21 May 2009

interview: mikaeil covey

Lit Up Magazine

JACK HENRY: What was your motivation to start an on-line magazine?

MIKAEL COVEY: I never had any idea of starting a lit zine. But a while back I saw where Matt Borondy of Identity Theory was looking for assistant editors; and also planning a big makeover for his ezine. So I thought of all the things I’d like to see in an on-line magazine - streaming video, live chat, music, art, great writing of all sorts and shapes. And I figured why not try these myself, instead of just making suggestions.

Thing is, you need to be a web designer (or have a good friend who is) to make that work. Or spend thousands of dollars to buy all that good stuff. Believe me, I tried that route. Fortunately Wordpress has some standard formats and widgets that work pretty well. So I asked a few friends to send me some stuff, and when I put it all together, it looked great, amazing really - poetry by Juan Israel and Justin Hyde, music from Matthew Coleman and Don Eminizer, fiction by Levi Asher, Joe Ridgwell, and Bill Ectric. Man, what a fantastic way to start. Since then, some really great writers and artists have sent some really great stuff.

For me, it’s been a marvelous opportunity to meet and get to know a lot of wonderful people in the lit biz; plus the great joy and satisfaction of being able to do things your own way. For example, Lit Up Magazine has no submission guidelines. Writers, artists, musicians, are free to send whatever they want, in whatever manner they choose. And that’s how it has to be. We should never suppress or diminish the creative genius of talented people by saying, “this is what we want” or “this is what we’re looking for.” Absolutely not, no way, not ever!

To impose restrictions or guidelines on the creative talent is tantamount to saying “I know better than you what art should look like” or “this is what our audience wants or has come to expect.” Hogwash! It is the creative genius who decides what shape art will take. It is the creator, the writer, composer, who decides what the audience needs to hear, see, and feel. This is the way, and the only way that art can flourish and be our guide to a better humanity.

And that’s the whole point. Art means something. It isn’t just entertainment like football on TV. No, it is the very gist and core of what we are, could be, and should be. We are what we read, to paraphrase Northrop Frye. Which is to say, everything we know about right and wrong, truth and beauty, life and death, derives from our literature. Our morals, our mores and culture, come to us from the various bibles, from the writings of Homer and Shakespeare, Sartre, Nietzsche, Hemingway, and a host of others. This is who we are, what we know.

That’s why I feel so strongly about the value and function of writing. Not just to entertain and amuse, but to tell us about life and how to live it. That’s the real value of Dan Fante and Tony O’Neill, Jack Kerouac, Leonard Cohen, Bradbury, Vonnegut, and all the other great writers and artists who touch our souls and make a lasting impact on our lives.

JH: It’s interesting that you say, “Art means something. It isn’t just entertainment like football on TV,” and then say, “…I feel so strongly about the value and function of writing. Not just to entertain and amuse, but to tell us about life and how to live it.” You did warn about contradictions and that’s to be expected, life is contradiction. I agree with your thoughts about the “value and function of writing.” Literature used to be considered “high art.” The contradiction I outline suggests a difference between “high” and “low” art. Some have suggested that the line between high and low art has diminished greatly. In your opinion, where does literature exist? And, shouldn’t it educate and inform, as well as entertain?

MC: No contradiction at all. Literature always was and will be one of the highest art forms because it is so intrinsic to our being. To any extent describable, we think and feel in words. But I don’t get the term “low art.” Sounds like an oxymoron to me. JP Sartre said literature is a captivating means of conveying philosophical truths. Jimi Hendrix said (of music) it breaks down the barriers. To me, that is the function of literature - to draw the audience in, and touch them with truth.

JH: Do you think you could have, or even would have, gotten into this without the Internet?

MC: No, never. The computer and Internet have given us this fantastic gift of being able to connect to six billion people across the far reaches of the planet. That’s my target audience and my goal - to bring all the peoples of the world together. To share our stories and experiences, get to know one another. To realize that we are all one people, with similar wants and needs, similar loves and dreams of what we could be. What life could be like with all of us pulling together instead tearing each other apart?

