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NEA ban is unfair to BlazeVOX - News Articles and an Interview on the whole BlazeVOX thing


A brief note from Geoffrey Gatza 

Hurray and thank you for your wonderful support. So far have not heard back from the NEA yet on anything but I am excited that things are moving in a somewhat forward direction. In the Buffalo News article, below, they say that they will reexamine their 1983 rule that is the cause of this trouble.

At AWP I was fortunate enough to meet Ira Silverberg, the new head of the NEA Literature division. We shared a cigarette in front of the Hilton. I was able to have a nice few moments with him and I was able to move from the old hairy eyeball to a warm smile. I was able to let him know were we are now and how I am growing the press to a larger organization and now working on getting our not-for-profit status. He seemed happy about that. At AWP I decided to start up a smile campaign. I posted on Facebook for people to email or stop by their booth and tell them that they love BlazeVOX. I also handed out over 200 post cards asking friends to smile at them and tell them they too love BlazeVOX. It seems to have worked :-)

I sent Mr. Silverberg a long email, in good spirits telling him basically that we are a good press and that even if it takes a few years, before his tenure is over, he’ll be impressed by what we can achieve. So far hard work and charm has led the press to where we are now, so I think that we’ll be able to make a favorable impression on him even if the NEA is constrained by their own rules.

Now I am rather excited about what is in the future. I plan to keep on doing what I do and keep publishing. I have the support of a lot of wonderful friends and I am very thankful for a great deal. Last week I was a bit sad about the whole thing. But I find that I am getting much better at dealing with criticism than ever before :-) So hurray!

Rockets, Geoffrey 

New and Improved: 
Geoffrey Gatza dot com

BlazeVOX Rocks!

News Articles and an Interview on the whole BlazeVOX thing  


NEA ban is unfair to BlazeVOX

By Colin Dabkowski
The Buffalo News

Updated: March 18, 2012, 9:23 AM

Last fall, a Buffalo-based small poetry press found itself at the center of a major controversy in the American poetry community. Now, the repercussions are being felt again by its writers.

The scandal erupted when it came to light that BlazeVOX, a popular publisher of poetry and literature founded by local poet Geoffrey Gatza, had been asking some authors to contribute a percentage of the cost of publishing their books.

This led some in the tight-knit publishing and poetry communities to insinuate— entirely incorrectly, as it turns out—that BlazeVOX was a so-called “vanity press,” a label that spells doom for any serious aspiring poet. Amid the controversy, Gatza promptly discontinued his controversial funding model, which had only applied to a small number of BlazeVOX authors.

Since then, the reputation of Gatza’s press—already a nationally respected outfit with an impressive roster of authors—had been slowly on the mend. That is, until last week, when the National Endowment for the Arts announced that poets applying for its fellowships could no longer use Blaze- VOX publications in their applications.

“The eligibility requirements for the NEA’s Creative Writing Fellowships prohibit applicants from using publications from presses that require individual writers to pay for part or all of the publication costs,” an NEA memo to some BlazeVOX poets stated.

This hard-and-fast stipulation, created 29 years ago before the advent of the Internet age and the print-on-demand phenomenon that most small poetry presses now use, ignores the way small press publishing in America has evolved over the past three decades.

Today, most poets with small press publications contribute in some way to the publication process. Gatza’s mistake was to ask for the money up-front and to give poets a discount on copies of their own books rather than adhere to a common and often unspoken understanding that writers will contribute to their own publications on the back end by buying copies of their own books.

There are absolutely valid concerns about the so-called “vanity press” model, in which authors pay the lion’s share of the publishing costs to indiscriminate publishers. This clearly does not characterize BlazeVOX, which is a barely profitable labor of love run by a man who merely committed a tactical error in his effort to bring the work of talented writers to the world.

The NEA’s blanket refusal to consider work from a press testing out new funding strategies—even when that work was traditionally funded and when the questionable funding practice has been discontinued—is myopic at best. But its adherence to the rule is, sadly, typical of an institution that is in many ways stuck in the past.

The NEA’s response to a request for information on the rule was merely to confirm that BlazeVOX did not meet its requirements and, tantalizingly, that it will “re-evaluate the guidelines for the next grant cycle.”

Zooming out even further, this most recent flap over BlazeVOX points to a central problem in the poetry world: that printed poetry has never been more widely available or less popular.

What to do with a conundrum like that? If you’re the NEA, you might concentrate your efforts on audience-building rather than reinforcing outdated, artificial categories and determinants of quality. Instead, its solution has been to pretend that we are living in 1983.

The NEA’s definition of what counts as “real” art, or “real” poetry is far too narrow, its guidelines on literature far too restrictive and its vision limited by antiquated notions of literary or cultural success. In the past 30 years, the cultural world has undergone a revolution. It’s time for the NEA to catch up.



Support for BlazeVOX in Wake of NEA Ban



And Interview with Geoffrey Gatza
Blood Lotus Magazine:

#23 is online now, so check the heck out of incredible work by Grace Bauer, Aaron Smith Verna Austen Kelly Lynn & more, plus an interview w/ Geoffrey Gatza of BlazeVOX & some gorgeous photographs by Wolfe Photography. "

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