Japan Times reviews Jane Nakagawa’s incidental music
Existence is but a brief shimmer of light
By STEVE FINBOW
INCIDENTAL MUSIC, by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa. BlazeVOX, 2010, 112 pp., $16.00 (paper); and NOTATIONAL, by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa. Otoliths, 2011, 68 pp., $12.45 (paper).
If the saying is true that "writing about art is like dancing about architecture" — or, as Martin Amis argues, that, when reviewing poems, critics do not respond with sonnet sequences — then, writing about poetry collections is like tap dancing on top of the Tokyo Sky Tree, a dizzying experience that could possibly end in disaster and calumny.
That said, Jane Joritz-Nakagawa's latest books warrant attention, regardless of the dangers. Originally from the United States, the poet lives in central Japan, and it is from the poetry of these two countries that her work emerges, converges, and diverges.
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|incidental music||Jane Joritz-Nakagawa||BlazeVOX [books]|
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As you know we have ended our co-operative agreement with authors and will move on and make books with the money we have and publish what we can when we can. Again, thank you to all who support the press! Hurray!
Along with this, we are going to have an extravagant BlazeVOX [books] event at a new large art gallery in Buffalo, The Burchfield Penny, on November 10th 2011, from 6 to 8 PM. This will be a catered event with food and drinks from a local fancy restaurant. Our sponsor for the event, Wade Stevenson, also a BX author and major art patron, wanted to make a splash in Buffalo for the BX, and so this event.
We are going to have many fun events, including poetry readings featuring Mike Basinski, Robin Brox and Michael Kelleher. We are also going to hold a silent auction of artwork. The art will be self-portraits of local and national poets and book people. Please come if you can.
Our hope will be to sell more books and have fundraisers to fulfill the future of BlazeVOX.
Thank you a thousand times,
Thank you for your kind support. It is a wonderful thing that you stand up for poetry in such fine ways. I have learned from this discussion and will strive to be ever more effectively transparent about publication arrangements.
I want make a statement after the fact. BlazeVOX is not closing its doors.
That said, I feel like I should explain a bit further the co-operative nature of our business model. I am not going to change what we do, but I do acknowledge that perhaps I could communicate what we do a little better.
We publish work that we love. We love good writing and avant-garde texts. The reality is that avant-garde books, unfortunately, do not sell well. It is only our love of the texts themselves that keeps us hard at work.
We work with authors new and established to get their work out there; however, there is significant financial risk in this. We ask our authors to help fund a small portion of their book. The money covers a small percentage of the cost of production, which includes my time. We do not ask all authors for a fee up front. We make this decision based on whether or not sales of the book will cover the costs of its production. Authors like Anne Waldman or Tom Clark will sell well enough to recoup these costs. Most books by new authors will not. In general, books by new authors sell around 25 - 30 copies.
But our art form is not about sales. If it were, we would start printing and selling the literally hundreds of Christian-themed manuscripts we receive each year which, for some reason, do sell. If we sold Christian-oriented poetry, we would be rolling in money. We do not choose to do this.
I live modestly off of the income of BlazeVOX and this allows me to be working on this press 14 hours a day. Rarely do I take a day off and it is this positive energy that sets us apart from other presses. We do not choose 4 to 10 books a year and end the year. We publish broadly and prolifically, and we want to continue to do these despite our limited resources. After searching for different means of funding the press, the most obvious seemed to be to tap the authors themselves. We co-operate and collaborate to get these books out there. It is a two-way street.
I have on hand over one thousand manuscripts and continue to receive about twenty new works a week. We read each of these books and keep the exceptionally good works. We evaluate works based on many criteria and look for texts that stand out, voices that should be heard, and words that need to be printed. AFTER choosing the best manuscripts to publish, we then ask the authors to contribute to production costs. Not, as it has been suggested, the other way around. We do not publish in order to make $250. We ask for $250 in order to be able to publish. Many of these so-called vanity projects have been hugely successful and these books have gone on to be read, respected and admired.
If your tastes differ from mine, so be it. I stand behind each of our authors as good writers. I have gone out of the way to pick writers from all ages, genders, religions, races and sexual orientations. I believe that our books go beyond the privileged good college crowd and speak to the wider voices of the world.
I have not gained wealth from this method of asking for donations. I am barely able to pay my rent, feed my cats, and eat based on the money from the press. If not for my partner’s kind efforts working a real job, we would not be able to eat regularly. Fortunately, we live in Buffalo, NY one of the only cities in America where a poet can live and eat and publish and not die from exposure.
I mention these things, as I want you to know that this is all that I do. I am not a teacher or associated with any college or university. It is just us and a love of strange poetry that keeps me going.
Again, thank you for your support.
Editor & Publisher
Thanks for your concerns. Yes you have heard a part truth. We have just asked writers to donate some money to the press to help offset the the cost of the printing of the book. I did send this letter to a 30 folk with the hopes of getting 15 people. No scams at all. It is done in the spirit of co-operation and in the 3 days since we asked folks for this, we raised $3,000. There is no requirement, I offered to publish their book next year for no donation or make an ebook / Kindle title out of this instead. There were many offered options but one poet was more than a bit upset. So this wind storm.
To briefly explain, we just lost a major donor this year and I want to publish these books, but it takes some money to do so. It takes $2000 to make a book and I am asking a few folks who’s books are very very good to help in the publication cost of that book. So far a lot have taken me up on this deal, as this is a fine way of doing things. As I said, our major funder could not help us this year due to a recent financial collapse, their money is gone. So I am asking folks to help out in the publication costs. Of the 530 manuscripts I received I choose 30 books to publish from this lot. There was a real system in choosing these texts and in my opinion this is better than me holding a contest. I have been in that room before and I am not fond of people paying $40 to have a fist year grad student pick through a box of manuscripts to find something they like. This way, we choose good books and if they can help pay 12% of the total $2000 it takes to get a title into print. I am sure that there are better ways to do this but in our turbulent times it is hard to get people to fund poetry and experimental fiction. I am sorry if this upsetting and I understand completely. But this is in the spirit of a co-op and without money nothing can be done.
I do understand your concern but the books that have been choose went through a rigorous look through and in the past this has proved more than successful. One book went on to be chosen by the National Book Critics Circle for excellence. So hurray.
We will rescind this program immediately and I am sorry for the troubles it has caused.
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