Poetry News

BlazeVOX up from the ashes?

By Harriet Staff

Labor Day weekend has come and gone, and with it a small press kerfuffle. As we reported yesterday, the independent publisher BlazeVOX recently changed its funding model to include author contributions, one such author raised a ruckus, then a few more, and finally, it seemed, the publisher was to cease publishing at the end of the year. But Tuesday brings new news:

Here's a round-up of some of the many blog posts and rants and arguments so far on BlazeVOXGate, starting, most notably, with a post from BlazeVOX publisher Geoffry Gatza who, in addition to further contrition, lets us know that BlazeVOX is not, in fact, folding.

From that post:

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.

Much more, including how BlazeVOX is Gatza's livelihood, after the jump.

Christopher Janke wrote an open letter to Gatza at Slope Edition's blog, begging Gatza to continue on, or at least take a break and then continue on.

It ends thusly:

Some presses require authors to be editors, some will force authors into buying backstock to prevent an invented out-of-print status (and to secure the next book contract), big publishers sometimes release remaindered cloth copies at the same time the softcover is released (hurting their sales and in effect self-fulfilling the prophecy of poor sales to justify dropping poetry)...

I say please continue to publish if you have the energy. Or give yourself a break if you don't.

I have always admired your DIY mentality and the fact that blazevox is NOT a not-for-profit. I have not seen a poetry publishing model that I love. We run our contest with a code of ethics. We do not get paid. We occasionally ask for donations to keep us running.

I think your model calls authors to an ethic of shared responsibility for our culture. You challenge us to take it or leave it.

There's an "event" on Facebook called "Save BlazeVOX" here.

Bruce Covey of Coconut Books and and the on-line journal Coconut has posted a series of "notes" on Facebook, and if you're friends with the press, you can check those out.

Johannes Goransson wrote a post at Monteviedayo that hopes this situation "will develop into a further debate about the situation of small-press publishing in terms of its finances, issues of “legitimacy” and perhaps even the idea of the Author/Poet (as promulgated in MFA programs, in the movies, at prom)." Read his ideas here.

Richard D. Allen wrote a post at We Who Are About To Die that, after summarizing the situation, offered this:

In my eyes, Gatza’s only real wrongdoing was trying to have it both ways. He wanted to split costs with poets, but didn’t want the publishing world to know, lest BlazeVox become known as a vanity press. Similarly, he didn’t provide potential contributors with a full accounting of his production expenses (BlazeVox is a POD press, so some found the stated publication cost of $2000 surprising). And it appears that he may have wanted to reserve the right to publish some books without a contribution from the author, arguably reducing the contributors to second-class status among BlazeVox authors.

That said, BlazeVox is a very small press with an impressive back catalog but very low sales. If we want small poetry presses to exist and publish our work, poets are either going to have to

a) buy tons of their books to keep them flush;

b) acquiesce to entering contests with high entry fees;

c) help them secure funding from foundations and other charitable organizations; or

d) take on some of the financial risk of publication.

Michael Kelleher wrote a lengthy post at his Pearlblossom Highway blog, defending Gatza and saying (we paraphrase, of course) fuck you to a handful of fucking fucks.

From that post:

I would like all of the Brett Ortlers and Lavender Smiths of the world, before they go fuck themselves, to understand the following. Geoffrey Gatza has devoted his life to publishing them. He has no job. No source of income. He lives entirely on the very, very modest amount of money he has leftover after he publishes their books. He has no health insurance, no dental insurance, and no independent income. He is not a non-profit, which means he cannot receive grants. He is dependent for his meagre livelihood on book sales and the small fees he charges to offset costs to publish them.

And he publishes more quality books per year than most other presses in the country.

As a two-time Blazevox author, I am proud to be a part of this vain endeavor. I am proud to market my own books. I am proud to contribute what I can to their publication and distribution. Geoffrey is not my servant, he is my collaborator.

Film at 11.

Originally Published: September 6th, 2011