Back in the day, having been dismissed from every good job I ever had, I found myself working as a campus cop (like the character in Henry Baum’s book). One of my co-workers was a handsome young ex-Marine who was studying philosophy and literature. Naturally we had a lot to talk about. He was a shy kid, like me when I was his age. So I kept trying to convince him to screw every pretty girl on cam-pus. I mean, you only live once, and a man’s reach should locate a young girl’s crotch, or what’s a heaven for?

The kid suggested I read Kerouac’s On the Road, and it changed my life. I got back into writing, and found the perfect use for our office computers and printers. Then one day I was called into the boss’s office. He handed me a sheet of paper from a book I was writing. And I began to pray… “Please Lord, let this be a page with nothing on it about drugs and sex.” And so it was. Yeah, I got chewed out for using office equipment to write my books, but at least they didn’t find out what I was writing about.

I read most all of Kerouac’s stuff and started in on William Burroughs. But when I searched “Naked Lunch” on the Internet, I wound up at Levi Asher’s lit blog of the same name. This was many a year ago. And my insightful and frequent comments led an enthusiastic Levi Asher to respond “damnit Mike, this is my magazine. If you wanna run everything, why don’t you start your own?”

JH: Do you think there is a revival, or renaissance in literature, and if not literature which is be-coming harder to clearly define anymore, quality writing?

MC: Absolutely. The computer and the Internet have given us all the chance to be writers, editors, and publishers. And that’s a good thing, a wondrous thing. All people are talented, if we as a society would but recognize and develop those talents. Everyone has something to say, and a desire to be heard. Of course, some might have more to say than others, or a more facile and attractive way of saying it. Which is how we come to define concepts like literature, art, and quality writing. These aren’t nebulae, or simply a matter of personal taste or preference.

Art is excellence, the “better than” ordinary. It is fresh, different, powerful, moving. It is meaningful, impactful, makes a difference in our lives. It is the highest that we can achieve. Not a matter of “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” We live in a world of words, and we use these to describe, to think, to understand. Perfect example: Watch Sasha Cohen and Yevgeny Plushenko skate. Nobody can skate like that, ever could. That is art, the best.

Read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It is a great book. “The Little Robot” by Bill Ectric, is a great short story. And thanks to our technology, we can all reach for the stars. You and me, and David LaBounty, Joe Ridgwell, all of us, can write books, poems, stories, essays, whatever. And a lot of it is great stuff, art.

JH: Currently, is there a difference in the “state” of literature between the UK and the US? I have always thought Brits are better “read” and more aware of literature’s value. Is this a valid statement? Or am I full of shit?

MC: Yes and no. People across the world are pretty much the same, as far as I know. Some have cocks, some have pussies. Other than that, we’re quite similar. We all want to be loved, we want people to think we’re special, and for them to treat us that way. To say that Americans read shit, and Brits read lit, is a ridiculous over-simplification. It would be to stereotype the average American as a hulking idiot who reads Playboy just to look at the pictures. And to stereotype Brits as erudite poetic souls in tweed jackets reading Dostoyevsky.

Fact is, nobody reads literature because nobody is aware of its value. Not even writers, and especially not editors and publishers. We have to do all we can to change that, if we want a sane and decent planet where the George Bushes of the world are laughed at instead of elected president. Fact - we are what we read.

JH: Has the definition of “literature” changed? Or, perhaps, our ability to quantify something as “literary?” For example: Some suggest that graphic novels are a form of literature, as well as the Pop Art movement of Rothko and Warhol for the late 50s and 60s.

MC: Literature is writing that makes a significant impact on s a person’s life. That could be different for each person. Brad Hamlin has a great fondness for the comic books of his lost youth; but these mean nothing to me. On the other hand, I think the movie version of “Sin City” is great art. Categorizing is one of the ways we understand. E.g., this thing, which is new to me, can be understood by putting it into this category of things I already know. But we have to realize that that’s all categorizing is - a method to help us understand. It’s very wrong to try to pigeon holing everything into a category and then marking it off as “understood.”

JH: I agree that my comment about British v. American is an “over-simplification.” However, in my experience, Americans tend to look down on intellectual endeavors, and defining something as “literature” is a negative rather than positive. NEW MEDIA LITERATURE, in my opinion, is redefining the way we categorize literature, in a sense we may not consider NEW MEDIA writing literature, and yet your definition of literature claims the opposite. How would you respond to this statement?

