Interview

Poetry editors

In giving temporary pause to the usual single poet interview format - which has featured fifteen international poets since the magazine's inception - The Wolf is pleased to publish interviews with seven editors of poetry presses, from both the UK and America.

All interviewees were asked the same seven questions and a selection of answers is included here.

Thanks to all participating editors for giving over their valuable time to be involved in this transatlantic dialogue:

Tony Ward Managing editor, Arc Publications, UK Keston Sutherland Co-editor, Barque Press, UK Neil Astley Editor, Bloodaxe Books, UK Peter Conners Editor/marketing, BOA Editions, US Michael Schmidt Editor, Carcanet Press, UK Jeffrey Shotts Senior editor, Graywolf Press, US Rupert Loydell Managing editor, Stride Books, UK

- James Byrne

What are the main considerations that influence your decision to publish a poet?

KESTON SUTHERLAND: Barque has no fixed criteria. We hope we'll find and hear of people who surprise us. That said, there are, of course, patterns in our selections, and solidarities that guide them. In general we try to support poets who would find no hospitality or interest among the larger commercial presses, and whose work is not limited or contorted by any desire to gratify the editors of those presses or what Don Paterson, in an aromatic Burkean phrase, invidiously calls their ‘natural constituencies.' Many of the poets we publish would identify themselves as anti-capitalists or Marxists; some would not.

I'm aware of little sympathetic interest in literary theory, or in what the trustees of the general public health, irradiated with sanity, call ‘postmodernism,' among our authors; indeed they are the most outspoken and intelligent opponents of much of the real substance and creed of what passes under that term that I have ever met. Contrary to the moneyed-disciplinarian hygienist's cant of Craig Raine et al., these poets are uninterested in anything so trivial as difficulty for difficulty's sake, whatever that might be; and they are just as uninterested in insulting or denying the pleasures of the ‘general reader' as they are incredulous that this phantasmatic cipher refers to any person in existence.

These of course are not our reasons for publishing poets, but features common to much of the work we publish. Often we'll not know quite what sort of work that is, at first, but will be struck by some sensation that its meaning and its consequences for thinking are yet to be known and decided, and we'll publish it because we want the work of that knowledge to be done by as many seriously attentive readers as possible (and not simply by ‘editors'). I guess historically we've been enthusiastic about publishing work by younger writers, sometimes as much to invite them into a community of discussion because we feel that they've already written a great book.

NEIL ASTLEY: The books I publish are those I respond to as a reader, and what interests me most is a breadth of vision and an engagement with language. I look for an original voice and poetry that shows a lively interplay of intellect and emotion.

With new poets I want a distinctive voice: when you read that person's poems I need to feel that only that writer could have written the poems. Influences will always be there in one form or another, but they need to have been worked through and assimilated. I don't want to read any more clones of Ashbery, Larkin, Muldoon, O'Hara, Plath or Prynne (some of the prevalent influences) when I can read the original poets. But poets who have learned from them are a different matter. I'm also looking for poets whose use of language suggests that they will continue to produce memorable work, and go on to produce strong second collections after the first one. If the first collection is too tied to particular subject-matter, it sometimes happens that most of what the poet has to say has been expressed through that first collection, and later books are repeated versions of that.

PETER CONNERS: Our first consideration is the ‘quality' of the poetry, which, of course, opens an endless and shifting debate. We receive hundreds of submissions per year and, increasingly, would-be authors exhibit high levels of technical proficiency. I attribute this technical proficiency to the proliferation of MFA programs in America. The programs have given us an ever-widening pool of poetry readers, and for that we are grateful. MFA programs have also taught hundreds of poets how to construct tightly-wrought and skilfully realised poems. As editors at BOA, our challenge and responsibility is to probe beneath the facade of the poem and evaluate if anything larger is at stake in the work. When the combination of language, idea, spirit, risk, philosophy, intellect, passion, etc. etc. makes us gasp - we know we have discovered something special.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Whether the poet is any good. That's the first and should be the only question.

