Retreating Aggressively into the Dark - new chapbook from Harry Calhoun

Hi all,

My latest is now out, from the fine lady who runs Boston Literary Magazine and Big Table Publishing. Nice-looking book, featuring a cover shot of the painting that currently hangs above the Calhoun mantel! Hope you find it in your hearts to support my work by springing for a copy. If not, what the hell, have a look at the cover ... :smile:

http://www.bigtablepublishing.com/chaptitles.html

Thanks to all for the interest or lack thereof ...

Harry
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
I see that they charge a $15 reading fee for accepting submissions. I have always found that odd. Of course, it would keep the number of submissions down, which would free up some time...

Bill
 

mjp

Your Host
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Well, since we're talking about the site/publisher (no reflection on your work, Rev. Calhoun), this was good: "The most important tool for any writer is feedback from other writers." It made me laugh.
 
Well, since we're talking about the site/publisher (no reflection on your work, Rev. Calhoun), this was good: "The most important tool for any writer is feedback from other writers." It made me laugh.
Well, as we know, some writers ARE tools, and this publisher uses the submission fee to (a) ensure that she makes a living from the lit-crit biz, and (b) to scare away "writers" who don't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting published. I personally don't have a problem with that.

I do find it interesting that the esteemed members of this site immediately latch onto the submission fee without seeing the quality (or lack thereof, by your pristine standards) of the work. Or, God forbid, even THINKING of buying a copy. Over the past few days, for instance, I bought Winans' "best of" collection (thanks, Bill) and two chapbooks from Propaganda Press. At the risk of insulting God, and someone I have published, Winans's stuff is as erratic as mine or for that matter as any small press poet's. But I buy it because some if it is excellent, and because I want to support publishers who give our work a chance.

I frankly have seen little evidence that people in this forum do so. It's "my letterpress, my printing methods" and fuck anybody who hasn't wandered into the 21st century and actually encountered a computer. I did the print-by-hand thing with Pig in a Poke in the old days, and I admire those who do it now, but I'll be damned if I would go to that bother today. I appreciate the difference, but -- personal opinion here, guys -- so much more work can get put out there, in greater quantities, and it ain't all crap. Not by a long shot.

No reflection on your opinions, Reverends Mike and Bill.
 

hoochmonkey9

Art should be its own hammer.
Moderator
Founding member
Harry, are you mad at us because you think we're book snobs, or that we aren't buying your books?
 

mjp

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Or, God forbid, even THINKING of buying a copy. [...] I buy [...] I frankly have seen little evidence that people in this forum do so.
People in this forum buy a lot of books. If they aren't buying your books, that's a separate issue.

I don't know why you have a thorn in your paw. If you send people to the publisher's site you have to expect they will read past the page with your book on it. We're entitled to our opinions. No one said anything about your writing.
 
No one said anything about your writing.
And I don't believe that I said anything about my writing or how anyone here feels about it. A few of the good people here have bought my stuff and I appreciate that. I think that the thorn in my paw is because of the general attitude toward publishing that I encounter here. I appreciate that what Bill and some of the other limited-release publishers do has its purpose. But tell me: For a poet wanting to get exposure, what does an edition of 26 copies do for anyone but (a) the publisher, who can keep some copies and sell them as collector's items for inflated prices later; (b) collectors of limited editions who have dreams of the same; (c) nobody. Billy Collins and W.S. Merwin and Jim Daniels are widely published in mass-market paperbacks, and they actually get their work seen by the masses and, after all, isn't that why we write? Not to get published and seen by 17 people, but to get the work out there to as many people as possible?

Could be just irreconcilable differences here. I do respect your opinions, I just don't share them. I definitely appreciate the quality of the work. I also know that if I get my stuff printed in a run of 600 copies I might be able to sell more of them than if I get 25 copies printed, and capitalistic son of a bitch that I might be, the money doesn't matter but the exposure does.

Would be nice if somebody answered the questions I pose in the first paragraph of this post about the point of limited-release publishing. I certainly don't have all the answers but I know how it looks to me. Please, responses welcome.
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
there's a balance - with chance press, we try to do an inexpensive trade edition (and we give the authors a good number of copies for their own use, rather than requiring that they buy copies from us), and then a limited edition that is more expensive. what does the limited edition do for anyone? well, for us, it occupies hours upon hours upon hours of our time slaving over the best possible presentation of an author's work. if we're lucky, we'll make a little profit (but we certainly aren't sitting on copies waiting to sell them for "inflated" prices down the road). for the author, it (hopefully) is validating that someone cares enough about their work to put that much loving care into publishing it, rather than slapping some staples on some pages from kinkos and calling it a book. as for exposure, i wonder how much more exposure you get with 600 copies of something that's the quality of the easy-saver you get in the mail, versus a well-designed website with your work on it, as well as a page about the limited edition books you have published through various fine presses. i don't know - obviously there's a difference of opinion here. but i don't think anyone's issue with big table is the run size or the quality of the books (i'm sure they're way better than the easy-saver). for me, it's more of a philosophical question of the kind of exposure a young poet is looking for - if the quality of the edition doesn't matter, why not just make 10,000 copies of a broadside yourself and put them in cafes all over the city? you could probably start a kickstarter page to recoup your costs.
 

