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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

INTERVIEW WITH RAINDOG OF LUMMOX PRESS



1. As a poet what do you look for in "good" poetry? What must a poem have in
order to draw you in? On the contrary, what are the deal breakers for you? Does this perspective change at all when your publishing hat is on?

Oddly, I never seem to take my "poet" hat off. I think that my editing hat is so laden
down with thousands of poems that I have read or skimmed over or even glanced at (as if I could absorb the material by waving my hand over it) over the past forty years, of which I have spent the past twenty years earnestly pursuing some sort of "career" or modest hobby.

As to a "good" poem? Well, a great poem gives me the willies...literally: goose bumps. But a good poem gives me an "Aha!" Sometimes, it's not even the whole poem, sometimes it's a line or two, or a clever use of metaphor or a "heartfelt" reference (a line that touches me on an emotional level). Poetry, the writing of it, is personal and to some degree is an outlet. Some call it therapy, but while it might be therapeutic, it's rarely therapy for me. It's more like a cleansing. I often think that my role as a poet is "to observe and report" (just as my job as a publisher is to present the material as clearly as possible, with as much respect to the work, the poet and the reader as possible -- not too lofty of a goal, is it?).

But back to the question. As to deal breakers...I'm not too keen on rhyming poetry (too often there's no or an odd meter to so-called rhyming poetry these days). If it's well-written, though, I'll give it a shot (Doris Vernon co-wrote a chapbook of sarcastic limericks called Leaves of Sass which I thought was hilarious!). Let's see, I'm not too crazy about long poems (even though I've written a few myself - one was 15,147 words long); or poems that have a lot of image shifts or metaphor; oh, and I like poems that are easy to read and understand, so, no Mensa level conceptual poems for me. Finally, I'm not fond of "concrete" poems or poems that are centered on a page. That kinda stuff is just too cute for me.

Here's the deal, I never received any formal training for this. It's all been trial and

error. And I think my taste in poetry has evolved over the years, so what I like and
dislike is constantly in flux. I like poems that appear to be real, and by real I mean honest and from the heart. That may be old-fashioned or outdated... too bad then. I don't like poems I can't understand. This is not an ageist thing because I have read bad poems by both young and old, same is true for good poems.

2. What are some of the projects you have worked on throughout your writing
history that make you the most proud? Why?

 

That's a hard one to answer, since I've been proud of most everything I've done.

There's been a few anthologies that I'm really happy with (proud?), like the anthology
of Bukowski-esque writers I revised and re-published in 2011 (Last Call: the Bukowski Continues) or the collection of writers influenced by Todd Moore (Working the Wreckage of the American Poem). I think I'm most proud of LUMMOX #1, my new annual poetry anthology/magazine that I just published in Nov. of last year. It has over 200 poets between its covers; from all over the United States, Canada, The UK, India and Nigeria.

I'm proud that I have published over 100 titles by a variety of underground / small press poets over the past 18 years, not to mention the 105 issues of the Lummox Journal (a monthly Lit/Arts zine). Regrettably, all these accomplishments have gone pretty much unnoticed. It's hard to imagine that there could be a "mainstream" small / underground press, but apparently there is...and my "empire" exists in one of the backwater bays off this mainstream.

But I never got into this for the glory of recognition...just like I never got into

poetry 'cause I heard it was such a panty dropper. Someday, I'll get tired of it all and
quit (or just drop dead), and when that happens, chances are nobody will take notice (maybe someday someone will stumble onto my work and say, hey, check this out). But than likely it'll end up in the dump or be recycled and made into egg cartons. Until that day comes I'll keep slogging away.

3. What future projects do you have imminent?

I'm currently trying to "clear the decks" of all the books I've been trying to get to

over the past 2 years. And I also am getting ready for the onslaught that is the next
LUMMOX #2. And, I'd like to start working on 'my' next book; something I've been working on in my head for the past couple of years. Publishing other people's poetry kinda kills my creative drive. There's so much creative writing that goes along with the promotion of a new book, that it takes away from other forms of creativity. I don't think too many people think about this. These days my greatest forum of creativity, besides publishing, is my vegetable garden...

4. You recently released a thick collection of literature LUMMOX. Which I understand is the 1st collection in awhile. What made you decide to resurrect the issue again?


