21 May 2009

interview: ben biesek

New Media Literature, Small Press and
Interrelated Banalities of a Poetic Existence

As a writer I am dependent on the little publishing houses as well as the on-line and print magazines and journals to get my writing out. Sure, I could post my stuff on-line in a Wordpress blog or on MySpace, but those venues lacked certain “realness.”

A writer I respect a great deal, enough not to mention by name and get them involved in my petty ad-ventures, has said to me: “If you are serious about writing, you should be serious about publishing.

At some point I decided to submit to an on-line journal. I followed the advise of some, ignored most and sent 3-5 poems off (embedded in the email, of course.) and waited impatiently for my acceptance. It never came. For three months I repeated this effort with several journals. The rejections stacked up. At another equally vague point in my poetic maturation I discovered Benjamin Biesek’s Cause & Ef-fect Magazine. I sent the email and to my surprise, and that of my mother, I got accepted. Benjamin gained an instant lifelong fan.

Over the last couple of years I have watched Cause & Effect mature into one of the better literature journals. Tightly edited and deftly designed; each issue is unique, primarily due to the mix of writers, in short, a badass publication.

Recently, during an extended drunken conversation with several colleagues, (again nameless as I cannot coherently remember who I had this conversation with) around a fire pit in Palm Springs, California in December 2008, drunk on Two Buck Chuck Merlot, I began to ponder the future of literature, small press publications and the interrelated banalities of a poetic existence. As the conversation began to wane, due primarily to the lack of additional Two Buck Chuck, a few of us perused the Internet, looking at on-line journals and blogzines. Another thought hit me: New Media Literature.

Incited and inspired, I sat up all night, or what was left of it, thinking about the future. Where is the small press going? Is New Media Literature a real movement, such as Black Mountain or the Beats? Am I sitting on the cusp of something?

I came to realize that I have a unique position. One, I write for publication. That’s the only way I write and I only write for myself. Two, I publish a journal that no one has heard of, Heroin Love Songs. Three, I have a small press, d/e/a/d/b/e/a/t press, that retains its anonymity with pride. Point being I have a toe in several ponds. And I have friends. I can do this.

Benjamin and I traded a few emails, discussing the possibility of an interview that covered the core of my curiosity, New Media Literature and the State of Publishing. What follows is my first experience with being the interviewer, and not the interviewee. It’s not so easy. But Benjamin is very kind and understanding. I only annoyed him a little bit.

* * *

During January of 2009 I started and stopped my list of questions. This is not an easy task. I am taking a relatively broad topic and trying to distill it into something I can actually understand.

After completing the first list of Q’s, I decided I would ask other editors, writers, friends, foes and anar-chists their opinions on the same topic.
Benjamin is victim one.

Late on January 31, 2009 I sent out the questions, excited for the outcome. It dawned on me that I was more excited about questions on poetry and publishing the article than the outcome of the Super Bowl. My life has truly changed 180 degrees.

* * *

Jack Henry: With so many on-line lit zines, is it too easy to get published? Or, are there still high standards?

Benjamin Biesek: It’s probably easier to get published these days than in years or decades past, although I wasn’t around in the 60’s and 70’s and so {I} can’t speak to that time and place. But cer-tainly it seems like there are more lit publications now than then, hence it would seem to follow that there are more opportunities to put your work out there, so to speak.

As far as overall standards goes, I can only speak for myself; for my standards as a publisher, and I think that the easy assumption, that the standards have declined, is not necessarily true. Whose stan-dards are we talking about? And what are the standards? Random House has standards, the Paris Re-view has standards, Neon does, Cause & Effect does. It really depends on who you ask. And if the “standards have fallen”, what if anything does that mean?

First question, first response and I am not asking the question correctly.

I am curious about standards and quality. With so many zines, blogs, journals run by so many diverse people, certainly some have lower standards than others. Of course that sounds arrogant, I know that, but if each zine, blog, journal published nothing but the cream of the crop, wouldn’t we run out of po-etry, or are there that many great poets hiding in basements and posting on MySpace?

