Funding: your website says ‘we are not about making a profit’. But what about funding the web design, the first printings and so on? Do you hope for cost recovery or what? And did you have to invest something to start up?
Not really. I’m not an expensive person. I don’t run a car or have a family. I looked at funding arrangements and grants, but that’s an increasingly unsustainable minefield because it’s ceasing to exist in the UK. Poetry doesn’t really have a value and it’s hard for poetic labour, for poetry work, to be alienated. It broadly resists commodification, so it’s been left to die in a field. And I should add that it's very comforting that a lot of people are making their way in it, financially, and it can be done, and I wish them all the luck. And that's very important, to be able to get by on a practice that you love and are deeply invested in. We're just not in that place yet.
So in fact the cost model we have for PYRAMID is really minimal. We have affordable printers, cheap web hosting, and zero overheads. I just used my own money. I spend a lot of time house sitting, so don’t really pay rent, and living in cheaper countries, which helps. I don’t want to recover costs, and we don’t. But I think the model is sustainable, and actually we sold out of Sophie’s pamphlet so there’s definitely a degree of money coming back which goes straight back into printing costs. A big loop. I don’t think you can really do what we’re doing and expect remuneration. Some wouldn’t be happy with that, but we are.
I suppose I’ll address this in more detail below, but for me it really resonates with what friends in the States and Canada are doing, in the altgames scene, and this is a huge, albeit tight-knit, community made up of fanatics who are completely alienated by the dense commercial spheres of the gaming industry, whether because they belong to minorities or because they're doing something experimental which the industry rejects financially and who have been subject to horrendous abuse and have had to fight for their continuity because of events like GamerGate. So for a lot of my friends it’s about mutual assistance, boosting each other, throwing ideas and support around and hoping, at the end of that, to be able to pay the bills and just carry on doing what you're doing. A good example is that Leigh Alexander and Laura Hudson, who run Offworld, recently ran a Kickstarter campaign of critical work by people writing from marginalized backgrounds and experiences, and it made over $66,000, which is astonishing and very positive. What I'm saying is that it can be done, maybe not in poetry, yet. That just suggests that poetry is still searching for the right configurations. It goes unnoticed, though, that pamphlets and weird little publications do sell out. People are buying them, and reading them.
This is why I've mentioned ‘theorypunk’, which is a sort of half-jokey idea in the games criticism scene about an accumulation of efforts, as Lana Polansky has put it, targeted at pursuing thought and individual practices over institutions or financial success. It’s ‘just being alive’ and ‘continuing to create the best work that you can’ (again, that’s tj thomas). I just want to stay alive and continue doing this, and I think – for now – that I can. And I’m lucky like that. But it’s not just luck.