Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How To Buy A Book of Poetry

Several people have asked me "the best" way they could buy a copy of Boyishly which led me to think about responsible poetry book buying. And it's hard to know. Amazon is right there and so easy, few bookstores stock poetry or at least the poetry you might want, and unless you are hearing someone read, how do you know what poetry to take a chance on?

So here's my quick primer in case you aren't sure of how to responsibly buy poetry in this day and age.

1. The first and easiest way is to pick up the book at a reading. This might happen in a bookstore or as part of a series. If it occurs in a bookstore, you'll have to buy the book from bookstore, which is fair enough, since their sponsorship of the reading should get you a new audience. The bookstore should buy the books from the publisher- the bookstore pays the publisher around 60% of the cover price and can return books for a refund at anytime. The publisher also covers shipping in these cases. Ideally, the bookstore would order a couple of copies to keep in stock or, even better, push the book by displaying it prominently or putting it on a Staff Picks shelf.

This doesn't always happen. Bookstores will ask the poet to bring books in themselves; since most poets get paid in books, they can do this, but they are losing money. (A publisher should be making some money on the 60% price from the bookstore but the poet "loses" 40% if they provide the books.) Bookstores typically won't stock poetry books unless you are Anne Carson or Seamus Heaney. They simply take the stack of books you bring in, sell them that night, hand you back the rest, and cut you a check hopefully in a reasonable amount of time.

If the reading isn't at a bookstore, you should be able to buy a book (usually cheaper than the cover price) from the poet. Since the poet has probably gotten paid in books, this is handy for the poet and the buyer. But we've all seen poets who don't bring books, don't bring enough, don't hang around to sell books, don't mention they have books for sale or the price. This helps no one.

2. The next best way to score the book you want is to order it directly from the press. This works out well for the press- their backstock goes away and they can get an idea of who is buying and where. You can also get a sense of what the press is doing by looking at their other authors and work. Just as you may have a favorite writer, it's likely there's a press out there that speaks to you as well. Many presses offer series discounts (get all their books for a year at a discount price) and most offer free shipping when you buy more than one or if you order early. YesYesBooks is my publisher; I was thrilled to be with them because I like their philosophy and their lineup- they take chances on new authors and they are committed to making a beautiful product. As a reader, I'm in love with a lot of the lineup at Wave Books. I don't always love what they do but I'm always interested. But what if you want more than one book, not by the same publisher?

3. Wanting more than one book by more than one publisher is a good time to turn to SPD, Small Press Distribution. They are a distribution house for lots of small, quality presses. This is a great way to also buy some work you don't know. They make recommendations, have a best-seller list, and even offer a Mystery Box- 4lbs for 10$. Like a bookstore, the press doesn't make as much money per book, but libraries and bookstores and even simple readers like me and you often don't want to go from press site to press site; SPD works as a kind of validation and clearing house.

4. You can also theoretically order any book from a bookstore; again, this seldom works out. Unless it's some major distributor, bookstores don't like to order things. Some bookstores are exceptions to this- for instance, So & So in Raleigh is a very poetry friendly spot; Regulator in Durham not so much. Any chain, probably not at all.

5. Amazon- pays little to the press and is a hassle to deal with. But they are there and they are cheap and they do get you a book fairly quickly. I've used them too, but let's just admit you lose a little piece of your soul every time you do.

The bottom line is, read some poetry. It's good for you whatever way you get it. And it would make me particularly happy if you included Boyishly in that "to-read" list.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday August 6th- Omission Summer Literary Tour- Regulator Bookstore, Durham NC

I'm very pleased to take part in the Omission Summer Literary Tour when it roles into Durham on Tuesday August 6th. Join us at the Regulator at 7pm.

This one is special to me because Justin Boening, beyond being a great poet, was Boyishly's editor. Boyishly's brilliant editor. I owe him, the books owes him, a ton and I'm not only excited about hearing Justin reading from his National Poetry Society Chapbook Fellowship book Self Portrait As Missing Person I'm thrilled to get to introduce him to Triangle poets. We have a lot more to hear from him in the future, I know.