JEFFREY SCHOTTS: The quality of the poet's work is the main consideration for Graywolf to decide to publish a poet. The work must be challenging, evocative, emotive, and must, in some way, grapple with what it means to be human. In other words, reading the poems should be an event, an experience.

More specifically, the Graywolf poetry list tends toward the lyric voice whose signature cannot be mistaken for anyone else. No one could mistake a poem by Tony Hoagland or Matthea Harvey or Mary Jo Bang or Albert Goldbarth for anyone but themselves. I would say the same for the British poets Graywolf publishes, such as Alice Oswald, Don Paterson, and Kathleen Jamie. They risk sounding like no other. Beyond that, we look for poets whose works grapple with a particular issue or set of issues.

A collection of poems should suggest what makes it a collection, a book, and why the first poem is first, the second second, the last last. The form of the book is there for the poet to use, and the issues of sequence and organization seem integral to that form. Graywolf makes it part of its mission to create a balanced seasonal list, so we're always looking for the best first and second books to publish alongside established poets and poetry in translation. We pride ourselves on a very aesthetically diverse group of poets.

RUPERT LOYDELL: Whether or not I respond to the work positively, whether a manuscript has been considered and shaped as a whole, and whether I think I can sell a few copies. Also if they are out there working to get readership - I'd expect the poet I publish to be submitting to magazines, giving readings, reviewing or teaching.

How do you see the relationship between editor and poet?

TONY WARD: A close and frank relationship should develop in which the author should not feel in any way undermined. It should result in a creative environment where all parties believe they are working together towards the single aim of producing the very best texts/volume. The author should never feel that his/her work is under threat. Similarly the publisher should always feel that they are part of the creative process

KESTON SUTHERLAND: We aren't really editors. Only very occasionally will Andrea or I make suggestions about the poems that should be included in a book, or point out what we think might be weaknesses in individual poems. In practice what we've tended to do is to use Barque as a basis for initiating communities of discussion and argument. In some nominal sense, our job has been to encourage people with something to add to those communities, to risk entering them. We've made lots of friends, both for ourselves and for others, through our publishing.

NEIL ASTLEY: Every writer is different and I believe in editing each poet in his or her own terms, not in imposing any particular approach to the writing of poetry, least of all my own. Technique has to be a given if a poet has reached book publication stage; but there is usually some technical feedback an editor can offer as another reader coming fresh to the work.

I admire and like to publish such a wide variety of poets and poetry that I have to be flexible. With some poets I cut lots of poems to produce a tightly-worked, coherent collection, if that's what's needed; with others whose work needs to be treated more expansively, especially writers of sequences, long poems or cycles, I try to give them space (and more pages) to allow it to breathe and to include a range of both short poems and longer pieces.

PETER CONNERS: The editor should help the author reach his or her fullest artistic potential. Since BOA maintains high standards for accepting a manuscript in the first place, that support seldom comes in the form of large-scale editorial suggestions.

However, as any poet or poetry-enthusiast knows, the poem is made or broken by a single comma, a line break, the immaculately-placed word. It's also important to note that once an editor decides to take on a poet, they should inform the poet's work within the poet's aesthetic, not within the editor's. At different points in the publication process, an editor may find himself serving as a support system, critic, encourager, dissuader, and useful buttress.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Each relationship is bespoke, there are no off-the-peg relationships. Sometimes the editor works closely with the poet, getting poems right line by line, helps put the book in order, considers every detail with the author. Sometimes the book comes in and is pretty shipshape from the start, and the author tells the editor what to do. There are no formulae, and with new authors one learns as one goes along. My own editor, Peter Samson at Smith/Doorstop, is wonderfully detailed in his attention to a book, and quite strict with me as a writer.

JEFFREY SCHOTTS My job as an editor is to help the author create the best manuscript that the author is capable of. Sometimes that means knowing when to shut up. More often, it means attempting to enter into the poet's music as fully as possible, which can at times result in schizophrenia, but it's necessary to take the poetry entirely on its own terms.

That said, the author always has the final word when it comes to the content of the work. Every author and every book are entirely different. This is what keeps the editor's work perpetually new. When I've worked with an author over the course of several books, the process can be easy, trusting, and the means to a long-term friendship. First-book authors often need more guidance and are often more eager for editorial suggestions, from the title to the organization of the book, from line edits to the typeface and design.