MC: Most people in the world don’t have the educational equivalent of a high school diploma. I don’t think that makes them anti-intellectual, but rather the victims of aristocratic governments, which deliberately maintain a poorly educated working class - minimum wage slavery. But humans, by nature, crave knowledge. It takes a very concerted effort by aristocrats to eradicate this natural craving. Thoreau said “the pupil is never educated to the level of understanding, but only to the level of trust and obedience.” Even so, people still go to the library, just that they don’t know what they’re looking for.

Editors and publishers suffer this same affliction. They think it has to be gorier, bloodier, and raunchier, more depraved, more horrifying to continually shock and awe the coliseum audience. But the secret truth is - humans crave knowledge, not depravity. And we need to make editors and publishers aware of that.

JH: With the advent of the Internet, access to new writers has become easier. To me it seems there are new blogzines, web pages, journals, etc. that claim to be “literary” appearing every day. Are there too many journals? Is it too easy to get published? And, related, has the value of being published been decreased?

MC: Oh my God, no. All the new zines, all the new writers, are constantly raising the bar so high, so very high, that it becomes increasingly more difficult to get published all the time. We’re not competing with a few people for a few slots; we’re competing with the whole world for a very few slots. The more we read, the more we discover just how many truly gifted writers there are out there. It’s like, if I were to write a poem, it’d almost have to be one of the best ever written just to compete with the stuff people are publishing every day.

But I think fiction is a bit of a different cookie. Way way way too many fiction writers are being forced to write for the “guidelines” of the zines they submit to. And it’s almost a dreary redundant genre in itself - the lit zine genre. “We want tough raw edgy stories of real life on the mean streets.” Yeah, okay, so…you want me to just copy the same story over and over again, and maybe change the names here and there; and that’s about it. Dog shit, man. That ain’t art, that’s just a redundant self-diminishing genre. I repeat, I scream, don’t tell artists-writers what to write or how to write it!

We need to take a step back and think about what writing actually is - it’s basically people talking to other people. And whether you jazz it up into fancy packages, or apply all sort of prestigious awards, it still comes down to that.

Writing is about informing people how to live together, how to be not just a good person, but also the absolute best they can be, to maximize that unlimited human potential whereupon we make something grand and wonderful out of this place. Not the concrete jungle rat cage known as San Francisco, but a thriving community of artists and poets and musicians and craftsman who use their talents and skills to help one another. To help everybody, so that we’re all special, loved, appreciated, cared for, and useful.

JH: Powerful comment. Perhaps because I focus on poetry and not fiction I don’t see the “guide-lines” as cornering a writer into a formula. But you make an interesting point. Is there a big difference between the rules for poetry and those for fiction?

MC: There are no rules. Anyone who’s ever experienced complete freedom knows what I mean. Those who haven’t don’t have a clue. Artists make their own rules, and then break them whenever they want to or need to. It’s an essential part of creativity. Editors who live by guidelines and rules are pretty much puppeteers pulling the strings - “dance you little writers, dance for me!”

JH: Along with all the new outlets to get published in periodicals, there seem to be a number of new presses. With the slow death of big publishing houses in the US, is small press the future?

MC: The death of big publishing is greatly exaggerated. As a world community we are moving in two directions simultaneously - upscale and self-determination. Both are born out of an increase in personal wealth and education. More people than ever before are getting ahead, getting a chance to be independent and self-sufficient. And at the core is reading. To be able to survive in this environment, we all have to be very well informed, knowledgeable, and far-sighted. We have to be readers, just to get by.

And as our numbers swell - those of us who are getting by - there will be a comparable increase in the numbers of those who want more, who want to know why, want to make their own reasons and their own way in life. The hippie movement of the sixties and seventies was simply the first wave of this, the opening salvo. But it will come as fast and furious as a tidal wave and just as relentless, washing over everything and everyone. The need for self-determination is the ultimate culmination in Marlowe’s hierarchy.

