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Bob's Blague

HORSEGOD, Euripides III, Sophocles' Outcasts, Exception Taken

I'll be publishing HORSEGOD: Collected Poems this summer through iUniverse. I submitted the manuscript this past Fall to about 15 contests and poetry publishing houses, but none accepted it, though many editors sent encouraging remarks. Every rejection letter cites the ferocious competition in the current publishing scene: 400 to 1000 entries; one or two slots for the winners. I suspect––though I can't be certain about this because, of course, I haven't had access to all the thousands of entries and the deliberations of the judges––that there is a generation gap here, or an aesthetic gap. Like most poets my age the poets whom I value and follow did not shy from making prose sense; they enhanced it, they set it to their personal rhythms and music and vision of what matters. I'm thinking of Frost, Eliot, Stevens, Lowell, Bishop, Moore, Merrill, Wilbur and many others.

These days there seems to prevail a reflexive prejudice against coherence; a tilt toward various forms of deliberate nonsequitor; a gravitation toward the seemingly inconsequential that invites its readers to discern in the offhand something unexpectedly momentous. There are plenty of impressive exceptions to my irritated generalization, but you catch my drift. So it seemed sensible for me to stop paying contest entry fees and use the money saved to self-publish my new manuscript.

The current contest system that publishes so many literary books these days is a kind of self-financing operation that works like a lottery: the hundreds of $25 entry fees pay for the judge, the grad student screeners, the printing costs and the 1K or 2K prizes to the winners. At least when you play poker or roulette you get to look your opponents and the croupier in the eye.

I realize that self-published books aren't reviewed, but then very few poetry books are widely and expertly reviewed these days. What any writer wants, anyway, at least as much as good reviews are, as Byron said, "gentle readers and still gentler purchasers." If a poet or a sampling of a book interests people they'll find it and buy it. To self-publish these days is simply to bet on one's self.

Not that I've renounced main stream publishing altogether. Translations of the Greeks remain popular (and who wouldn't want to team up with Homer, Sappho, Sophocles or Euripides?). Oxford UP is bringing out this year its now complete (after 37 years!) Greek Tragedies in New Translations series in multi-play volumes. So "Euripides III: Hippolytos and Other Plays" will be out in October and have the revised version of my version of "Hippolytos" in it, the one performed last October at Barnard and described in the post below.

"Sophocles' Outcasts: Aias, Philoktetes, Elektra & Women of Trakhis", co-authored by James Scully, Mary Bagg and me, is under active consideration by another publisher and we hope it will be issued in 2010.

I've also found a site, Gently Read Lit, self-confident enough to publish my piece on James Scully's poetry, "Exception Taken." It's posted on this site as well, but it now should reach a larger audience.
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