But nothing concerns me more than when a poet takes all of my editorial suggestions. I like working with an author who is open to suggestions but who refuses at least some of them. It's then that I know an author is fully confident in their work, and ultimately, that makes me more confident in the work as well. It's also in those moments of disagreement where I learn the most about the poet and about poetry, what it can do and what it must risk.

Generally, what kind of a reputation does a new poet have to establish before you would consider publishing them?

KESTON SUTHERLAND: None at all. Certain reputations may have an odour or piquancy that will put us off, but we'd never get sniffy over anyone's obscurity. Reputations are just as boring and trivial in the poetry scenes as they are elsewhere.

NEIL ASTLEY: Before a poet even thinks about putting a book together, I think he or she should be submitting poems to magazines. Such a 'track record' is not needed by an editor as a guarantee of quality, but as an indication that the writer has spent time building up a publishable collection. Trying to publish a book before having had work taken by magazines is viewed by publishers as thinking you can run before you can walk. So the 'reputation' should be based on already having poems published in magazines like The Wolf .

In recent years pamphlets have been enjoying something of a comeback as a significant area of poetry publishing, especially for new writers, and having a pamphlet from one of the main pamphlet imprints can certainly help: e.g. Donut, Tall-Lighthouse, Hearing Eye, flipped eye or Rack Press. A few of the poets we've taken on have won prizes in The Poetry Business's pamphlet competition. Other presses, such as Heaventree, Templar and Arrowhead produce a mixture of pamphlets, books and book-like pamphlets with spines. But the poet has to watch that he or she doesn't publish too substantial a small press collection that does too well: a larger publisher might not want to take on a revamped version of this.

And if the small press publisher submits such a first collection for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the poet has lost their chance of ever winning it because while pamphlets have been shortlisted, there will always be a much stronger book which will win; and if you have a pamphlet shortlisted for the Forward, your first book-length collection, when published later, will be ineligible because you've already been shortlisted for what was treated as your first collection.

At Bloodaxe we prefer to start our publication of new poets right from the beginning, so that we can work to build up their reputation from a ground-base we've set up. A poet's reputation can be damaged irreparably by publishing a first collection too early, when the manuscript wasn't really strong enough.

The career pressures on new writers of publishing first collections in order to get readings, get onto shortlists, teach and so on could be partly responsible for this. I've taken on a number of first collections the writers thought were ready, but then had to hold back publication until I felt confident that it really was ready. That involved cutting poems as the poet sent new stronger work. I've taken on some collections of about 50 poems in which a third were eventually replaced with newer work before the book was ready for publication. I've also taken on collections which were only half there in terms of numbers of poems, and the encouragement of having the book accepted has spurred the poet into writing more which has completed the collection.

PETER CONNERS: Once we're smitten with the poetry, we certainly want to know more about the poet's literary accomplishments. We want to see where he or she has published in journals and anthologies, as well as where (and how often) they have publicly read their work. The bottom line is that BOA only has 3 full-time employees, and we depend on our poets to help promote their books.

An experienced and active reader - particularly when it comes to a first-time author - can generally sell more copies of their book than a recluse. Similarly, someone who has published their work in journals may have a better opportunity of getting their book reviewed in those journals, or by someone who has previously read their work in journals. Keep in mind, these aren't the deciding factors in whether we publish a book - but, all things being equal, they are elements that we take into account.

Many of our poets also edit journals, translate literature from other languages, review books, write articles, and publish books in other genres. We enjoy working with authors who value writing and literature as much as we do, and all of those activities illustrate a dedication to learning, mastering, and propagating the literary culture that we hold dear.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT: None. Many of the first collections we publish are by poets who have no track record at all but have been busy learning to write by reading, experimenting and writing. A good editor isn't usually impressed by a list of previous publications. Not until after he or she has read the poems.

JEFFREY SCHOTTS Every book is different, and I hesitate to say there is a specific platform poets have to reach before Graywolf would publish them.