In search of a reason to be, more and more people will turn to reading for the answers. You will see them reading books at baseball games and basketball games. Reading is going to be the new chic. Everyone will be doing it. Visionaries like Andrew Gallix and Tony O’Neill will be at the forefront of this new frontier, but they will be absorbed by big publishing because that’s where the power and the money {is found}.

It will take big publishing a while to catch on. And small presses will always lead the way because they have the passion, the heart, and the love of words to seek out the best writing, and the best writers; to give these a forum, a place, an opportunity to be seen and heard by everyone. But once they rise to their deserved level of popularity, big publishing will grab them up, and the rich will get richer.

But even that won’t be a problem, because in the age of instant publishing, the small presses are here to stay. We will live on and get stronger and stronger simply because we love what we’re doing, we know that it’s right, and ultimately we will be the difference makers in bringing forth a better humanity.

JH: Perhaps I am a cynic, but I don’t agree entirely with your comment, although I admire the optimism. From my point of view big publishing houses are dinosaurs and will decline just as big music labels have. The audience of readers is shrinking as well. Therefore, the number of avail-able sales dollars for best sellers that fund the publishing houses marketing budgets will shrink. Combine this with the growth of print on demand and vanity publishing projects that saturate the consumer.

My concern is that a brilliant writer will by-pass the traditional route to publication, self publish and fade due to lack of exposure, and, potentially, quit writing. Isn’t the current path to publication out of date?

MC: We make a huge mistake in thinking that what is, has always been and always will be. When I was growing up in Nebraska the “family farm” was a permanent entity. But it came and went rather quickly. I anticipate that “cell phone books” will give the reader the option of manipulating what the characters in a story might do. Writers will have the option of continually re-writing and changing whatever they’ve written. Stories will be audible with your choice of who’s playing what role. Sirius radio will be Sirius book download. That sort of thing.

But to answer your question in a more concrete manner, anyone can publish. But even with millions of writers publishing, the one’s who’ll be most read will be those who can market their books to the great-est number of readers. That’s where big publishing houses have it over the little guy - marketing, advertising, access to the NY Times. And that’s not likely to change, even with cell phone books.

JH: In running my own press I have experienced a number of issues that contribute to the demise of on-line ventures. What do you think are some of the bigger challenges your journal faces?

MC: Writers, artists, humanists, face the one and same challenge over and over again - the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Our own failings, failures, and sadness in life. The sadness of wanting to be good people, do the right thing, and never being able to measure up to our own high standards. We hate ourselves for not being the exemplary role models we want to be. We detest our own shortcomings, our mortality, our brevity, and our inability to make all things right at the snap of a finger. And most of all, nobody understands us, nobody ever knows the scared little child hiding inside each of us.

In short, we are our own worst enemies. We suffer horrible depressions, hide in addictions, and run from ourselves and the hurt and death that surround everything. When what we need to do is to buck each other up. Writing…and knowing things, is such a sad lonely occupation. Our minds and souls exist in attics and basements. We are the invisible wanderers at our jobs and even our own homes. Our own family members see us, talk to us, and don’t have a clue as to who we really are. They think we are clowns, deluded with absurd visions of grandeur that will never come to pass. And often, we see that more clearly and starkly than anyone else. For us, it is always a constant struggle, just to be.

We only really exist at informal get-togethers with others artists and like-minded individuals. Only then do our thoughts and our souls fly free and soar above the din and clutter of the daily grind. Our chal-lenge, our one and only hurdle and stumbling block, is to be able to keep on, to keep going, to laugh in the face of eternal obscurity, and never doubt that we are on the right path. To receive our daily rejec-tions and notices that we aren’t good enough, that our lives, our work and our being doesn’t measure up, doesn’t count, doesn’t matter to anyone. That is the challenge we face, and it isn’t easy.

JH: That is an amazing answer that goes in a direction I never imagined. You point to the soli-tary existence of an artist, as well, as a key reason artists gather together forming movements, schools, etcetera, or reach out on social networks. Do you think outlets such as Facebook or MySpace can “save” the artists from themselves?