justine

stop the penistry
(fucking motherfucker beat me by a minute, but here's my take, regardless)

it really depends where your priorities lay: as a publisher i'm interested in a marriage between format and content. i don't want to publish pretty books with shitty, vapid content. but i don't want to publish good stuff inside shitty laser printed covers. so because i don't have family money to bank roll me, or a large lottery win to support me, i can't afford to hire a dozen people to help me make 600 beautiful copies of a book and sell them for cheap. does that mean my artists/authors get limited exposure? yes and no. if their work is so great, i'm sure they will submit to other publishers who can offer greater exposure in cheaper editions. they may gain a bigger audience that way, and dedicated fans who are interested in collecting that particular person's work may might something a little bit more substantial than a xeroxed stapled chapbook to display on their bookshelf. which is where i come in. also: a really eye-catching format can draw attention to a work, maybe encourage that person to buy the cheaper trade edition.

like jordan has pointed out: we don't charge more than $9 for a basic trade edition, and it will always be in nice cardstock, hand-sewn, and almost always with fancy endpapers and a hand-printed cover. sure, the edition may only be 50-70 (actually, our next poetry chap has a planned trade ed. of at least 150), but guess what? it's pretty hard to sell out a trade edition, and if we did, we'd make a second edition of it.
 
As a generally lousy sometime writer who has had the good fortune of having a couple of things published, I come to this issue from the side of a consumer.

Harry, I can understand your position on production volume and exposure. For the writer, maximum exposure, and hopefully maximum sales, are often the top of the pyramid. But Justine makes a good point about the practical nature of producing a realistic number of nice editions that compliment the quality of the work the editors chose to publish. As a consumer, I really enjoy the art of production; not because I want to buy a $20 or $30 signed edition and sell it in ten years for twice or three times that, but because it engenders that same sort of rare feeling that Black Sparrow was able to do with every new Bukowski book. A gem that you couldn't wait to open.

Sure, beautiful production is no substitute for inferior content, but it can elevate great content to a level that just can't be found in other art forms. Art ensconced in art, if you will.

So, I see both sides, accept them for what they are, and will leave y'all with this nugget of truth: I really dig being one of a few who have read some of the words in these limited editions. Shallow, undignified? Perhaps.
 

justine

stop the penistry
another thing: those limited editions will only sell for 'inflated' prices if the author/artist becomes successful anyway.

i mean, a lot of people really couldn't care less about the presentation of a book - and that's totally cool with me (well, sort of - secretly i think that anyone who doesn't prefer pretty books needs their goddamn head read) - but some people do, and that's the market we're looking to sell to. but that is a pretty small market. and jordan mentions a 'small profit' - actually, we always feel like we're making a bit of money but whenever we do the math it ALWAYS turns out we've lost around $1000 each year of our business (any profit ends up going back into things like new printers and other equipment). but on the other hand, we don't really do fuck-all in terms of promotion.
 

esart

esart.com
Founding member
it's a quality/quantity thing - but not in such simple terms. it's also the quality of the quantity as well. if i had a choice to either expose my art in 20,000 McDonald's restaurants around the world or 10 modern art museums, i would pick the 10 modern art museums because it's the type of exposure and the kind of people that are looking that is important. not just the plain quantity. Bill's books go into some great collections and these kinds of small press books are sought after by true lovers of literature, book arts, poetry, and small presses. they are cared for and collected and taken very seriously. this is as valuable (if not more in many ways) as mass exposure.

that's another opinion. you asked.

your opinion is also valid. i actually don't think any ONE is right or wrong, but you think we are snobs here, all the while you are coming off a bit assy. which is right? snobby or assy?
 

mjp

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It's "my letterpress, my printing methods" and fuck anybody who hasn't wandered into the 21st century and actually encountered a computer.
That's funny. You know, that you say that here, of all places.

There is so much I want to say to you, Harry, but I am on a quest to behave in a level headed and sane manner, and saying what I want to say to you here right now won't exactly help me achieve the illusion of level-headed sanity.

So just let me say, God bless you! Good luck! Best wishes.
 