Fortunately Benjamin agreed to follow-up questions.

JH: Regarding standards, the question might be, are there any? I realize the bar is set by each entity, but standards as a whole, have they suffered? My answer would be based on the quality of submissions I get and what I read in other places. It’s increasingly a mixed bag.

BB: I think ultimately a literature journal or zine is only so good as the work it prints — design and/or visual presentation are secondary, as they should be. If you look at a publication like Kenyon Review, their layout is simple and bare bones. It’s the work that makes the publication. I think that what a zine, or journal, or digest, prints depends obviously on the editors, those who decide what gets put to ink and paper. Therefore, the standards vary wildly.

Speaking personally, I get anxious sometimes when reading submissions. I try to remember that, at the end of the day, you have to go with your gut. That’s my main criteria when contemplating a work for publication: Does it move me in a meaningful way? If so, then I’m apt to publish it.

Okay, so I asked the question wrong and I am being arrogant, but I do agree with Benjamin about indi-vidual criteria for publication. It’s really up to the editor. They print what they like, based on their in-dividual experience they bring to the reading of a particular piece under consideration.

JH: Are blogs diluting the quality of writing available?

BB: I think that blogs should be categorized separately from the small press/underground press zines and publications. They’re entities unto themselves, and should be seen as such. Blogs aren’t nearly as important as people make them out to be—a very select sliver of the world’s population even cares about the cultural impact of blogs. Certain blogs gain notoriety because the author has something valuable or insightful to say. You can find poor and high quality in all walks of life. Blogs are no excep-tion.

Personally I don’t subscribe to any blogs, and rarely read them. I don’t particularly care to read my own blog either. They shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Most blogs suck, I agree with that. Waste question, move on.
Or is it? Blogs are integral to New Media. They are free, ubiquitous, viral; everyone has one. My grandmother has one about Septuagenarian Recovering Neo-Nazi’s. That she gets over a thousand hits a month horrifies me. But they aren’t a part of this conversation. At least at the moment.
JH: Have social networks such as MySpace and Facebook led to a new revitalizing in writing, specifically poetry?

BB: I think so, certainly. Networking is a big part of the small press scene. Small presses and zines couldn’t do what they’re doing without the Internet. At the same time, it’s pretty limited in a way. I think such networks have opened more doors, so in that sense there is a revitalization underfoot, but just how far that radiates out in the real world is a difficult question that I think often times is not given tough thought.

Poetry does seem to be undergoing a renaissance, but again, perhaps, that’s a misperception. How many people are reading your work, if you’re published by a zine? So, you have to ask the question, to what length or distance does this revitalization travel? Just because a small press publishes your work doesn’t mean there’s a great rebirth of poetry—that’s not to demean the poet or the press or zine, just to try and be realistic about things. There is something inherently valuable about the act of publishing. But we have to be careful about missing the forest for the trees—maybe the forest isn’t as big as you perceive it to be.

Notably, I don’t think the readership of poetry has grown along with these social networks; it may be giving them more food for thought, but you don’t see more gravitation towards the art of poetry. At least I don’t.

The first of a few oh shit moments.

Benjamin hits on a good point, one that I never considered when I started my press. Just because it’s printed, doesn’t mean it’s out there. Some of us have learned that the hard way.

When I started d/e/a/d/b/e/a/t press I had a Field of Dreams moment. If I build it, they will come. I found excellent writers, I edited the fuck out of each manuscript, I had people reread, revise and review, I got a webpage, I put out bulletins on MySpace and other places, and waited.

And waited…

Marketing is essential to any business and certainly a social network can help, but you need to push hard and often. When a press has one main cat doing the deed, marketing can slip, and who has the money to do it right? Few. “Just because you made doesn’t mean the masses will buy it.” That still resonates and will always resonate. Lesson learned.

But I disagree with Benjamin about readership. I think more people read a wider variety of poetry due to the worldwide accessibility the Internet offers. The Internet has opened a great many doors for in-quiry. Without it, I would have never found Benjamin or Cause & Effect, of all the writers I appeared with in my first publication.
JH: But with more zines, more poets being accepted, and, one might suppose, a greater offering with a greater potential readership, wouldn’t there be a renaissance based on access alone?