MC: No. People give me “a hug” on Facebook but it isn’t the same as naked bodies rubbing against one another. There is an aura effect when humans are physically together. My grandparents played cards for sixty years until the card games had no meaning except to bond two people into the feeling of being one.

Shaking hands with a true friend, holding hands with someone you love, these are things that make us feel, make us know about being alive. I kinda miss that.

JH: Is there too much product? I am thinking specifically about too many chapbooks, too many web sites, journals, etc.?

MC: If you’ve ever seen the circus as a child, ever experienced Christmas morning, awake and alive, the whole world glowing before your eyes, you aren’t likely to ask if there’s too much of this, too much of a good thing, too much sunshine and too many flowers. I’ve never heard of an author spending his time, pouring out heart and soul, and finally getting something published at an ezine, or finally getting his lifelong work published as a chapbook - who wasn’t grateful, thrilled, ecstatic that at long last someone is listening, someone actually approves, likes, admires what he’s doing, what he is.

Maybe your question is - does it all have to be great. I don’t know. I can’t erase every good word I’ve ever written and try to replace it with something great. Why would I, who would I do that for. I can’t come before the Sunday congregation and say, “we’re skipping today’s sermon because I’m all out of great words.” I can only tell you what I know. I can only say it the way I know how. If it’s good enough, maybe you’ll like it, or maybe someone else will. Maybe on my wavelength there’s only one other per-son out there who’ll say “yeah, I get it, that’s great, that’s really special.” And maybe that’s the one person I’m trying to reach. Maybe that’s all I need, all that I’m here for.

Currently, most people don’t read. And those who do don’t read literature. That is the battle we are fighting, and every new zine, lit site, chapbook, and writer, is an ally in that battle. We need more, not less. Literature isn’t a good fun amusing distraction. It is an essential. Every piece of lit is an extension of the various bibles, philosophies, and histories; telling us who we are, why we are, and what we should be. Writers are people with something to say, but unfortunately nobody wants to listen. So every new venue that gives a writer a forum, a platform from which to yell out his truth is a good thing, a great thing.

JH: The more I read your responses; the more I admire your point of view. It’s fantastic. It seems to me that you have approached your responses from a very artistic point of view, in that your support of the artist within their art is absolute. That is why I asked a number of people to respond to my questions. Perspective is unique to the individual.

To clarify: I agree artists should release any and everything that is viable and deemed worthy of that production. However, I have noticed some authors have works released very close together. I am an example of this. I had one chapbook released in November and another in January. As-suming I have fans, and I say this with utter humility, releasing so close, or glutting the market, decreases the immediate value of the work.

All I am suggesting with the original question is that too much product “may” dilute the “desire” of a consumer to pursue that writer’s work. Again, I may be absolutely fucked in my thought. Any thoughts?

MC: We writers have a natural tendency to write our one story over and over again. Maybe because it is so important to us, so intrinsic to our being; and keep trying to get it right, make it perfect. But it’s probably better if we switch up; do things entirely different from time to time. Dare to go in different directions, push us to new styles, themes, and genres. I think you see that in both Shakespeare and Faulkner, the willingness to take the challenge, to leave the comfort zone and explore the unknown.

JH: Okay, switching gears, just a bit. My original intention for my inquiry revolved around the evolution of “literary movements.” I wanted to compare the evolution from the early 20th century to today. While it has evolved into a broader inquiry to the importance of New Media, I learned from my research that groups such as the Brutalists and Off Beat Generation came into existence due in part to social networking. In your opinion, is there a new literary movement afoot?

MC: Hopefully there’re a hundred new literary movements afoot, or a thousand even. The “Brutalists” are three people - Adelle Stripe, Ben Myers, and Tony O’Neill. I can’t speak for them, but I think their movement began as a refusal to be left out or left behind. If they found the doors of big publishing houses shut, and avenues closed off to them, their response was - we’ll make our own way and nobody can stop us. And they’ve been leading the way with a new spirit of literary independence and self-reliance. Their manifesto is perhaps something everyone should take a look at.

The “Offbeats” (I think) are a larger version of the same thing - talented writers banding together to share their work, their influence, and their resources. Andrew Gallix, the founder and chief editor of 3AM magazine, is the central figure in the Offbeat movement, but their numbers include many great writers, editors, and publishers, all with the same goal of making themselves heard in the literary world.