Boredom. Things weren't moving/selling too fast and I remembered how the little Lit zine I used to put out (monthly for 8 years and bi-monthly for 3 more) had a pretty loyal audience of about 150 subscribers; and I thought that I'd give it another try, seeing as how it was a steady source of income. Of course I wasn't living off that income either like I did for a couple of months last year. But, I'd like to make this a yearly publication...w/ subscribers and maybe even a few universities involved as well (I think it's an excellent source for small press & underground poetry as well as some interesting essays on the subject).

5. Where can we get our hands on LUMMOX?


You can order it directly from the publisher and save about $10 at
www.lummoxpress.com/journal.html

Or via Small Press Distribution at
http://www.spdbooks.org/Search/Default.aspx?PublisherName=Lummox%20Press

You can also ask your local indie bookstore to order a copy from SPD...
Or as a last resort, via Amazon at
http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/1929878389/

Or get on my email list <poetraindog@gmail.com> and I'll let you know where I'm reading next and you can get it right there!

6. What is behind the name LUMMOX?


Well, if you look it up in the dictionary, you'll see that it is a big, slow, clumsy person.
That definition is especially true of me these days! But I may be big and slow and a bit
on the dim side, I still get the job done (it just might take a while)!

7. What are the biggest challenges small press publishing faces? Can you offer any insight on the topic?

Well, there are two problem areas because the small press has a subset of presses that
exist but are too small to be considered "small" and these are the micro presses. For the most part, Lummox Press exists in the realm of the micro press; though there are times when it has eased up into the small press range. Basically, if you sell less than 100 copies of a title, you are considered 'micro'. Lummox #1 is allowing me bragging rights as a 'small' press...it has sold nearly 175 copies.

Okay. So the main problem I can see is EXPOSURE. There are so many small/micro presses these days. When I started, in 1994, there weren't that many presses (at least I wasn't aware of them at the time). But since the explosion that was the Internet, presses have also exploded! There is so much competition these days that it is very hard to keep the name Lummox Press high enough above the crowd so as to be "exposed".

I have no insights to offer other than the fact that "slow and steady" seems to get the job done. I'm not savvy enough to work the internet, FB, Twitter or whatever the next "new" method is. I use emails and I rely on word of mouth and I am

CONTINUALLY disappointed by the general lack of interest in anything smacking
of 'thoughtful'. Seems like what's popular these days is vapid or "humorous" gossentary (gossip & commentary). I picked poetry as my genre and it does tend to be dark or thoughtful or sometimes humorous. But I just don't get this need to be kitchy all the time...tra la la la la my ass!

8. What are the benefits of small press publishing?


None. If you mean Small Press vrs large press, then the chances of getting published
are greater (in the small press). As we all know, the publishing industry is going through a huge makeover...everyone is wondering if the E-book will do to the Publishers what the CD did to the Record Industry. Will people stop reading? Based on some of the badly written drivel I've seen available on Amazon, it might not be a bad idea!

No, the question you should be asking is: What are the benefits of "self" publishing? Lummox Press was pretty much born out of my need for published works and my dissatisfaction with what was available to me. It was a case of "if you don't like the way it's being done, then do it yourself" which I did. I started a chapbook series called The Little Red Books (of which I published 61 titles, 12 of which were my own work); I started my own Lit/Arts mag (which ran for 11 years; 105 issues); and my current group of 6 X 9 inch paperbacks (31 titles and counting of which 5 are my own work)...and EACH series was started because some editor or publisher told me essentially "if you don't like it, etc." - which I did!

Self-publishing isn't hard. The hardest thing about it is that YOU have to be a tough editor (or have access to one), a savvy designer (or have access to one), and be able to market your own book like crazy! Actually, that last one applies to being published in the small, medium and large presses too. Nobody, repeat, NOBODY is going to market your book as well as you do. This is almost always the reason I am disappointed by the failure of a good book to sell. 9 times out of 10 the poet drops the ball and doesn't push their book. This is why small presses often want you to presell a title, too make sure you have a market. If you don't sell enough, then they won't publish your book...it is a business after all!

At least with self-publishing, you know who's at fault if your "great American novel" doesn't move. And like Vanity publishing (or publishing in general) , a whole industry has arisen to "help" you get your 'masterpiece' ready for publication, self or otherwise.

While I think most of it is a scam designed to separate you from your money, there are some legitimate benefits to "workshopping" your poetry or writing, or finding a good editor to help you out. But buyer beware...there are lots of scammers out their! Ask around, do some research on a potential "mentor" and never, ever contract someone using an "oral" agreement. Always get it in writing! I've heard horror stories (and I don't even like to use contracts)!