BB: In a way I think that’s absolutely right: Poetry is certainly more accessible and more of it is being published. In that sense certainly there’s a renaissance of sorts. I guess I’m trying to compare it with, say, the 1960’s and the Beat generation. I’m trying to place your question in some sort of context. Maybe I’m missing something here.

The thought of poetic movements, as Benjamin mentions, has begun to hammer my skull. I know of a few in England, a couple in France, one guy in Spain but few in the USA. With the Internet being as ubiquitous and egalitarian perhaps a movement that is absolutely focalized around a journal, location or school of thought is not necessary for a rebirth or renaissance in poetry or writing.
JH: It is my sense that poetry has regained some prominence. I base this assumption on new on-line zines and blogs on social networks, yet it also appears people do not buy poetry related products. What can you attribute this to?

BB: I would agree with both of those points. Poetry has never really been for the masses—at one time poetry was very popular, but I think poetry really was something other than poetry back then. I mean, it was poetry, in the true sense, with meter and stanzas; you had people writing villanelles and then abstract poetry, and you had a select part of the readership of poetry that got off on the poetry it-self.

At the same time, poetry for the masses, hundreds of years ago, was entertainment first and literature second. Many people were illiterate; the iPod and MTV did not exist. Poetry served to entertain. The lyrics of a pop song can be quite poetic, but that’s never the focus with the majority of audience. My point here is I think you can draw a line between the apparent new prominence of poetry and the lack of sales—people like to be entertained, but there are new forms of entertainment everyday.

JH: You bring up a great thought. Poetry as entertainment. Isn’t poetry, today, still a form of entertainment? And this may elude to the difference between British and American literature taste. Perhaps Americans view “literature” as entertainment…

BB: A friend of mine said “Poetry is, or should be, mostly, a version of what you honestly feel screaming out of you.” I liked his description; that makes sense to me.

I wouldn’t classify poetry as a form of entertainment any more than I would a good book or a Schnabel painting. Movies, video games, sports — these seem to the chosen forms of entertainment nowadays. Personally, I derive more enjoyment out of a good poem than an NHL game, but I know there are peo-ple out there who have an antithetical view of entertainment. I can’t say how Americans view litera-ture, compared to or irrespective of the Brits. I’m sure it runs the gamut, like with anything. I suppose for some people poetry is far from entertaining.

At this point I will note that I edited and formatted the Q&A before I read it. The big game is on; my team is losing, and then winning before ultimately losing. The irony is not lost on that I am editing an interview about poetry while watching the biggest cash-fucking-cow entertainment event in the free world.

I won’t comment on Benjamin’s responses because they are his and I agree with pieces and bits. For me poetry is entertainment, pure and simple, as is literature, sculpture, painting, dance, classical music; so-called high art. A reader of the form brings a unique experience to the viewing of that object. I re-turn to this concept frequently. Popular culture mediums such as video games, television, film, pulp fiction, comics, and related are every bit art as they are entertainment. Anything consumed by the pub-lic for pleasure can be considered entertainment, anything that detracts or takes one away from the pre-sent mind to a reflective mind, is entertainment.

And yeah, I am a bit of dick for stepping on Benjamin’s answer, but it is an interesting contrast, one I imagine varies widely from person to person.
JH: Will New Media change the way a reader consumes or views literature?

BB: Certainly. I’d very much like to try out one Amazon’s Kindle readers. At first I was appalled by the idea of it, but now I’ve very much intrigued by it.

It seems like we are in a new era in terms of communication, both interpersonal and globally, but it’s hard to historicize when you’re in the moment. But it seems like the digital revolution has had some sort of impact already.

JH: What is the future, as you see it, of New Media and, specifically, publishing in the small press?

BB: I feel that the online small press scene is overpopulated, to the point that its self defeating in a way. At some point I think a culling will happen, especially with the economic downturn. But I don’t think small presses are going away any time soon.

