Agard took over the space at Bar 13 on Monday nights and started our own reading series—not only survived 16+ years in the deteriorating cultural landscape of New York City (and the fickle tastes of bar owners always looking for the next new shiny), but thrived, throughout myriad trials and turmoils—some external, some self-inflicted—as a weekly oasis of poetry that occasionally bent but never broke.
The slam isn't the automatic audience draw it used to be (for us, at least), and I can't help but wonder if that's partly because, a long time ago, the organized slam became much less about putting on a good show for the audience and providing an open forum for a variety of voices, and more about establishing an alternative career path for a select group of poets. The revolution gone corporate, as so often happens.
I've always been fascinated (and frustrated) by poetry's "delicate snowflake" status, and how such a diverse variety of forms, styles, and voices often gets lumped into such a generic, cavernous category, like literary fiction and graphic novels. One of the things I've always loved about good anthologies and open mics is the inherent (or the potential for) diversity in those formats, something that's not clearly communicated on bookstore shelves nor the Dewey Decimal system.
I've noted often in the past that most of what I preach and practice when it comes to marketing and community-building, I learned during those four years of Mondays, and by the end of the night last Monday, I realized how big a hole I'd created when I walked away from that part of my life. So, I'm back.
Interestingly, Spiegelman nails the underlying problem with poetry in general, though he seems to imply it's a flaw related more to a poet's level of experience with form rather than an inherent flaw in poetry in general, but especially that written for the page. While formal poetry has never been my cup of tea, the vast majority of poetry -- formal and free verse, written and oral -- actually bores me to tears for the exact reasons Spiegelman notes.
All good things do eventually come to an end, and for me, on the heels of an amazingly successful DBW11, I realized I was coming upon a crucial fork in the road, and while the DBW path will surely continue to be an exciting one for those continuing on, it’s one I realized would ultimately take me away from my true passion: Books, Authors, Readers and the myriad connections still to be made between them.
Arguably my "biggest" publishing credit is co-authoring Burning Down the House: Selected Poems from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe's National Poetry Slam Champions (Soft Skull Press, 2000), and while I am both proud of and eternally grateful for its publication, its existence has more to do with timing and opportunism than the quality of the work therein. Besides my own attempts at zines and chapbooks, it was my first real introduction to the world of publishing, and it left a permanent mark that partly explains my cynical passion and/or pragmatic idealism for the publishing industry.
[This is a guest post by Tara Betts. Her info is at the end of the post.] come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed. -- from Lucille Clifton’s Book of Light (Copper Canyon Press, 1993) I kept notebooks as a little girl, and I always knew I … Continue reading Ignoring No
Eleven years ago next month, in Austin, TX, I took one of the most life-changing thrill rides ever when I attended my first National Poetry Slam, as a member of the 1998 team representing the Nuyorican Poets Café that would go on to become their first (and still only) team to win the Championship. The … Continue reading Three Rules for the National Poetry Slam