You’re so right. It’s not just luck! You reference the ‘alt’ scene on the website. I associate this mainly with online activity, not paper. But clearly word on paper’s important to you. Can you say something about the relationship between online activity and printed word, or is that a bad question?
It’s not a bad question. From a printing and publishing perspective it’s a very interesting one because I think by simply invoking the question – like summoning a ghost – we’re having a conversation about the shape, trajectory, and existential identity of ‘publishing’. About ‘why books exist’. I think it comes from two things.
(a) Online formats I looked at didn't offer what I was looking for this time. They worked well for HARK, though. I might at some point go down that route, but I couldn’t find a format I really liked. What I wanted to do was not available to me, and I was like, let’s do something physical this time around. If magazines were too bulky and expensive, then little, light pamphlets have got to be easier to manage.
(b) The poetry world still values print over online, I think. It's very rooted in. I remember reading recently a conversation on Facebook (haha) about this, and there were a lot of older poets saying, ‘oh you can read some good poems online these days’, and the implication was that the vast bulk of online poems and publications out there are still not up to scratch. Some were more blunt. It’s a kind of snobbery and the exercise of privilege, which poetry really suffers with. I’ve read some pretty major print poetry publications in the past, read front to back, and felt completely unmoved and kind of aesthetically excoriated by them. Just because something appears in print, it doesn’t make it ‘better’. Faaar from it. I want to convince those poets otherwise. This is a gateway drug for other poets to look more seriously online and stop seeing it as a weird relation or a kind of ‘first step’. Until this year, the Forward Prize for single best poems didn’t accept online magazines. That was a massive lacuna. I am so glad they’ll be open to places like PracCrit and Poems in Which in the future.
So okay, why print? I think print has that cachet and I’m compromising. I think young poets are important and I want them to get recognition now. So I’m going to print them now. But I also think print delivers a control over what I'm doing, and delivers a focus and accountability that I need right now to work. It also extends the act of reading. Pamphlets disseminate in interesting ways, especially when they’re small. I’m not interested in ‘widening participation’ in poetry simply by getting more people reading the poems. That’s a reductive way of looking at printing as a political act. I think you have to think politically about the actual act of representation and about ‘who’ you're publishing and how. It isn’t as simple as ‘getting more people reading’. Print is immediate, and it makes our poets feel part of that physical world, and they all have online presences of varying degrees too. And I like print. I hate feeling inactive or mediocre and need to be doing something. And I want to do something I can get my hands around.