9. Do you have any writing resources to share with writers intent on getting their work published? Any "To Do’s" and/or "To Don’ts"?


See previous question.

10. In the writing world do you think poetry or other forms of literature have an advantage over the other or do you feel it is a balanced market?


This is a joke, right? Poetry is the bastard orphan child of literature. I've been

admonished for taking it on as my chosen genre, any number of times because it is "a
niche market, within the slightly larger niche of modern literature!" In other words, it's a blip on the radar screen of literature.

Now if you want to talk about Spoken Word or Slam poetry, then you are moving into an artform which can be quite entertaining. Of course, Slam poetry rarely looks like a poem...it looks more like a script.

11. Which writers inspire you the most? Can you share a poem or two with us?


I cut my teeth on Charles Bukowski, Carl Sandberg, Kahlil Gibran and Larry Feringhetti. But that was ages ago, Though Buk still holds up pretty well. But there are so many "modern" poets that I have met through the internet or through my press that it would be hard to pick out one or two who have inspired me. But I'll give it a try. Here is the title poem from an upcoming poetry collection by Kyle Laws (of Colorado):

WILDWOOD

I get on the El in North Philadelphia,
not far from Tulip Street
where Father died by
the posts of the ramps
to the Tacony Palmyra Bridge.
I sway with the clickety-clack of
the car pushing & pulling on the tracks
between closed windows
in the second story brick.


I want a woman with dark brown hair
to open one of those windows,
lean out with her breasts
brushing the fire escape,
and hand me a flower.
I want papaya & mango juice served
by the young man sitting next to me.
I want Miami in April,
and Wildwood in August.
I want Elvis on South Street,
and a big long car heading for New Orleans.
I want branches of magnolia
through an open window of
the St. Charles Street trolley,
cooked seafood in the hot wind,
and lips under the cream awning
of the Avenue Cafe.
I want to watch green grow under the door


of shotgun houses,
what pierces right through
and holds you there,
Jesse still in Tupelo.

I still want to be held in that way,
with mussels & oysters in the air,
to be wrapped in black shutters,
my hair flowing up a fire escape
to a Mansard roof,
a woman at the top of stairs
handing me a sweet southern rose.


I want tulips in North Philadelphia,
and the rhythm of the El
as it holds me between freeze-frames
of lovers in windows.
I want the reach of blue shell crabs
over the rim of a dented pot
as they are dropped into boiling water.
I want butter dripping down my chin
as I break open the shell.
I want Scott paper napkins
piled up beside my elbows on
a red checked tablecloth.
I want to ride in a convertible
down the curves of Fulling Mill Road.
I want the carousel and Ferris Wheel,
the tunnel of love and roller coaster.
I want the Days of Wine and Roses
at the Strand Theatre,
The Platters and Chuck Berry.
I want clams on the half shell and
crab sandwiches at the Shamrock Bar.
I want Wildwood,
the sweet Wildwood of my youth.


Kyle Laws © 2013

And here's one by BC Petrakos:

In Part

The part of me that is missing
Was funny
Quick witted
Open minded
Laughed and believed
The part of me that is missing


Was hopeful
Honest
Kind
That piece
Taken in midnight's violent stupidity
By selfish strangers
Scoring the road in blood-drenched escape route
Taken in silence lonely howl
That piece
Waits for me with lions and lambs
Explains mysteries
Says look again
The clock
Is not king
The pain a new door
Open it at risk
Always at risk

BC Petrakos © 2013

Both of these are from LUMMOX #1 which is also a great way to see a cross-section of
what I like (mostly).

12. Writers are a persnickety bunch… Many writers can revise the same piece a
thousand times a still not be fully satisfied.
Please tell us a little something about your writing method and how you know when
a piece is finished.


As I said, I have not had any formal training to be a poet or a publisher, so
my "technique" is pretty strange. I usually write a poem when the poem is just busting to come out. It's a lot like defecating (on so many levels!) I hardly ever edit my work! I've never gone to a workshop or a seminar. I don't know what a Pantoon or a Sestina is. I just put the lines down the left side of the page... I'll alter it if the language doesn't read right out loud; or I'll change it if I'm transcribing it from paper to document file. My current catalog of poems and short stories are all written and stored in my computer, but I have others that were written in journals that I have yet to transcribe.

In short, I don't really know what I'm doing. It's a miracle that my poems speak to anyone!

Interview by Apryl Skies