JH: What do you mean, “self defeating?” I think I know what your comment implies but I don’t want to presume…

BB: I think small presses are self-defeating, to a large extent, if the work they publish is not being widely circulated. If you are publishing the work of a poet, that’s great — but if no one reads it, what end are you attaining? Maybe the act of publishing is enough of an end in itself, but I would guess that 9 out of 10 small presses aren’t publishing poetry simply as an act of art. So when I say that the New Media poetry scene is self-defeating because it is overpopulated, I mean simply that no real impact is being made because the work is not getting out there (to a wider audience), yet the concept behind pub-lishing is to do just that: to get your wares out to an audience.

I think you run into problems when you assume that something is creating cultural waves simply be-cause it is out there, on the Internet, available for anyone to read. I think you could look at the Gutten-berg Project of an example of how the New Media was misconstrued. New media is just a vehicle; the content is what matters. If you want to publish poetry for the sake of publishing poetry, there is nothing wrong with that. Just don’t expect a revolution to be borne out of it.

Put another way, I think that the cultural, social, artistic, etc. dynamics surrounding New Media are different than they were for, say, the small press publications of the 1960’s, and I see a lot of e-publications emulating their predecessors, when, in my opinion, that is not enough for survival, let alone flourishing.

Another oh-shit moment. Benjamin schooled me completely with this response.

Going back to another question, about building it and they will come, this question and response circles that same thought. I imagine, and I am going to find out, that many of the publishers that started a jour-nal didn’t do it for the art. Hell, I started mine so I could publish my own work! Both my press and journal are narcissistic realizations of my inner need to scream, look at me! Hopefully I have evolved a bit from trying to out do the alpha ape, but I am afraid of that answer, so I won’t ask it.

New media really is a means to an end. Like the printing press, New Media in its essential forms, car-ries the message and is not necessary the thing we peg art upon. It’s just paper. Somehow I never thought of it this way.

In my simple brain I thought the New Media form was the thing. Sure, you had to have good writing and tight editing, but hell man, I have a journal on the Internet. That’s art, that’s something. It’s some-thing to me, a few in my circle that guy in Spain, but who else.

Some how we have to get past the form and into the substance. There’s a lot of truth in that thought. Benjamin says it well. That question remains unanswered

Note and Disclaimer: Part of my research about New Media led me an on-line writing commonly re-ferred to as the Brutalists. Located in England, the core group developed from email exchange be-tween Benjamin Myers, Adelle Stripe and Tony O’Neill. This lead to an interest in Off Beat Gen-eration and Andrew Gillix, which lead to an interest in movements in general. My supposition sug-gested that New Media Literature might be a movement as well.

While Benjamin Biesek may not know much of the English movements, it did lead to an interesting discourse about music and its relation to poetry.
JH: Do you think there is a difference between writing in England and the United States? I ask this because I am aware of the Brutalist and Off Beat Generation movements but am unaware of any “movements” in the US.

BB: I’m not as up to date on this material as you are, Jack. I can’t really speak to this question. I don’t follow literature—new writers, new movements—that closely. I think there’s always been a cul-tural divide, going back to the American Revolution—maybe that cemented it. You’re talking about dif-ferent countries with inherently different cultures, different ideologies, {and} different points of pride.

I think the Brits are ahead of the Americans in many ways as far as art is concerned. I DJ a radio show and play a lot of new, indie, alternative rock, new electronica, some more obscure stuff. British music, music coming out of the UK—I think the British audience is more sophisticated. They seem to care more about the music itself; Americans seem to be as much concerned with the image and personas of rock and roll as they are with the music itself. Look at Rolling Stone, look at Spin, what they are selling; look at how few people subscribe to The Fader or Wax Poetics, which present more sophisticated and underground reportage. I’m guessing the respective literature “scenes” would follow suit.

JH: This goes back to a comment above. Do you think literature is viewed differently in differ-ent places, such as between England and American or even in classes such as educated and un-dereducated?

