Lent/Elegies and the Nanopress

Some time ago now, the announcement went out that I had published another book. When people began to congratulate me on this, I wasn't sure what they were talking about. Then I realized they were referring to the chapbook Lent / Elegies, a collection of poems that I wrote after the death of my mother. A chapbook is a little different from a book book in that it is smaller, generally comprised of poetry, and it's often done by very small presses, or by the poet herself. My book was a bit of both.Nic Sebastian, an online fellow-poet, created the idea of what she calls the nanopress as a way of publishing collections of poetry. This idea grew out of a number of meditations on the state of publishing, the purpose of poetry, the role of the internet, and the liberation of the word from the page. Here is her description of the nanopress:

The nanopress is a single-publication, purpose-formed poetry press that brings together, on a one-time basis, an independent editor’s judgment and gravitas and a poet’s manuscript. The combination effectively by-passes both the poetry-contest gamble and the dwindling opportunities offered by existing poetry presses, while still applying credible ‘quality control’ measures to the published work.

And here's what she says about the genesis of it:

my personal perspective is that there is no money in poetry and that poetry sits very uneasily in the traditional commercial publishing paradigm. I envision the nanopress as a completely no-profit, non-financial undertaking, with the editor providing editing services on a volunteer basis, the published book sold at cost-price only, and the poetry also delivered free via the web. In the case of Lordly Dish Nanopress, we published book, CD, e-reader and website versions of Nic’s collection. The book and CD are available at no-profit cost-price from the print-on-demand publisher, the e-book is a free download, and the poems (both text and audio) are available free on the website.Be clear why you are doing this: are you trying to make money by selling your poems, or are you trying to get your poems read as widely as possible?

Almost a year ago, Nic put out an invitation for people to submit concepts for nanopress publications to her. She would oversee their production, and she would help get them into print. I spoke to Sonia Farmer, my editor from Poinciana Paper Press, and she came on board, and we submitted the project to Nic. I wrote the poems and sent them to Sonia. She arranged them, discussed titles with me, sourced the cover image (Stan Burnside's fabulous "Age Ain Nuttin But a Number"), corresponded with Nic, looked over proofs, did everything an editor is supposed to do. Lent / Elegies is the result.Nic did all the formatting for us, and even began to work on the audio for me. She has published two of her own chapbooks by nanopress, Forever Will End On Thursday, collection edited by Jill Alexander Essbaum, published by Lordly Dish Nanopress, and Dark And Like A Web, chapbook edited by Beth Adams, published by Broiled Fish & Honeycomb Nanopress. The audio didn't make it yet; Nic had to abandon a lot of her poetry work owing to the interference of what other people might call real life, and I had real problems finding a space quiet enough for me to make recordings that passed Nic's high standards. I'm still working on recording all the poems so that eventually they will all have audio recordings attached and be downloadable as an MP3 file and burnable on a Lulu.com CD. But that will come in time.So here's the thing. Yes, I've published another book. It's called Lent / Elegies and it's a nanopress chapbook. That means you can read the poems for free online, here, or you can download the collection free in ebook form from Smashwords here, or you can order a hard copy from Lulu.com, ($7 + shipping, stamp tax, and 10% duty) here, or buy it from me, which will cost you a flat $3 more per book, as I have to cover the cost of shipping, landing, duty, and delivery, and because I don't like dealing with dollar bills for change.I just love the concept. The book's apparently not too awful either.

"On the Wreck of the Henrietta Marie"

Accepted by The Caribbean Writer.Now this is a poem that has been hanging around my Writing folder for four years or so. Inspired by a conjunction between the travelling exhibition of the slave ship that re-opened the Pompey Museum after the 2001 Market Fire and an in-depth poetry workshop session over at the Poetry Free-For-All, it made the rounds of the appropriate journals. I thought -- wrongly -- that it might get picked up two years ago, when commemorating slavery and its detritus was a year-long affair, but it didn't. I'd almost given up on its being published, not being too sure what was not-right about it and not knowing what to do about it. I'm a big one for letting a poem be, of knowing when something's finished (or ought to be finished), of letting the time pass when it ought to, and after several years of honing and tweaking it seemed to me that "Henrietta Marie" was finished. This year, I pulled it back out, dusted it off and polished it a bit, and then sent it off with four others to The Caribbean Writer. And last month, managing editor Quilin Mars let me know they wanted to publish it.Well, yay, I say. And to others inclined to see rejection slips as always being about the quality of the work (sometimes they are, but not always; sometimes the work doesn't fit the publication), I pass on the writer's advice: never give up, never. The one that publishes you is almost always the last one you try.Here's a bit of it:

I.  Vendue House/Pompey Museum, Nassau, BahamasCome. Stand in a place to sell slaves where planters, farmers, businessmenbought planters, farmers, businessmen.  Just there, a crier stoodbefore a block.  An African stood upon it.  Shackles and lockstrammelled black legs that ached from the straightening.

Go buy The Caribbean Writer Vol 23 if you want to read more.


Geoffrey Philp reads a poem here, called "Red". It's about being in between.As Philp writes:

And while this poem does not adhere strictly to the form [the ghazal], it did allow me to play with the word "red," which at the start of the poem refers to a biracial person or "half-caste."


National Poetry Month

I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, and am posting (irregularly) the poems I'm writing daily.

But I wanted to note that Geoffrey Philp has been doing a daily update on Caribbean poets all month long. You can find it here.

Today's is particularly good: Anthony McNeill (Jamaica):Somebody is hanging:a logwood treeladen with blossomsin a deep wood.The body stirs leftin the wind ...

It's April

and the USA is celebrating National Poetry Month.  Not that (a) we're American, or that (b) we should do what our northern neighbours do, but it occurs to me that it wouldn't harm us to have national months for some reason or another.The problem is that nothing our governments decide seem to stick anymore.  As soon as a different party gets into power, decisions are reversed, amended, rewritten, recast.  It's all a matter of scoring points, it would seem -- not a matter of national anything.  The PLP, while they were in power, removed the face of Stafford Sands from the $10 bill and sidelined One Bahamas in such a way that people forgot what it was/what it meant (Independence, not One Bahamas, was the priority).  The FNM this go-round have redesigned Urban Renewal and recast the move of the container port; we have yet to see what significance the thirty-fifth anniversary of Bahamian independence will bring.It all seems rather petty, and extremely absurd.And what's more, it's all in utter disregard of the wants or needs of the Bahamian people at large.But all that's by the way.  I started to write about what April's doing in other countries.  If you want, you can receive a poem a day from the Academy of American Poets.  I've subscribed.  You can also write a poem a day for NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month), and if you want a community, you can post it here.But I think it's time we started thinking about our nation, and what we want it to do.  Together.  Forward, upward, and onward.