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robertogreco : bourgeois   4

Sam Hamill :: NewPages.com Interview
"NP: How did the press take off from there?

Hamill: In the fall of 1973, I met with Bill Ransom, who lived in Port Townsend. He and Joe Wheeler, who invented a non-profit arts organization called Centrum, were putting together a Port Townsend Symposium—they changed the name when it was pointed out that Symposium meant “to gather and drink.” They invited me to come and work with Centrum. They gave me a building in Port Townsend that was, for several years, rent-free. So I came here in utter poverty and lived in a travel-trailer, cleared some land, built my own house, and lived for several years. I had no regular income. I was basically supporting us and helping to support the press by teaching in prisons part time, in Artists in the Schools Programs, and working with battered women and children.

NP: Did that ever change, where Copper Canyon Press was making enough money that you didn’t have to support it?

Hamill: It changed in the 90s but it also radically changed the nature of the press, which is why I’m no longer there. It became a corporation, which creates corporate behavior, which is a kind of poison. People get involved in power and money and they lose sight of the real work. You have employees rather than real people who want to give something. That’s just the nature of corporate consciousness and I suppose it has to be because that’s what it’s there for. People make middle class incomes and live bourgeois lives. For the first 20 years of the press’s life, we lived “Buddhist economics,” which means we were not paid. That changes radically when you get a board of directors. You suddenly get bourgeois values and practices, a capitalist practice, in something that hadn’t been that way before.

It’s not that Copper Canyon makes money. Non profit corporations don’t make money. 40-50% of every book that you buy from Copper Canyon or other nonprofit presses comes from fundraising and donations.

NP: So you’ve thrown out “corporate culture” as an appropriate kind of work environment. What kind of work environment do you think a literary press should create and cultivate in its stead?

I didn’t “throw it out.” I simply pointed out that “incorporation” creates a board of directors that may change the direction, the focus and practice, of the organization."



"NP: What are some of the experiences along the way that have proved rewarding?

Hamill: All of the above.

NP: Including leaving Copper Canyon?

Hamill: Well, I chose to go out on my feet [rather] than remain on my knees.

If I didn’t learn anything else in 32 years, I learned to stand up for something against powerful bourgeois forces, and whether that something was as broad and indefinable as poetry or whether it’s really a simple system of ethics, it’s what has sustained me most of my adult life. I’m sure most of that goes back to Zen practice, but I liked being in the service of poetry, and I did a lot of homework so I could do it efficiently and well."



"NP: What are the most common difficulties you encountered? How did you solve them?

Hamill: As presses age, as it were, the major problem is dealing with boards of directors and the eternal fundraising problem, and it’s cyclical, and it’s infinite, and it’s consuming, and it really isn’t very healthy, this perpetual begging for money. I’m not opposed to it—I’m a good Buddhist—but I also think you need to work in the garden.

The “garden” is the labor- and time-intensive investment in our future, whether as working artists or as publishers. What I plant and nourish this year may bear fruit five years down the line. It’s work done for its own sake, for investment in one’s convictions.

Boards of directors are composed mostly of business people who also care about the arts. They want “success,” which means sales, reducing poetry to a commodity for the masses. Great poets rarely reach the masses during their lifetime. Nobody, really, read Whitman or Dickinson, for instance, until the mid-twentieth century. Sometimes the best poets sell in very low numbers during their lifetime. So there’s likely to be conflict in defining “success,” conflict between a visionary editor and his or her support system.

NP: Can a press that publishes poetry forgo that “begging for money”—in a country where people don’t buy poetry?

Hamill: You can’t say that. Part of the problem is that so much poetry is being published—over 2,000 titles each year. You don’t have to sell very many of each before you have a very large audience, but it’s a very eclectic audience. It can’t rival readers of pop fiction, but that’s why we’re nonprofit. We just need to find more efficient ways for the literati to have more control. There’s frankly too much bad poetry being published these days. Every graduating MFA has a fistful of publishable poetry, certified publishable by the institution. That’s foolish. It sets up a lot of false expectations. Most of those people cozy up to academia, where they live comfortable lives outside the mainstream of humanity. And they all publish and publish.

There’s a reason why sacrifice is such a major theme in poetry around the world. It’s a kind of religion. It’s the “vision thing.” We’re losing the tribal knowledge of the sacrifice that it takes to be a poet. We [poets] do this out of love. That is more important than a $60,000 salary. Desktop publishing is both wonderful and a horrible curse, because everything becomes immediately publishable.

