Last week I received notification that my poem Show Us Where You’re Publishing has been accepted for publication in Miscellaneous Voices, Australian Blog Writing #1. This felt right for many reasons. If you’ll recall the poem (which I posted here last year), it is about being refused funding due to lack of paper publications. The fact that this particular poem is being published would be ironic, if it weren’t for the exact publication it’s been selected for. As it is, I can think of no better place for it.
Although I wrote Show Us Where You’re Publishing from the point of view of a spoken word poet (though I’d previously been published in Voiceworks, Kunapipi, The Paradise Anthology and several other places as a result of being involved in specific conferences/competitions where being published was kind of a by-product of entry/performance, and published my chapbook Original Skin), the poem could be just as relevant to poets who blog, or publish in other-than-traditional methods.
In the particular instance recounted in the poem, despite being able to pull a crowd and having performed at some of the most prestigious venues in Melbourne (including the Arts Centre, the Edge Theatre at Fedration Square and at the Melbourne Writers Festival), I was not able to be considered for a grant to tour poetry internationally on a mic. This was and still is, quite frankly, absolute bollocks. Crusty, stinky, fly-swamped, rabid dogs bollocks to be precise, but probably the cause of funding bodies, rather than the organisation I applied to for the grant. And as much ranting as I can and have done about it, it is the reality in which I (we?) write.
After my little rant about not being accepted for grants and other writing privileges because I’m a spoken word poet, I decided to start submitting poetry and some other writing to literary journals. It was purely a strategic move. I hate to say it, but it was. I ticked the boxes, I jumped through hoops, I signed on the dotted line. No matter how much the view is railed against by those trying to ‘crack’ the industry, there’s always been, and probably always will be, a perception that, well, if no-one independent has published your work it might well be...well, crap. Embarrassingly crap.
Much as we might lament it, blogging alone in this industry does not count for much to the Powers that Be, no matter how many readers one has, how much traffic, how many commentators. For the sceptical Power that Be, clever tricks can drive people to our blogs, comment-returns can sustain readers, and longjevity builds an online presence. At the end of the day most writers would like not only to have their work read as widely as possible, but to survive from their writing, and to be published in all the conservatism of the definition: to be in bookshops, libraries and on the shelves of people’s homes.
Since my August publishing vow, my work has appeared in Page Seventeen, The Emerging Writers Festival Reader, Peril, Cordite Poetry Review, Harvest , Indiefeed and Going Down Swinging (though the last two were a result of being recorded during the Overload Poetry Festival late last year, so they probably don’t count. Each publication I submitted to was chosen for a particular reason. Cordite is online, and has an audio submissions section, Peril gives a voice to those who might otherwise be marginalised and deals with issues of significance to Asian-Australia, Harvest makes me swoon and is the most beautiful literary magazine I’ve yet come across, The Emerging Writers Festival is what really kicked off my writing career, Page Seventeen offers new and emerging writers a hand up.
Did I prove a point? I’m not sure. Did it turn out the way I expected? No. There were many, many surprises. I thought I’d get more rejections (I did get one, though I guess I was submitting from a unique position in that in a bizarre way, I was already a ‘known’ poet, despite my past print-aversion). I didn’t think I’d feel so proud. Yes, I’m ashamed to admit it and all the dedicated spoken wordsters out there who choose never to publish will be wanting to gag me, pull me into a back room and break my thumbs with a hammer right now. I don’t mean proud in the sense of feeling my work was good enough to be published. More that, despite the fact that I choose to publish my poems over radio waves and on the stage, the print selection process of the Powers That Be deem that my work can actually hold it’s own as (gasp, gulp, shudder, convulse...) print poetry.
I’m still figuring out where to go from here. With these publications and my poetry collection out next month, maybe it’s time I stepped back into the slamming and performing spotlight...? We’ll see.