We have published first books where almost every poem has been previously published in highly-regarded magazines. We have also published first books where only a handful of poems have appeared in magazines or anthologies. We have published first books by poets in their nineties. We have published first books by poets in their twenties. We have published poets who have an established reputation, and those who are virtually unknown. If the work is extraordinary, Graywolf is willing to risk publishing a newcomer in the hope of establishing a promising career.

Which book that you have published brings back the most memories, and why?

TONY WARD: This is too difficult a question because as with most publishers our latest title is always the most significant. However when it comes to memories I would have to mention two titles.

Four Years After the Dog by Benjamin Peret (trans. Paul Brown and Peter Nemeijer), as it wasn't until after I had published it that I discovered that it was the first time the work had been translated into English. Also the production of the book was a total nightmare with the books finally being dumped in my garden on a damp, autumnal afternoon. It made me not only very fond and protective of that book; it encouraged me, as a consequence, to continually return to it.

Another more recent volume is A Fine Line , our anthology of poetry from eastern and central Europe. This was hugely significant because it opened our eyes to work never seen before, and introduced us to some wonderful authors and had us working with many significant translators. It gave us a huge impetus to move forward, not only into Europe, but into a new and more adventurous period of publishing.

KESTON SUTHERLAND: The first of them, because it was a ceremony of erotic flirtation between juveniles who thought they were beginning a press only as a joke. 100 Days , because of the great warmth and energy of solidarity that surrounded its appearance, and because I agreed an American reprint with Verso on the morning of September 11th 2001, which was cancelled by them that same afternoon; and maybe John Wilkinson's Oort's Cloud , because John read to and got together with his future wife at the launch reading.

NEIL ASTLEY: Irina Ratushinskaya's No, I'm Not Afraid was published in May 1986 when the poet was imprisoned in a Soviet camp for the 'crime' of writing and distributing poems a judge had called 'a danger to the state'. At the age of 28, she had been sentenced to seven years hard labour. Three years into her sentence, she was in desperate health, and unaware that poems smuggled out of the camp had reached the West.

As well as translations of her poems by David McDuff, No, I'm Not Afraid included documentary material on her imprisonment provided by Amnesty International, statements by her husband and friends, and extracts from a camp diary charting life in the 'Small Zone', the special unit for women prisoners of conscience in Mordovia where she was held. Many of the poems were first incised with burnt matchsticks onto bars of soap, and then memorised. An international campaign was mounted on her behalf, spearheaded by her own poetry, which led to her release in October 1986 on the eve of the Reykjavik summit after Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan had been given copies of her book by David Owen. Her first reading in Britain was organised by Bloodaxe at the Newcastle Playhouse in 1987, and followed a civic reception offered by Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University.

PETER CONNERS: Well, it's a little early in my career to be nostalgic, but I'll always smile at Russell Edson joining BOA's roster with his book The Rooster's Wife . Edson is a true iconoclast and - while still not widely acknowledged for largely academic-political reasons - he is one of the most influential poets in late twentieth-century America.

I have just returned from a major literary conference that featured a tribute to Russell Edson by James Tate, Robert Bly, and acting U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic. It was somehow fitting that all of the poets on the stage had garnered well-deserved accolades and honours - except for the man being honoured. It was wonderful to hear these celebrated poets praising the body of work Edson has built over the past 40 years. Fittingly, Edson appeared - if anything - slightly bemused by the proceedings. He seemed equally interested in a wooden gavel that happened to be left on the table in front of him. I was giddy with expectation at what he might do with that gavel.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Three books. First In the Trojan Ditch by C.H. Sisson because the book for me was seismic, changing the way I read and felt about language, and the author became one of the people I most valued intellectually and spiritually. Then The Winter's Task by Robert Wells, a first collection that moved me to the core. Most recently, Song and The Orchard by Brigit Pegeen Kelly (also published in the US by BOA), an American poet Eavan Boland urged me to read and when I did read her work it became a powerful obsession for weeks on end.