July 11th- Flyleaf Second Thursday Series

Mark Smith-Soto and I were the featured readers at Flyeaf Books Second Thursday Reading Series. This is a nice intro to readers in North Carolina- they consistently feature 2 NC writers with new books. Keep up with the series here

It was great to read with Mark- I was a PhD student at UNCG while he taught there (he still does) but we hadn't met formally before. He's a great reader and I loved the work he read from his new book Splices

Splices by Mark Smith-Soto

They draw a nice crowd that is very attentive, very focused. It's lovely to see poetry be so vibrant in a community.

June 27th- Wax Wroth #6

Wax Wroth #6 featured a lineup of Durham poets, all reading to welcome kate pringle back to town.

The Carrack a great artist's gallery and all around fabulous space hosted this version of Wax Wroth, Brian Howe's occasional reading series. I was really happy to read for Wax Wroth #5 and was super excited about taking part in this one as it worked to welcome kate pringle back to the Triangle and say hello to her book fault tree.

As Brian so smoothly said it- kate cruelly broke our hearts when she moved to California a couple years ago but then crazy-glued them back together upon recently returning, somehow even doper and more famous than before. This headlining reading will be her first in the Triangle since reclaiming it as home.
The opening readers include a rogue’s gallery of old pringle pals and conspirators: Shirlette Ammons, Brian Howe, Fred Moten, Tanya Olson, Dianne Timblin, Chris Tonelli, and Chris Vitiello. Damn! you must be thinking. That’s a lot of poets. (It is!) But don’t despair. Before kate gives an ample 20-minute-ish reading, each opening poet will offer just 5 to 7 minutes of their hottest verses, back to back. That means you get to hear eight local poets in the same time usually allotted to two or three.
This was a great lineup and night. I also learned that night Fred Moten was stepping out of town so it was good to hear from him one more time again.

Mixtape- June 25th

I read from Boyishly and talked about the importance of going big in poetry at the Casbah on June 25th for Mixtape

Mixtape is a great series; it's been around in several versions. Originally, Brian Howe ran it and asked writers to read from works that had been important to them. It met in living rooms and was pretty informal although always fascinating.

Now Chris Vitiello runs it in conjunction with the Hinge, a literary group here in Durham. It happens at the Casbah and has a wider focus; all kinds of artists take part. Some talk about influences, some show their latest work, while others give a type of talk. I kind of combined all three, reading examples from the work of others and my own that illustrated techniques used in large, epic, ambitious poetry. I later gave a different version of this talk at the Duke Creative Writers Camp.

The others in the Mixtape lineup were also great. Francesca Talenti showed a sample of her work for the stage and in instiallation. Below is an example from her work A Bride For All Seasons.

Michael Itkoff showed a slideshow of his work, including a picture he took as a boy of David Robinson. Both artists were really great and I thought all three presentations worked well together. Below is a sample of his really fabulous White Board Project.

May 21- State of Things

On May 21st, I talked about and read from Boyishly on the State of Things with Frank Statio. You can hear the interview and reading here

The State of Things runs on NPR stations in North and South Carolina and has an arts and news focus. I enjoyed doing the interview- it was obvious that both Frank and the prep person had read the book and were interested in it. I was especially impressed that they both saw the book as active, as having real work to do. SOT regularly talks to artists of all stripes and is a show worth listening to online or on the radio.

Boyishly Launch-May 15th

Boyishly got a warm welcome to its Durham home on May 15th at the Pinhook

 Books screeched into town on the 14th (Despite the fact my street was closed by a traffic accident. The FedEx driver whipped it around the roadblock to deliver my book. Well done, good man.) and an all-star lineup tore the house down.

Chris Vitiello read dressed as the Pope

the Bull City Slam team proved they will be a force to be reckoned with again this year

 Jim Haverkamp graciously showed us When Walt Whitman Was A Little Girl,

shirlette ammons read and performed from her new album like the multi-media threat she is

and the Fuck Yeahs proved to be an outstanding houseband (seen with shirlette in the video)

It was a great start for Boyishly, a great send off for the Minor American Series (which has been bringing great work to Durham for several years now) and a brilliant evening of all the Bull City has to offer.