BB: I really can’t say. I’m sure it is: I think a populace’s view on literature correlates with many as-pects of that culture. I can’t begin to dissect these influences. I don’t really follow contemporary litera-ture closely at all, so I feel out of my depth here.

JH: And related to the music response in the above question, I agree that music tastes mimic music tastes, to a degree. Where does this “sophistication” come from? I realize this is highly subjective but I am curious.

BB: Yeah, I’m not sure myself, either. All I can say is that there seems to be different cultural atti-tudes when comparing the US and the UK, art and literature included. This could be the result of any number of respective factors: the age of the countries, the food they eat, the sex they have, the number of hours in the workweek.

Sophistication doesn’t equal superiority; I didn’t mean to say that the one scene is better than or supe-rior to the other, that wasn’t my meaning. I meant “sophisticated” as a descriptor of the music itself, not the individuals making the music (or their level of intelligence or craft), if that makes sense.

The respective music scenes in the US and UK are really alive and vibrant right now. There are strengths and weaknesses inherent in each scene, on both sides of the pond. I think the US still outdoes the UK when it comes to pure, unadulterated rock and roll, Kings of Leon and My Morning Jacket be-ing two examples.

I feel that this is a golden age of music; that we’re really in one right now. And it’s happening all around the world. You really have a culmination of genres, groups like Animal Collective and Foals and artists like Pete Doherty and Bon Iver who are creating profound music, in the process drawing from the past and synthesizing disparate genres and different musical generations. The Swedes are making great folk music, and you have artists like MIA and Santogold bending genres yet gaining mainstream acceptance at the same time.

The next section focuses on Benjamin’s efforts with his press and related activities. As mentioned I admire small presses, and I strive to make Heroin Love Songs as good as Cause & Effect. While re-lated to the core inquiry, my fan curiosity is evident as well.

After I reread the Q&A I found a few more oh-shit moments buried, gems of knowledge, but it’s also testimony to the struggles each publisher and editor endures. Each day we face challenges in market-ing, distribution, quality, return on investment (and I don’t mean monetary) and a thousand other things.
JH: Would Cause & Effect be as successful without the Internet?

BB: In a word: no. The Internet is very much a jungle, a digital jungle, call it what you will. If you are putting out a zine that has something to say, or a blog that has something to say, then people will gravitate towards it. The Internet just helps you to put your product out there, and then you don’t have much control beyond that.

JH: What is the future of Cause & Effect and the new press you have?

BB: I’m actually going to be taking a hiatus from Cause & Effect beginning this summer, after the Summer 2009 issue, the second annual Art Issue and fourteenth issue all told. [Note: Being a fan this hit me hard. Nothing lasts forever I suppose-Ed.] I’ve been publishing Cause & Effect for nearly two years now. Lately though I’m trying to take more interest in the world around me, in broadening my field of vision; there is a lot of important work that needs to be done. I never really set any goals for myself in terms of my zine; this has been just a sort of experiment in art, so to speak. I enjoy planting seeds, and then letting whatever evolves go to seed at some point.

As far as Poptritus Press goes, I don’t see much of a future for it. I have a couple of projects in devel-opment, both poetry chapbooks, and would love to hook up with some talented artists or writers. I like publishing because it allows me to take the middle man position, in a way that is very much behind the scenes, and I hope to continue my work as a publisher in some way, shape, or form. Finding clients who understand the time and care inherent in good design has been a major stumbling block. It’s been an uphill battle for me, professionally and personally. I think I’m a bit jaded, but hopefully something will come along soon that revitalizes me.

JH: I agree with being jaded. It is tough to run a zine, but Cause & Effect is one of the best out there. The direction you seem to be heading is enviable. With you stepping away, will C&E con-tinue?

BB: It’s too early to say. If someone were to step forward with a sizeable grant, enough to support Cause & Effect Magazine financially, then I would reverse my position in a heartbeat — I really love editing, and print design, and all that; it drives me, to a certain extent.

As it stands now, I put in too many hours and don’t see enough financial return in order to continue on. As you know, running a small press or a zine is a labor of love. I admire anyone who can do it for an extended period of time.