JEFFREY SCHOTTS This is like asking a poet who their favourite poet is. I would answer differently tomorrow. But today, I recall when William Stafford's The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems hit my desk in December 1996. I am originally from Kansas, as Stafford was, and his poetry meant a great deal to me growing up. The honest, plain voice felt authentic and from a place of authority. To then have that poetry come to Graywolf was exceedingly meaningful to me, even though I never met Stafford. It's been a pleasure to work with Stafford's son, Kim Stafford, and Fred Marchant and Paul Merchant and many others who continue to foster Stafford's work.

I also remember with pride the publication of Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef's Without an Alphabet, Without a Face , translated from the Arabic by Khaled Mattawa. Graywolf accepted the manuscript in 2001 as part of our translation series funded by the Lannan Foundation, and then published the book in December 2002 - three months before the United States started carpet-bombing Baghdad. It was the first time that I'm aware of a U.S. publisher publishing a full-length collection by an Iraqi poet. Youssef's poetry put a very human face on those that we were so suddenly and so wrongly waging a war against.

RUPERT LOYDELL: I was over the moon about the first Charles Wright book we did - he was such a poetic hero and then to be able to publish him was fantastic. I'm very proud of the titles in the Peter Redgrove Library we did most recently; those books needed to be in print again. I also think some of the books we published for and/or about artists such as Sun Ra, Anthony Braxton, Roy Fisher and Robert Lax have been important. There are only a handful of books I regret publishing.

How different is your list from other poetry publishers?

TONY WARD: It is different mainly in that the content is divided three ways (in almost equal parts): UK poets; English as first language world-wide; and translations. The latter has grown enormously over the past few years (mainly due to the commitment of our translation editors), and is continuing to grow, even though these titles demand far more work, energy and cash than the others. We do also expect, and get, a consistent quality from our poets and from all those involved in the work of the press. I believe this makes us not necessarily all that different, but recognised for quality, whilst making sure our authors and readers realize that we regard them most highly.

NEIL ASTLEY: The Bloodaxe list is international and ethnically diverse, with a mixture of new and established writers. One of Bloodaxe's most important achievements has been to transform the publishing opportunities for women poets, not because they are women poets but because they are outstanding writers by any standard. Bloodaxe's poetry list is unique in being 50:50 male:female. After starting from scratch 30 years ago, we've ended up with a list that reflects population not power. Anthologies have always been an important part of our publishing mix, and in recent years have helped us introduce contemporary poetry to a broader readership.

PETER CONNERS: BOA's eclecticism is what truly sets us apart. Who would imagine a small press with a wide enough aesthetic to celebrate both Lucille Clifton and Russell Edson? Or Li-Young Lee and Kim Addonizio? W. D. Snodgrass and Nin Andrews? Louis Simpson and Brigit Pegeen Kelly? As we move into the twenty-first century, BOA's aesthetic continues to evolve and deepen. We continue our dedication to our long-standing poets while searching out the most powerful new voices.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT: I would say our list is very different because of our orientation - Modernism is real to us, and most of the editorial orthodoxies that currently obtain in the UK can strike the foreign reader as narrowing and prescriptive. There are so many approved and sought-after clichés in the world of poetry publishing, clichés of 'identity' and 'voice'… we try not to take the roads more travelled by, and we love the English poetries from other countries, not just the United States.

JEFFREY SCHOTTS The Graywolf list is as different from other poetry publishers' lists as individual poets are from each other. Which is to say: very. That distinction seems necessary to preserve as much diversity in poetry in America and around the world, in English and in other languages, as possible.

RUPERT LOYDELL: I don't think it is any more. It has perhaps been much more catholic than other lists, abutting experimental work with more traditional voices, but now that is starting to seem the norm. Certainly I think Salt and Shearsman, in particular, do the same kind of thing as we do, and do it much better.

Salt Publishing now print many of their collections 'on demand' and have claimed to have trebled their sales. This increase could be perceived as a success. However their list of poets also seems to have increased significantly in the past year and there have been some questionable publications. What are the appeals and/or dangers of printing on demand?

TONY WARD: Since ceasing the printing of our books in-house, we now produce all our titles digitally. Over the past few years, digital print has improved immensely so it no longer has to be whispered surreptitiously as if it were a dirty concept.