I was extremely lucky to meet Andrew Gallix a couple of years ago when he graciously invited me to a get-together of some of his literary friends. For me as a writer, it was the experience of a lifetime - meeting all these talented and influential people, and getting to know and become friends with some of them. Also gaining some bit of access to their literary sphere. To me, this illustrates the importance of being part of a larger movement of literary figures, and the dynamic effect it can have.

I got to know a little bit about the Offbeat movement; got a chance to meet Tony O’Neill and several other wonderful Offbeat writers - Heidi James, Melissa Mann, Joe Ridgwell, Matthew Coleman, and Lee Rourke. Not only talented and influential artists, but also people you can really enjoy being around and having a drink with.

JH: In the US we had poetic/literary movements germinate around magazines such as the Black Mountain Review, which evolved and/or melded into the Beats. How important are outlets such as Beat the Dust and 3AM to the dissemination of new theory/ideas/etc? (This may seem like an ob-vious question, but I am still not sure how to phrase it. I just wonder if these outlets carry the in-fluence or the writers?)

MC: I can’t speak for 3AM or Beat the Dust, but if they include Offbeat and Brutalist writers among their other contributors, I imagine that is based on the merits of the writing. My own experience is that friends don’t hesitate a second in rejecting my submissions if it’s something they don’t care for, or that doesn’t make the cut. In fact, probably the way you get to be an “Offbeat” writer is that somebody likes your writing and from there you get to know them and get to become a part of that circle.

As to whether it is the magazines or the writers who carry the influence, I think it’d have to be both. These magazines attract top-notch writers because they have a reputation for publishing top-notch writ-ing. And all of that leads to a wide readership, a large audience, and thus an escalating level of influ-ence for both the publishers and the writers.

And this is a good thing, or a great thing - if the writing can carry it off. Inevitably, it is the content, the words, and stories, poems, whatever, that is going to continually impress and attract a large number of readers. That’s the continuing challenge for everyone involved in this process. Okay, these magazines have provided you with a forum to speak to a lot of people - now, you better have something to say, and it better be good, or the readers are gonna go someplace else, in the click of a button.

But you can’t underestimate the value of being published in a big time magazine like 3AM or Beat the Dust. I think Tony O’Neill said the first thing he ever published was in 3AM. Maybe that was a spark or a breakthrough that helped ignite his great literary career. For me, it was a marvelous feeling of personal success and affirmation, to have something in Beat the Dust and 3AM magazine, or any of the top literary zines that are so hard to get into. You feel like thanking these people over and over again for giving you a chance.

JH: Do you think there will be a day when there’s a central Web site, along the lines of an Ama-zon that readers could turn to for underground writers? Or would the goal be to get broader dis-tribution?

MC: Well first off, as we’ve been discussing literary movements, one of the biggest and best connected is Outsider Writers, which is another group that I feel very privileged and honored to be a small part of. The Outsiders are a rather loosely affiliated though tightly connected group of North American writers whose goal of bringing meaningful literature to the public’s attention is quite similar to that of the Brutalists and Offbeats.

As for a central web site for underground writers, that sounds like a great idea. In the age of technol-ogy, if you can think it, it’ll happen. And of course, broader distribution - the ability for your words to reach the largest possible audience - is a goal of most writers. But these ideas don’t take into account the financial aspects of reading and writing. As it exists outside the Internet, literature is a business. Writers get paid; book distributors make their living selling this product to paying consumers. Perhaps that system will diminish or fade away in the download age. But I’m not sure that’d be good.

In a sense, I’d like to be able to touch a large audience with my words and ideas. Maybe entertain them and give them something worthwhile to think about. Something better than the stupid pabulum we so often see on television. But…I’d also like to get paid for doing so. I’d like to think that at some point I can write well enough, meaningful enough concepts, that people would buy my books. For the most part, we Internet writers try to put out a great and important literary product. And we do so for free. I suppose most, or at least some of us are hoping this could lead to a big book contract.

In an altruistic sense, I’d like to make a difference in the world. Be a part of changing things for the better. Feel like I’m doing something important. And kinda like everybody who works for a living, I’d like to get paid.

