recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : porttownsend   3

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
John Francis walks the Earth | Video on TED.com
"And so I realized that I had a responsibility to more than just me, and that I was going to have to change. You know, we can do it. I was going to have to change. And I was afraid to change, because I was so used to the guy who only just walked. I was so used to that person that I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t know who I would be if I changed. But I know I needed to. I know I needed to change, because it would be the only way that I could be here today. And I know that a lot of times we find ourselves in this wonderful place where we’ve gotten to, but there’s another place for us to go. And we kind of have to leave behind the security of who we’ve become, and go to the place of who we are becoming. And so, I want to encourage you to go to that next place, to let yourself out of any prison that you might find yourself in, as comfortable as it may be, because we have to do something now."
environment  walking  sustainability  ted  change  johnfrancis  yearoff  growth  self  identity  gamechanging  cv  earthday  responsibility  earth  communication  listening  talking  thinking  reflection  learning  conversation  perspective  banjo  music  ashland  oregon  cascadia  porttownsend  washingtonstate  storytelling  writing  classideas  education  pedagogy  teaching  tcsnmy  discussion  socraticmethod 
february 2011 by robertogreco
The LION's Share: Don't Just Buy Local, Invest - The Neighborhoods Issue - GOOD
"We’ve all been told to buy locally, but...investing, we give our money to same old faceless Fortune 500 companies. If we could invest in the neighborhood bar or bike shop instead, that capital would stay in community. Unfortunately, securities law makes it practically impossible for small businesses to issue stock & accept investment.
porttownsend  washingtonstate  local  localcurrency  investment 
april 2010 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read