Friday, July 22, 2011

Why I Give It Away Free

They say it's worth exactly what you pay for it.  So, in our consumerist society, when something is free, let the "buyer" beware, a maxim I follow faithfully myself.  There is, however, at least one assumption in that thought.

I've been giving it away free for 20 plus years.  Every time someone sends me an envelope of poems following the guidelines for submissions, they at least get a free issue of Lilliput Review in return.

So, this is bartering, a system of exchange if you will.  The issue is not really free - a stamp must go on the envelope, a SASE must be sent in return.  However, what is happening here is important if you are a poet with some forethought.  You get a chance to have a poem accepted for publication and, if not, you get a tiny magazine with 20 plus poems for "free."  This might give the poet a better idea of what the editor is interested in (you wouldn't believe how many poems I get that are over 20 lines, never mind the 10 line limit - but that's another rant).

I'll show you my poems if you show me yours ...

That's how barter works.  Doing this for 22 years I've given away thousands of "free" issues, connected with poets, found new subscribers, and published some dynamite poems.  Did I mention the mag is not in the red, and never has been.

Hmn.  Am I giving a few people some ideas?


In addition to this, on the web side of things, there are three ongoing projects that result in free issues to those who participate.   The Near Perfect Books of Poems project, the ongoing Issa's Sunday Service project, and the Wednesday Haiku feature on the blog.

And, as always, you can just send a SASE (standard business size, one 1st class stamp) and get a free issue.

All of this must result in a real minimal circulation, I mean nobody's going to buy what they can get for free, right?  Well, right now Lillie has a subscriber list of nearly 300, as large as its ever been.

You know what they say - the first bag's free ...

Any questions?


This week's featured poem is from Lilliput Review, #165, from November 2008.  This fine translation of the magnificent Yannis Ritsos is by Scott King.  It speaks for itself.

The Shadow of Birds: 41
  I'm not listening to you—he says—
  I find the hill beautiful
  the tree beautiful
  the shadow of birds on the grass
  and myself
  beautiful—he says—
  in the water or in the mirror
  whatever you say
  my part isn't diminished
  in the river
  or in the rose.
Yannis Ritsos
translated by Scott King

dewdrops forming--
when might I become
grass...or a tree?
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature.  Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 110 songs


Anonymous said...

"my part isn't diminished
in the river
or in the rose"


methinks that this should replace ALL religious prayers

... and political hog-warsh, too !!


Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks, Kokkie-san ...

Lyle Daggett said...

I wholeheartedly support the notion of giving poetry away. Several times over the years I've been writing, I've photocopied one or two poems (or in one instance, mimeographed 10 poems) and handed them out randomly as leaflets.

I've also surely given away many more copies of my books than I've sold. My thinking is, I'd rather someone read the poems, rather than sit at home looking at a stack of unread copies of my book and complaining about the miserable publishing business, miserable bookstore business, etc.

I've had good fortune in finding publishers, though if I hadn't, I certainly would self-publish (as I did with my first book), and would do as much of the physical work on the book as I knew how to do myself. I mean, I don't have illusions of competing with The New Yorker or the handful of remaining large New York book publishers.


In case readers might be interested, Scott King translated the full sequence of Ritsos's Shadows of Birds, and published it through one of his own imprints, Thistlewords Press. (Scott is the publisher of Red Dragonfly Press; he uses the separate imprint Thistlewords Press to publish his own poems and translations occasionally.)

The book Shadows of Birds is available here, for anyone who wants to go looking.

(By way of full disclosure, Scott King's Red Dragonfly Press has published three books of my poems, and has another one of mine forthcoming.)

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks very much for the thoughts - envisioning Lillie as a sort unspoken exchange has always been something that seemed right to me. Doing this post puts it out in the open for poets who 1) can't afford to buy sample copies from every press they send to also to promote 2)establishing a possible dialogue between poet and editor and specifically in this case 3) to see if, on the net, anybody really cares about a frankly old school value like this.

I didn't know about Scott's book of translations so thanks very much for the supplying the link. I believe I'll go back in and put it in the post, too.


Charles Gramlich said...

Now I have to wonder whether I forgot the SASE on the poems I sent you recently. It's been a while since I sent anything out in an envelope. Egads.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Charles, no worries, I've got it ... Don