The appeals are obvious, not least the ability to exploit and manage cash flow and storage to a degree never before possible. The main pitfall could be seen to be that it might give the publisher a greater liberty to publish more titles, which in turn may become merely a source of revenue rather than being the result of considered judgment. As a general rule, the more titles you publish, the more sales will be generated – take this to a degree and obviously one could be in danger of sacrificing critical judgment to the glory of mammon.

KESTON SUTHERLAND: The virtue of questionable publications is presumably that they will be questioned. Salt have published a good number of the best living poets writing in English. The same can't be said of Faber, Penguin, or any of the other major commercial presses. They've also published books whose sales they expect will secure their continued existence. That seems a pretty common thing for publishers to do. Barque doesn't and wouldn't do it, but then, Andrea and I don't have to live off the revenue from Barque.

Poets will go to the presses with whose list they want to associate, if they care primarily about culture, or to those with the most retail shelf-space and other glitteringly dusty emoluments, if they care primarily about becoming objects of desire and getting money. Both sorts of poet go to Salt, and Salt solicits work from both sorts. If the economics of print on demand keeps open a place for serious poets on the Salt list and serious poets want to be on it, that's something.

NEIL ASTLEY: I understand that Salt used 'print on demand' to build a sizeable list in a very short time, and that they no longer use POD for most titles. We used it once to reprint 100 copies of a book that was selling a few dozen copies each year as a set text on a university course.

POD doesn't give us the production standards we demand, including sewn and glued binding, nor is the range of paper offered adequate in quality. The unit production cost is much higher than one of our short run paperbacks, so the economies of scale are unattractive. By batch printing covers, we manage to have full colour covers for a third of the cost of printing them separately; and bulk paper purchases for over 30 books a year mean that our paper prices are economical. POD books are supposed to be cheaper, but they're only cheaper compared with cheaply-produced books.

As far as trebling sales is concerned, trebling from what base?

PETER CONNERS: At this point, BOA does not use print on demand technology. The closest that we come is to use digital printing for short-run reprints of active titles. I must say that in many ways, the print on demand model makes the most sense and is actually more publisher-friendly (not to mention environmentally friendly) than the traditional model of printing books and hoping that they sell. However, the sales, distribution, and promotion models that drive publishing haven't incorporated print on demand technology significantly enough to shift the paradigm. So I think that authors need to assess the risks involved with publishing in the print on demand model. Personally, I applaud publishers who are breaking ground with p.o.d technology.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT: My own feeling is that Print on Demand is crucial for reprints, but that a commitment to an author and a first printing entail investment (editorial, design, commercial) and risk. I admire Chris Hamilton-Emery and what he is doing with Salt, squaring the circle in a sense commercially, though we dance to rather different tunes. We wish one another well, I believe.

JEFFREY SCHOTTS Print on Demand is something I think more American poetry publishers are exploring. The appeal is that publishers can, at least nominally, keep every title they've ever published available and at the ready for an audience. That seems to be a wonderful opportunity, compared to the rampant remaindering and moving books quickly out of print that have often been the practice of larger publishers in previous years.

JHowever, the danger with Print on Demand is that books can be left 'in print' in name only: you can't actually find the texts in bookstores or in libraries or elsewhere. It seems to me, that doesn't serve the author well. As with everything with publishing, maintaining a book's availability is only half of the equation; without promoting the book, without letting an audience know the book is there, a publisher merely becomes a printer. Publishers have an obligation to keep their books in print and to getting those books out to readers.

As your question points out, another problem might be that a publisher could conceivably take everything on and make it available through Print on Demand. In that case, the publisher may forsake creating a brand that readers trust in terms of quality of content, appeal of design, and ease of availability.

But again, on the other hand, one of the appeals of Print on Demand is that it only prints what copies readers actually want to use. The environmental argument here is very important, considering that now, many more books are printed than are used, those books are shipped out to bookstores on trucks, and then bookstores send back unsold copies on those same trucks to the distribution warehouse to lie in wait before being shipped again on those trucks to another bookstore or outlet, and…you see the issue. A huge number of books and magazines are destroyed and pulped every year. The waste seems excessive and unnecessary and, ultimately, unsustainable. With increasing digital and Print on Demand technology, publishers may eventually find a better way.