It's "my letterpress, my printing methods" and fuck anybody who hasn't wandered into the 21st century and actually encountered a computer.
That's funny. You know, that you say that here, of all places.
Michael, thanks ... seriously ... for the restraint. I know that what I'm saying rattles the cages of many here. But here's the deal. When I heard about this site years ago, from Abel (Cirerita), he told me how passionate everybody was about all things Bukowski. Yet your 'here, of all places" indicates that this is more a site for publishers of fine, hand-crafted books, chapbooks, whatever. I guess I'm just a little surprised at the seeming imbalance of focus on the crafted productions as opposed to the man who gave the site its name.

That's all.
 

d gray

tried to do his best but could not
Founding member
I guess I'm just a little surprised at the seeming imbalance of focus on the crafted productions as opposed to the man who gave the site its name.
well what did you expect in the "support the small press" section of the forum?

i think you've said some unfair things about the people around here especially
regarding the motivation to produce and/or collect fine editions.

anyone who puts that much time and care into something that's not likely to make a big - or any - profit can only be motivated by love and passion. not speculation.

i'm sure motivation in collectors varies but i can relate to this from PS-

"As a consumer, I really enjoy the art of production; not because I want to buy a $20 or $30 signed edition and sell it in ten years for twice or three times that, but because it engenders that same sort of rare feeling that Black Sparrow was able to do with every new Bukowski book. A gem that you couldn't wait to open."
 

hoochmonkey9

Art should be its own hammer.
Moderator
Founding member
Harry, I think mjp is pointing out the irony that you are calling some of us here technophobes, but we all meet here via the computer. which, according to you, we are all afraid of.

on a related note, the 2 handmade trade editions that Chance Press did of my chapbooks sold for $9 and $7. yours sells for $12.

I'm getting the feeling here that you're just pissed that we aren't buying your books, and the bluster about us being snobs is a smokescreen.
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
Did everyone that wanted a copy of "I Saw a Tramp Last night" by Bukowski get one free? If not let me know and I'll send you a copy. I did 700 of these to be given out and I will NEVER sell one, rare market or not (others may sell copies, but not me.) I know that I am only out to print 26 copies of made up rarities to fleece people for as much money as i can get out of you suckers here on bukowski.net.

I guess that i have been found out.

Bill
 

mjp

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I guess I'm just a little surprised at the seeming imbalance of focus on the crafted productions as opposed to the man who gave the site its name.
I will pass up the bait once again and say only that you don't seem especially observant if you see this as a forum about hand made books.

Did you realize, for example, that there are only 133 threads in the small press section here, and 16 of them contain "Calhoun" in the subject or in a post? So science and mathematics would seem to indicate that 12% of the small press forum here is about you. Yet you come in here and piss all over it and its readers.

Harry, the fact that you are not yet a world-renowned rock star poet is not our fault. Your anger is misdirected.
 

esart

esart.com
Founding member
Harry, you are starting to act like a troll. First you had a point, complaining about the difference in small presses/limited editions vs. mass printing and more readers of "our" works as writers -- now you you seem to have a vendetta about the aim of this site (even though this the Support the Small Press thread : hello!?) and questioning our focus on Bukowski. What an insult. you seem to clearly want a rise here. It's pretty troll-like behavior. I am surprised!

It's fine that you have this publication out and it's fine that you are excited about it and want support for it and that you post about it here, but now you've just taken a shit all over people that could have been your supporters. I don't understand why and it's just bad manners, bad PR for you and your publishers, bad smelling, and bad tasting now.

I believe you've done made a little mess. Bring a mop next time!
 

Hosh

hoshomccreesh.com
Just showed up to this party, and I'm surprised by much of it. The simple truth, from where I sit, is this (in terms of limited edition releases): Make something beautiful. I know you already know this, Harry, but the world does not and will not care about poetry--in limited editions, or in mass-media paperbacks strewn the world over. It's individual readers who seek out the work of the people they like reading--and if you're lucky enough to have 10, 20, or 50 of them--then that is small press success. A publisher making 1000 copies of a book is, at best, a waste of 900 copies...which will sit around in boxes, in the publisher's garage. This is the small press, Harry. The strength of it is what it can do different that the traditional large press--one of which is hand-made, artisan, signed copies with artwork or other author extras. Talk to any former small press type and I'd bet green money that they say what sank them was spending too much on too many copies that ended up sitting around for years. Talk to some of the small presses you love and respect right now...and ask them if they've ever sold more than 100 copies of anything. I'd bet its an exception rather than the rule. This ain't FIELD OF DREAMS, man--if you make it, they ain't necessarily gonna show up.
 