Why do people who want to write not know anything about the history of writing? Why don’t they know anything about letter forms? I learned about those things because I wanted to write. I thought you should know where words come from and where letters come from. Did these letter-forms just suddenly appear? People talk about Chinese pictographs—but our D comes from the Greek, probably from Sumerian before that, and is a diagram of a door swinging on a hinge. Our A is from the Greek Alpha, which is a bull’s head turned upside down. So a lot of the letters in our alphabet go back to pictographic sources. We have such a wonderful hodgepodge of ideas in our writing, odds and ends of Greek and Spanish and Japanese. All these words creep into our language and sometimes change and sometimes connect with deep roots to their foreign cultures. It seems to me writers should know about that stuff, but we spend all our time on self-expression.

A good editor goes to school on language, on its sources and traditions, as well as on the poetry. The idea situation would be an endowed press, like New Directions, that allows a brilliant editor to be brilliant without the conflict between the numbers game and the vision of the practice."



"NP: OK, but I still want to know whether for-profit poetry presses can survive today. How did Copper Canyon survive for so many years before going non-profit?

We had an “umbrella organization” in Centrum that allowed us to get grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and we learned to master the arts of poverty. We studied hard and worked hard and made sacrifices for the good of the press."
samhamill  poetry  bookmaking  publishing  nonprofit  buddhism  buddhisteconomics  printing  economics  centrum  porttownsend  bourgeois  corporations  corporatism  organizations  power  money  coppercanyonpress  2006  capitalism  writing  mfa  nonprofits 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Dark Matter: Activist Art and the Counter-Public Sphere
"Like its astronomical cousin, creative dark matter also makes up the bulk of the artistic activity produced in our post-industrial society. However, this type of dark matter is invisible primarily to those who lay claim to the management and interpretation of culture - the critics, art historians, collectors, dealers, museums, curators and arts administrators. It includes makeshift, amateur, informal, unofficial, autonomous, activist, non-institutional, self-organized practices - all work made and circulated in the shadows of the formal art world. Yet, just as the astrophysical universe is dependent on its dark matter, so too is the art world dependent on its dark energy."

[Concept mentioned by Randall Szott here: http://intheconversation.blogs.com/art/2008/03/interview-with.html ]

[See also other articles here: http://gregorysholette.com/writings/writing_index.html ]

[Update 2 June 2014: Link is dead. Here's the Wayback: http://web.archive.org/web/20110911222745/http://www.journalofaestheticsandprotest.org/3/sholette.htm ]
art  culture  politics  media  activism  activistart  vernacular  counter-publicsphere  josephbeuys  proletarian  oskarnegt  alexanderkluge  resistance  subversion  outsiders  artcriticism  tinkering  amateur  glvo  bourgeois  darkmatter  gregorysholette  collectives  culturalresistance  hierarchy  gatekeepers  cultureindustry  artworld  invisibility  economics  temporaryservices  lasagencias  publicspace  tacticalmedia  deschooling  unschooling  zines  diy  outsider  shrequest1 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Amazon.com: Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life: Thomas Geoghegan [via: http://www.tuttlesvc.org/2010/08/one-of-many-great-lines.html who quotes "Pick up a skill other than learning how to submit."]
"Geohegan makes a passionate case for the high-tax, regulation-heavy model of life on the Continent. Using Germany as a model, he argues the middle class is the real beneficiary of European social democracy—its members reap free education, free child care, free nursing home care, guaranteed vacation time, & generous unemployment payments—while their white-collar US counterparts struggle to pay for the same. "Europe is set up for the bourgeois. America's a great place to buy kitty litter at Wal-Mart & relatively cheap gas. But it's not set up for me, a professional without a lot of money." While he's quick to acknowledge that critics seize on labor's costs & prominence as a potential path to the collapse of the system, he's convinced of the framework in place. The narrative unspools in a chatty, anecdotal style; it's jumpy, appealingly digressive, & winning, all the more so for being such an unabashed polemic that refuses to be resigned to rising rate of inequality in US."
books  us  europe  socialism  socialdemocracy  policy  middleclass  inequality  disparity  well-being  education  healthcare  bourgeois  society  submission  freedom  capitalism  busyness  money 
august 2010 by robertogreco
further to the previous posts, just a thought - a grammar
"musical taste is not just about music, & that this is a good thing. This has always struck me as one of the things that’s interesting about pop music, especially when you think about it in a sort of teenaged sense — the way our tastes & affiliations are informed by, or even trying to express, things about us. Where we fit in. Whose side we’re on. Where we stand on issues of style & culture & the politics of just being a person who likes things. When it comes to adults & music critics, though, this tendency can get out of hand; it can abstract itself & spin off to a level where we are only just barely using the mere pretense of music to air grievances about other things entirely....sometimes it can be way easier to start complaining about how everyone else around is boring & predictably middle-class and blinkered and insular than it is to admit that on some level you are choosing this environment, & that there are reasons you choose it instead of another one."
music  taste  class  politics  via:russelldavies  criticism  posturing  identity  society  teens  human  behavior  style  culture  middleclass  bourgeois 
december 2009 by robertogreco

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