Thursday, January 15, 2004

Tony makes an excellent point from the editor's point of view—a small, new, or otherwise marginal magazine or (probably less often) press has to submit itself to writers whose status as Authors reverses the usual hierarchy. As someone who has now had the very pleasant experience of being solicited (as sexually coded a word as "submission") for his work a few times, I perhaps should have been more aware of this dimension. But I still haven't internalized my own Author-ity and to some degree I hope I never shall. Because I too dream of an end to hierarchy's humiliations. The best alternative to artistic capitalism that I'm aware of is the example of subpress, a genuinely socialistic affair. Of course the press itself and its products must go on to compete in the same value-free zone that the rest of us do; the books don't, for example, distribute themselves. Still, it's a heartening example of poets seizing the means of production in a spirit of cherishing—of assisting each other to their individual flourishings. And of course the collective nature of subpress does not dictate that they are all producing cookie-cutter work; far from it. My old Vassar classmate Camille Guthrie's book The Master Thief is as different as could be from Hoa Nguyen's Your Ancient See Through. But of course even subpress can't help but feel like a closed and exclusive club to an outsider. As far as I know they have made no provision for members beyond the original 19. This is less a defect in subpress than it is a sign of how very difficult it is—perhaps impossible—for any single poet or single group of poets to get outside the economy of humiliation. We are left for the moment only with the consolations of friendship and affiliation—the remaining vestiges of noncommodified life.

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