Musings on the Anthology after the first Anthology reading

Last night, Outside Voices Anthology authors read at the d.a. levy series coordinated by Boog City‘s David Kirschenbaum, at the lovely ACA art gallery. Since the Anthology was only recently canceled, I expected many things: no one to show up; to have to explain again my motives for giving it up; a lack of energy; anger, sadness. I did have to explain– once, to an old colleague– that I had given the Anthology up. But the other bad feelings I expected to characterize the event didn’t, and the crowd size was reasonable. Everyone seemed happy to see each other and the readings were mostly successful. I had the following feelings:

  • Oh, these young poets are so promising and great and I wish I could just finish the Anthology so their work would be out in the world!
  • These poets have grown since I solicited poetry from them. The Anthology may no longer be representative of their talents. I wonder what kind of Anthology I could make that would keep these guys associated and in touch with one another but not pin them down at any stage of their careers? That would grow with them?

(I like bullet points.) I had also been thinking about the comment here that an Anthology (especially a print one) would never be able to capture the energy and– life? of a community. Once you put something into print, it’s stagnant. This feels differently even with a book than with a chapbook– a book feels dead, while a chapbook feels like a landing on a staircase. So I’ve been thinking about how to make the Anthology project livable. It’s still a valuable project right now because there’s a big list of people on the website (like, the website is already fulfilling one aim of the Anthology– to bring people together). But I wonder how the project might morph into something else, something more useful to us as a group than a tome that will be consigned to a shelf?

Another thing I thought about at the reading was the sound component. As some of you know there’s a cd inclusion with the Anthology that featured sound poetry. It was edited by Canadian sound poet Max Middle. It’s a smaller venture, and thanks to Max’s good sense it is almost complete. So my friend and ally j.s. makkos told me that he will be able to put out this part of the Anthology within the next six weeks. This makes me happy– that someone is already doing something about it.


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17 Responses to Musings on the Anthology after the first Anthology reading

  1. quick thoughts on the ideas of a more “growing” anthology you are musing about: what about chapbooks w/ work from a couple of poets each…or a chapbook exchange between the young poets (those that would be interested anyway). w/ the exchange we could each be responsible for our own materials/production/etc. (400 is still a large number for something like this, but…?). ok. that’s what came to my head. i’ll let you know if i think of anything else. 🙂

  2. “a book feels dead, while a chapbook feels like a landing on a staircase”


    Re: Shannon’s idea above — you might already know of Toadlily Press’ Quartet Series, which publishes 4 chaps in one trade paperback. That’s one model.

    best wishes,

  3. Susana says:

    I’m glad to see the tension released with the letting go of this project. I think talking about community is a great way to think up new projects and ideas…obviously you have tapped a nerve here with this mammoth idea and I don’t think yr time invest thus far will not be lost, just morph into other possibilities! I went to the Gallery for Logan’s reading, it is a GREAT place…did anyone videotape it?

  4. @ shannon i don’t really want to do a chapbook exchange– i like what Dusie does with that, and I’d like to just let Dusie run that show (i.e. if there are going to be chapbook exchanges, let’s let them go through Dusie or self-publish or perish). It seems like a mode that’s already somewhere doing something. I’d like to think of something different. And as you say, it would be hard to do that with 400 people.

    @ marie, thanks for pointing to Toadlily, which I hadn’t heard of. I know Dos Press does a similar thing with 3 chaps w/in a larger chap/book, disrupting the conventions about where a chap ends and a book begins. But I don’t really want to do that kind of work. My own chapbook projects are already too much work for me. If Outside Voices continues as a press, I’d be more interested in getting out one perfect-bound book a year, than in publishing multiple chapbooks each of which would be almost as much work as a book (or more work if I did artsy editions, which of course I would). Chapbooks are a lot of work! Finding a way to do 400/4 of them would be pretty … awful. I think, you know, I just have no desire to work with so many people.

    I like that we were able to coordinate readings around the country based on the idea that people were united around a book and the book would be there. I am disappointed that taking the book away from the equation seems to mean no readings. Can’t we just be associated, like Flarf poets are associated for instance? There’s no Flarf anthology. On Tuesday, poets brought their own chapbooks to sell. That seems to be enough on the marketing front. Must there be signatures to bind us?

    @ Susana, please help me brainstorm. I liked the idea of a .pdf online, just to get the work up. I am still thinking about that. This would solve the problem above of “why can’t we just be associated w/o a book” since there would be a book, but I’d also kinda like to see if we can solve that problem without printed matter.

    The space was nice. There wasn’t a video.

  5. Jessica, I completely respect your feelings about the exchange. I had the same thoughts myself shortly after I posted my comment 😉

    I love dusie & don’t want to take away from what they’re doing…and doing so well.

    Thinking about it more, maybe what I was trying to get to w/ that thought was taking some of the overwhelming-ness away from you…and putting some responsibility w/ the authors. I mean, 400 people. It’s awesome & overwhelming (just thinking about it).

