This Flutter and Its Fall Out
First, what Brett Ortler posted, that started the dust-up: The Half-Hearted Acceptance Letter
HTML Giant picked up the "story" asking "BlazeVOX goes Vanity Press?"
BlazeVOX responds via their blog. First saying they rescind the program then in the next post announcing the closing of the press at the end of the year.
At this point, activity in part the "poetry world" over the internet via Facebook, other blogs and comment threads is all up and down the issue, some defending BlazeVOX, some outraged, some skeptical but still appreciative of the work that BlazeVOX does in publishing very good but not as "usual" writing.
As a result...all sorts of stuff happened.
Brett Ortler writes a post, which isn't a mea culpa for airing the sort-of acceptance letter that upset him in the first place. It was instead a posting of his opinion on the fall out and how it needn't be as extreme as it was. "Blazevox Doesn’t Need to Go Under"
BlazeVOX reverses its decision to close down. (Thank goodness.) Geoffrey Gatza gets a huge outcry of support from lots of people so he changes tack and posts this note to the BlazeVOX community.
Then he posts another note clarifying things in an Action Plan of not having a co-operative model and instead finding other ways to fund the press.
Things seemed to work out for the best, maybe even for the better, for everyone. The comments section of these posts can get pretty nasty if you look through them. People are very passionate on both sides. For my part, I agree with the person who said that what Geoffrey Gatza was doing with the co-operative model was completely rational and understandable but it should have been noted publicly on the BX website. I hope that Brett Ortler doesn't face a backlash, because I think he was justifiably upset, not expecting such a letter to begin with. Many people seemed to be annoyed with the fact that he was upset and didn't think it was justified. Perhaps the way he went about it could have been handled better, with more contemplation, less tone of outrage.
I think it's hard to be a poet or any type of artist and navigate your way through all the weird twists and turns out there. Speak up? Stay quiet? Send out work? Just share it with friends? Share it with no one and just enjoy writing? Get an MFA? A PhD? Skip it and teach yourself poetry and get a degree in something more concrete (ie useful, ie something that has a more solid chance of helping you make money -- though making money seems to be a very difficult thing in any field these days...) Everyone has to forge their own path or skip it altogether and do something else. However it goes, it's not easy one way or the other.
I hope that the results of this blow up are that any co-operative presses are very clear in their practice. Conversely, it would also be good if people gave it a good think before airing grievances. It's good to be hyperaware of people who try to prey on aspiring artists, but it's also important to call the right people out for such behavior. Geoffrey Gatza isn't Poetry.com. Not by a mile.
Another thing that came out of this that was good was a discussion of funding, availability and the future of "experimental poetry" (for lack of a better term) in a world where money for the marginal arts no longer comes in the way it used to. But there are plenty of people who continue to live in and want to support this world and there are lots of ways to go about staying afloat.
And finally, one of the best things to come from this was an acknowledgement of the good work BlazeVOX has done, publishing work that perhaps wouldn't get known but really really should because, though it's different, or especially because it's different, it should be out there.
Suspended Imagination, by Florine Melnyk is a very good example.