RUPERT LOYDELL: Low set-up costs and little investment required in stock; that is, no garages, sheds or warehouses full of dusty unsold books. So it's easy to print as-and-when books are required, which means there is no need to take titles out of print or really to worry too much about large Collected and Selected, which I believe were what put Salt on the map (and quite rightly so). Perhaps, despite my catholic reading and taste, I'm suspicious of some of the more populist titles recently published or forthcoming from Salt. But that is Salt's prerogative and decision, although I imagine it may worry some of the more experimental authors they have already published.

With advances in technology and the rise in internet publishing, can you envisage a time when you publish PDF versions of your books?

TONY WARD: Yes, but they will never replace the book as a medium of communication, no matter how many people argue to the contrary. Our thinking is that nothing should be counted out; if it gives the work greater prominence, or makes it available to people that wouldn't normally be able to receive it, then we're up for it.

NEIL ASTLEY: No. But PDFs are likely to make bound advance proof copies redundant. And it's quite possible we might choose to make an out-of-print book available on pdf as an alternative to POD for a book needed on a course where there's no demand for it apart from that.

PETER CONNERS: With the author's permission, BOA actually does make slower-selling backlist titles available for PDF download through the website www.wowio.com . It's a more appealing alternative than listing a book as out-of-print, and - although this is a new venture for BOA within the last year - our hope is that the PDF inspires the reader to go out and buy the physical book. We also offer PDF downloads of 'Season Sampler Chapbooks' on our website. However those chapbooks are strictly for promotion of the actual books. In many ways, I liken publishing to the music industry 10 years ago. We see the new technology coming, but the larger model hasn't yet shifted to accommodate it. Personally, I love books. But I think it's naïve to think that new technologies won't continue to reshape the publishing industry as we know it.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Yes, we are certainly exploring this constantly, though we have yet to jump. I hope we will jump in the next year. It would be nice if a few of us could jump together.

JEFFREY SCHOTTS For the right kind of book, digital downloadable versions of a text might be something Graywolf would explore in the future. Right now, we pride ourselves on our books' packages, design, content, and production, and so we have no immediate plans to begin publishing books on our website. Other publishers are already beginning to make certain books available this way, and it's something we continue to watch closely and consider.

RUPERT LOYDELL: No. I'm too old to read on-screen, I just end up printing most things out to read. I did start to think 'the next generation' might read on-screen, but my students clearly don't read on screen either. In fact they don't read full stop, if they can help it. We may have to accept that the festishization of books is coming to an end, just as it has with LPs and CDs. Just as the music is considered more important, perhaps the text (and content) may be what future readers engage with, not perhaps as a whole though, or in the same way.

I really think poetry has no monetary worth any more. It does have more cultural value and a bigger readership than ever, mainly thanks to the web. Just as musicians and record companies are having to come to terms with downloading, writers must decide if they want to sell a few hundred books or have a few thousand readers they stand a chance of dialoguing with. Perhaps we are ahead of the music business in that we know there is little money to be made as 'poets'. Certainly I think old business models (i.e. warehouses full of books of jokey poems) will ultimately be the downfall of some of the current 'major' presses.

This is an extended version of the interview published in issue 17.

Questions: James Byrne.

 

The Current Issue

The current issue is packed with poems, reviews and interviews.

View Online copy »

News

The Wolf 35 is now out and available at stockists. Click here to buy online

Issue 35 is our last print issue. We will accept single issue subscriptions until this issue runs through, or for requested back issues (depending on stock).

Thank you to all who have supported the magazine since 2002. We hope to develop this site into an archive of larger online materials in the future.

The Wolf is now available to buy as a digital PDF copy via Paypal. £3/$5 for the latest issue.

The Wolf - Digital version

Buy

» Buy latest issue & subscribe
» Outlets that stock The Wolf

Audio

Hear the Wolf poets read their work.

Click here >

The Wolf at the Poetry Library

The Wolf on poetrymagazines.org.uk - all of issues 6, 10 and 11