    I’ll still be thinking about this…

  6. Susana says:

    collectives by any means are not the sole property or thought of dusie…haha! I encourage new collective to begin, it is such a great way to collectively plot ideas and also an alternative to so many woes in the present state of poetry. Dusie follows a long tradition…it is just more transparent in its workings and sharing of the works at hand. Dusie follows the self-publish or perish initiative which had a pretty long run and was such a great example with great works produced therein under that banner.Go collectivity. To be honest, the collective takes a lot of work, I wouldn’t want to dissuade anyone, but I am not sure how much longer I am going to be able to keep it going. I have so many chasing me about the next regular issue and quite frankly, I am beat! I have new ideas for the next collective…which I hope to introduce to the collective (which is by and far all Dusie authors published to this date…)
    the reason I brought up e-publishing, is, well, damn it is free! (apart from all the hard work of the editor) and then available to the masses and would be a massive, perhaps a new precedent in way of publishing…imagine, a free anth of up and coming poets and writers and such a banner with the press AND I am so about coming full circle to projects, because probably like Jessica, I have an insane work ethic and believe it has already been conceived, we must birth this monster! what a wonderful thing too, say to do it in April! Spring! new beginnings, new births…Jessica can finally be free of it! This is also economically better AND environmentally better, think of all those trees…

  7. @Susana, I know Dusie’s not the only one to have ever done what you do with it, but a) it is a *lot* of work even to coordinate such a project, much less to put it all online! i don’t want to do that much (more) work; and b) it’s already very much its own thing, and it’s doing a good job at being that, and i want to let it do its own thing. You know?

    But yeah, I can see (from way over here!) that Dusie is a shit ton of work and I don’t want to do that much more work with the Anthology. To start a collective like that with the Anth would be like starting from scratch. Plus, I find web design work frustrating and slow– I don’t even like updating links, and that’s super easy! So if there is a web presence for the Anth it’ll be just a .pdf file I can slap up on someone’s prëstablished website. Like, the goal is “get it out with the least amount of extra work possible and hopefully also without pissing anyone off.” Not that I’m not pissing people off by giving it up, but there’s nothing they can do about that. When there’s a body of work there’s plenty to complain about (what poems I chose, why I chose a shorter poem from person X than person Y, republication of previously published works– not that anyone *really* cares about that– etc.).

  8. Susana says:

    hey, that was more directed to the posts about doing it…not you… i think this should definitely be electric, we are in the modern age!

  9. Frankly, that was a monstrously large project you took on! I admire you for the ambition alone, but w/o financing, staff, etc, a trust fund…yikes!

    I’m a bookseller, so I’m biased & attached to the tangible object of “book,” but I question whether such a large project could work electronically — but that’s all academic anyway.

    Like Susana, I say celebrate spring, celebrate your freedom, Jessica, and the sweet sweet time you’ll finally have for your own poems.

  10. i think i’m on the same train of thought as Susana….”we must birth this monster!” i think the idea of an electronic format is great…and .pdfs actually work really well for that kind of think. at least i think so.

    with that said, jessica, i still completely respect your decision to stop the anthology. & i hope i didn’t set something of with the collective idea…i can imagine what a load of work that would be. and i know you’ve put tons of energy into this project already. please keep in mind, if any of these brainstorms come to anything…i’d be happy to help.

    p.s. you can tell me to just stop brainstorming at anytime 😉

  11. Oh no! Brainstorms are good. I like hearing ideas. It doesn’t of course necessarily mean I will act on them, but we know that. We are sitting around with chalk and a large chalkboard hashing it out.

    I don’t really feel pregnant with the monster, so I think I will just let it lie around awhile. A .pdf might be nice later but I like this idea of me, you know, relaxing a little and maybe writing some of my own work. And enjoying spring, at least on days like yesterday (today it’s rainy and cold… seasonal growing pains). Marie paints a nice picture 🙂

  12. Michael Ford says:


    I am not surprised at all that there were no bad feelings at the reading. My own response to the news that you had dropped the project was disappointment, but that disappointment was tempered by the understanding that this was such a huge project. I would not have gotten anywhere near as far as you did with it.

    I am glad that j.s. makkos wants to put out the sound part of the project. I met him at a reading here in New Orleans last year. He read after a very boring and tredious train of MFA students from LSU, and completely charged the room. He set two chairs up at the mic and read while hopping from one to the other. All the MFA poets left.

  13. Thanks for the supportive comments, Michael. I am disappointed too, and it is not as easy a decision for me as it might be (obviously, since i’m still thinking about other ways it might be completed), but it is also a great relief. It is too much for one person to solicit, sort, choose, organize, answer communications, take orders, and delegate (I had people getting/organizing/editing bios and other people organizing readings, and those people all did a great job). It’s many hours of work a week, unpaid, and if it were done well it would be a full-time job. Ah. I should stop talking about it, but it’s like when you get a cast and you keep retelling the accident, right?

    j.s. makkos is never boring 😉 I know he will do a great job with the cd, too. Besides being an interesting performance/poet, the guy is a good egg.

  14. yes, i love sitting around w/ chalkboard & chalk myself. & many of my friends humor me and join in the fun…dreams, etc. i guess it’s the idea of possibilities? no expectations for you to act on them here.

    i love the idea of you relaxing & writing & spending time for yourself a little too. trust me…i’ve been taking advantage of those things myself while i’m in limbo.

    seasonal growing pains in wyoming: gorgeous & sandals last week and part of this week. then turned cloudy, snowy, sleety…brrr.

    p.s. are you participating in napowrimo this year?

  15. re p.s. yes, I will try to. There are a couple of projects brewing so it will be useful for generating material and marking a break b/t my life solely as an editor and a re/new/ed life in which I actually write poetry!

  16. Helen White says:

    This may be a stupid idea, but what if about 20 small presses each published a chunk of the Anthology? So it came out as a series of chapbooks, with each installment looking different but with a common concept?
    There’s no way I could take over the whole anthology but perhaps I could do part of it in this way through Krikri. Or help somehow with whatever / if ever.

    Anyway, enjoy your post-spawning-a-monster freedom 🙂

  17. here’s to a re/new/ed life!

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