OK, I stand properly corrected and chastized. Was not really angry so much as confused, mjp, and esart, sorry if my behavior was "troll-like." And Bill, as you know, I have supported your fine work, including buying a copy of the Winans book just this week. Finally, Hosho, you're right. I sold more than 100 copies of anything when I was publishing TWICE. And I consider both to be flukes. Once was when I put out the Bukowski pamphlet. Of course, the name recognition helped, but mostly it was John Martin buying up 200 copies of the 400-copy run at a discount and having Buk sign them. The other instance was when I published Jim Daniels' book of baseball poems, The Long Ball. Daniels was well respected then and now in the English department at Carnegie Mellon University. His vast network of academic friends -- and his knack for self-promotion -- meant that we sold hundreds of them and I even had to reprint the book.

But I digress. Apologies all around. I'm really not a bad guy ... but it did piss me off that somebody has to latch onto the fact that my publisher charges a reading fee. The one friggin' weakness that anyone could find ... you talk about me taking a crap on this forum, but I did feel rather that Bill was taking a potshot at my chapbook. Again, sorry for any hurt feelings and ruffled feathers. I'll go quietly now.
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
the more i think about it, the more i actually am insulted by the idea that making limited editions serves nobody but the publisher who hopes to resell them at a later date for his own profit. to wit: before i started chance press, my side hobby was buying and reselling books, and i could make more money on one sale that took me a total of probably an hour's time between finding the book, buying it, listing it for resale, and shipping it out than justine and i make on an entire chance press release that takes us months. now, i just don't have time to do the buying/reselling thing anymore, but doing chance press is so much more fulfilling that i don't care. if our books happen to appreciate, then i will be really happy - for the people who supported us by buying them, even though we were just starting out and had no track record at all. but you won't see me selling them off for huge profits, because we don't keep them - we sell them to people who love handmade books as much as we do. and fine if you're not one of those people, because you think that small press is all about promoting authors and nothing else. but to insinuate that people who do handmade editions are somehow doing authors a disservice as part of some kind of speculation game, seems pretty lame, especially when the converse, in this case, is a publisher whose main profit driver is taking money from the authors she publishes, both in terms of a reading fee, and also through the requirement that the author do all the promotion and buy up a significant number of copies.
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
Hi Harry,

I did not take a potshot at your chapbook (which I ordered). I have never, to my knowledge talked shit about anyone that did not start the slinging. Truth is that I have no taste for conflict and would rather get along with most people.

I was just making a comment, which maybe should not have been on this thread, but it popped into my mind. Reading fees are something that I personally find offensive. Much like vanity publishing, I feel that it exploits young poets. If Bukowski, Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, Merwin, etc sent a submission to any of these folks, without the fee, would the poems be rejected unread? Of course not. They would do like anyone would do and accept them. The only people that end up paying the fee, in my opinion, are people that have little to no change of being published (famous poets, friends of the publisher and those published in the past are usually exempt too). These are also the very same people that are discouraged after paying for the honor (Plus, I am not qualified to critique poetry. Either it works for BoSP, or it does not. Nothing personal. Why should Mr Young Poet take my advice on what to change so that the poem is something that I would have written? He should not. Poetry is not art by committee.) I don't think that your publisher is trying to rip people off (and there is nothing dishonest about it anyway.) Anyone going in either knows what the deal is of they find out soon. I actually like the idea of getting less submissions as it takes up a lot of time.

Plus, at the ends of the day, it is just my opinion and very few people even give a shit about what I think.

Bill



p.s. To add to what Jordan said, I also try to sell out my editions (or give them away) and do not, nor will I ever sell any titles above the publication price. Others may resell my titles at rare book prices (which is cool), but it will not be me. There is one publisher that I know of that printed a Bukowski piece in 1992, but then never released it. 20+ years later (after it is erroneously listed as an A item, when it was still unpublished at the time of the biblio), the publisher starts selling them for $79 a piece. This piece was NEVER released in the 90's and is a bit of a manufactured rarity. Some people paid hundreds of dollars early on. the more copies that they sell, the less each copy is worth. It was SOOOO rare because the publisher had every single copy of the piece until about 2 years ago.
 

esart

esart.com
Founding member
...I digress. Apologies all around. I'm really not a bad guy ... but it did piss me off that somebody has to latch onto the fact that my publisher charges a reading fee. The one friggin' weakness that anyone could find ... you talk about me taking a crap on this forum, but I did feel rather that Bill was taking a potshot at my chapbook. Again, sorry for any hurt feelings and ruffled feathers. I'll go quietly now.
I don't think you are a bad guy. Passive-aggressive maybe.

I don't see how making a comment on the reading fee has anything to do with your chapbook. Seriously.
 
2nd collection of Calhoun's poetry I've bought. Oh Boy, what an intro. Stirring shit up is straight punk. FTW! Sometimes you live by the same sword you die by. :shutup:
 
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