It’s really nice to have received recognition. I appreciate your kind words, you’ve been touting my zine for a while now and I owe you a debt of gratitude. I’ve been blessed to have Cause & Effect received so well. I try to remain humble about it, and to put the work I publish first.

I think change is a good thing, and so I will likely take some time off this summer and reassess things with C&E.

JH: Regarding Poptritus Press, why no future? Is that just you or the state of presses? Your comment, “Finding clients who understand the time and care inherent in good design has been a major stumbling block,” is well taken. I have issues with distribution. I have long thought some sort of guild of presses would help. Do you have any thoughts that might mitigate the issues we face?

BB: I think that answer may have been a bit glib — youth speaking. My answer was purely focused on myself, speaking to the future of my small press, not anyone else’s press. Poptritus will be around through the summer at least, and I hope that it continues on in some form. I’ve got a couple of projects of my own that I will be working on in the coming months, though they’ll just be for a select group of friends and family — art projects, rather than literary endeavors. Ultimately, my position with Poptri-tus is the same with Cause & Effect.

You’ve pose an interesting idea here. A guild or union or sorts might help a little bit, in that pooling resources would mean a group of “little guys” would become a “big guy”, i.e. an entity capable of competing with some of the larger independent presses. I think organizations like Small Press Distribu-tion and Duotrope’s Digest are doing great work, but at the same time there aren’t a lot of services that cater to the typical small press. It’s really a tough market, for various reasons. Really it seems to boil down to cold, hard cash. Cash can help mitigate some of those issues such as distribution, advertising, paying contributing writers, and so on. There’s a feedback loop there.

I don’t know if any of that resonates with you or not. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

JH: With big house publishing companies in decline as well as book shops, do you think “lit-erature” as we might refer to it today, will continue to have value in an American life and, if so, how would one consume it?

BB: That’s a good question, and a difficult one to answer. I certainly hope literature continues to have value. I live for magazines like The Sun and Harper’s, for radio shows like Selected Shorts or This American Life; I know I’m not alone, though I also know that the audiences and demographics for such forms of literature are limited. I think the truly talented writers will continue to find a venue for their work, and I hope there work is being read. Authors like John Wray, David Foster Wallace, BolaƱo, Chabon—these are very talented writers who deserve our attention.

It’s impossible to say exactly why these publishing houses are in decline—maybe new media is playing a role in this. Newspaper circulation numbers are falling, but you could argue that the American popu-lace is more informed than ever. Maybe the decline of the big publishers is a result of shifting priorities in the world today, or maybe it’s because a lot of what they publish is shit. I think the myth that no one reads any more is just that, a myth, but perhaps there is some credence to the claim. I’m sure there are one thousand factors contributing to this decline. Whose to say that the Readers are more responsible than the Publishers, or vice versa, or if the Authors are to blame. If the demand is dwindling, maybe that’s because the quality of the supply is poor.

Ultimately, literature is art. Art is inherently valuable to humans. And so I have to believe that good books and good poetry will be here for a while longer.

JH: Well, Ben, I don’t know where big publishers are going. Their business model is failing, costs are rising, quality is dropping, audience is fading…it’s a big issue. But I think the future will be bright. It is my belief that smaller presses (I hate the term “Small Press”) will come fur-ther to the forefront. Each press will have two to five authors and really do the books right, al-though, writers making a living writing will become more of an exception.

BB: I think you’re more in tune with the state of publishing than I am, Jack. You could be right. Briefly, I would say that small presses will remain small presses, and big presses will remain big presses, and you can’t be one or the other.

I’d be curious to hear more of your thoughts on this subject. Do you see the big-name publishers being supplanted by the small guys, or do you just think that there will be more parity eventually? I hope you’re right about a bright future for the little guys.

It’s now well North of Midnight and February 2, 2009. I am officially forty-five. I reread the section above a couple of times and realized that we, and I say we most generically, are in the midst of change. Okay, I know we have all heard the word change a bit much in the last two years, but in terms of pub-lishing, the change is here.

In the middle of December 2008, many of the big NY City publishing houses started cleaning house. Mass layoffs, delays in publication, trims in author lists; it’s a new day, and that anyone is surprised is, well, as surprise. The business model of relying a big sellers to pay for smaller, “arty” things is des-tined to fail. When I mention a silver lining in the above exchange I really mean it.

When a large structure breaks down, either intentionally or by market forces, the fallout will create amazing things. Some of the suddenly unemployed editors will find other jobs at other houses, some will leave publishing and become lawyers or managers at Wal-Mart, but a few will see the opportunity, the moment at hand. They will start a press or a journal, they will try just as the rest of us, no different than the rest of us, different only in the way their point-of-view is educated.

Benjamin suggests that big presses will survive. I think he is right. They will crumble a bit, but merg-ers will happen. Someone has to publish cookbooks and self-help texts. But little guys, like Benjamin Biesek will continue on and put out an amazing product. It’s not easy. After reading Benjamin’s com-ments, anyone can see that. He said it earlier; maybe we are too deep into the forest to understand the trees.

New presses will come and go. I see it every day. Good writing will boil to the top, always does, al-ways will. Some things are certainties. How they are carried to market, how they are consumed will surely change. We live in ever changing world and the poets will always strive to explore those changes through their words, revelations, insights. It can be entertaining, it can be art.

Benjamin Biesek has made me look at this project differently. New Media is a means to an end. Seems simple now, but I am pretty dense. New Media Literature is the art that is carried through to the con-sumers by a particular media. Key in the conversation is that there are bound to be a dazzling array of opinion, each comment valid, unique, and pointing the discourse to a conclusion.

One/Two person presses will eventually realize they need to work with other like-minded presses to survive. A guild of presses with common goals, common means might be an avenue to survival. Members of that guild will have from 2 to 10 writers that they promote, print and publish. They can focus on those efforts. Combining those efforts with others provides a breadth of offerings. Through joint marketing and distribution these presses will benefit from size and the ability to act as a bigger press, but retain their uniqueness. When you are drowning on a wide-open sea it is better to work to-gether and survive longer, than to drown and die alone. Each press and publisher will bring a unique aspect to the endeavor. Indeed there is strength in numbers.

JH: I really appreciate you candid comments. Any parting shots? Any guidelines for submit-ting to Poptritus Press?

BB: All of my projects to date with Poptritus Press (all of them poetry chapbooks) feature a serial-ized cover design, which I modeled after Tschichold’s work with Penguin as well as some other great designs from back in the day. I’d love to develop some more poetry chapbooks, keeping with the serial-ized cover — thus creating an aesthetic or “look” for Poptritus’ poetry books. Creating a series of a dozen or so titles with the Poptritus cover is what I had in mind initially.

I’d also love to sink my teeth into a meatier project, like designing a novel or an art book, something that will test my abilities as a designer. Basically I’m open to any and all ideas for projects associated with Poptritus. I have no formal training in graphic design yet am inextricably and unexplainably drawn to publishing. I love everything about it, and would love to continue on with it.

The dream, of course, is to find clients for whom money is no object, or who is interested in a book de-sign that is going to push the boundaries of creativity, or both. I’m willing to work tirelessly and dili-gently for my client, so long as compensation is provided.

JH: Last thought – I knew we should do this on the show. It would have been great but this rocks as well. Thanks my friend, and if I can help in any way, let me know.

BB: Thanks so much, Jack. You’ve got a good thing going with d/e/a/d/b/e/a/t and Heroin Love Songs. I hope your fire doesn’t burn out any time soon.

I sincerely appreciate being given this opportunity. It’s been fun.

I consider Benjamin Biesek a friend and I admire the work he does with Cause & Effect greatly. Early into this whole interview process I realized I couldn’t do it in a traditional way. Hopefully Benjamin realizes that if I disagree with him it’s with the utmost respect. This interview stated as a first stab at a project and ended up being a revealing introspection into small press, publishing, journals, New Media Literature, and the interrelated banalities of a poetic existence.
You can reach Benjamin Biesek at:

You can reach Jack Henry at:

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