And the other problem is that as writers, editors, publishers, we’re always competing with each other. And it’s a cutthroat business. So in reality, this grand love affair of united artists is also, to some extent, a shark eat shark world.

JH: My question is not artists, as individuals, in some sort of union. LOL! That would be mass insanity. My reference was toward a central point, of any kind, where a consumer can go and find a book by Mikael Covey or Jack Henry, even if they are on different presses. This goes back to the idea of an over abundance of product. Maybe I am wrong but I do not see Amazon truly carrying ever book in print.

Also, I think your comment about goal is interesting. From my point of view, that is a response of a fiction writer. Perhaps I am wrong, but I imagine there are a number of writers that would counter your statement. Maybe not.

MC: Well, I think much of our discussion on literary movements already presupposes sort of a writers union. Not that any of us can ever agree on a lot of things - if you want a writer to agree with you, tell him you like his writing. Then at least you can agree on that. And it’s not that we’re such egomaniacs, but that you get so beaten down in this business, with all the rejection and failure. Often it’s like a great oasis in the desert when somebody says, “hey, I like that.”

Anyway, I’m all for writers unions. I’m a motherfucking pinko union organizer at heart - this machine kills fascists! But it’s awfully hard not to be constantly jealous of other writer’s successes. I guess the way around that is - if you get a chance to read other people’s work, find out that it’s good stuff, and then you can be happy for them; or take their success as a sort of victory for all of us.

But the opposite is even truer - when we see writing that we think is of poor quality, getting all sorts of ballyhoo and recognition. That just sinks us deeper into the mire, the under underground. And you hate to say “that’s pulp crap!” Because it sounds like you’re a sore loser; and of course you never want to go around making enemies. So, there you go. This union stuff is a sticky wicket.

JH: If a writer from the so-called underground gets published by a big New York Press, does that take them out of the underground? Or is like being in a street gang? Once in, in for life? In a related question: if an underground writer makes it to an uptown press, do they have the re-sponsibility to helps others?

MC: Tony O’Neill once told me “if we can’t help each other, what’s the point?” Now, I can see that as a principle we should all live by - help one another, it’s what life is all about. But clearly it’s not in-cumbent upon the artist to help the struggling artist. I think people like Steven King and JK Rowling, people of that ilk, could maybe venture a few of their many millions to help advance the arts and the struggling artists. But of course it’s a risky business. Then again, when you come right down to it, if art be the essence of our dreams, what better cause is there?

JH: Are there any obvious “steps” New Media publications are missing, in terms of marketing or distribution? It seems to me that some of these publications exist purely for small circles of read-ers and writers, with no single Small Press publication making great strides in growth. Do you think that is possible or even desirable?

MC: Steven King said of Internet magazines that we’re all a bunch of wannabe’s that are only read by other Internet writers. That’s probably true, to some extent. On the other hand, many of us write better than him, and have a lot more to say. And that’s the real reason to do this stuff anyway.

As far as marketing, it’s that old two-edged sword - we need to work together instead of each of us try-ing so hard to get ahead of the other guy. I travel all the way out to the New York to see Tony O’Neill and Lee Rourke, invite all the New Yorkers to come meet me at the KGB. Half of ‘em write back “my event or reading will be a couple a days later; why’nt you all come to that?” So yeah, we all got our own gig to promote, and we want that to be the one everybody shows up at.

I’m always trying to make the point to the big time lit bloggers that Cormac McCarthy and John Up-dike don’t need or want bloggers to review and critique their work. Christ almighty, the NY and London Time’s are already doing that. Lit bloggers ought to give at least half their space to underground writ-ers who actually do need and want the exposure. But like everybody else, bloggers want audience, and audience relates to what everybody already knows about.

But in viewing your thesis as a whole, I’d have to conclude that the only way we’ll ever get anywhere is to all work together. Maybe Soft Skull is the biggest of the independent publishers - they could attain an equal status with the big boys if they’d conglom with a whole bunch of other indie’s. But they won’t, so I guess it’s up to us to do that.

We’ll need to get all the indie’s together, both big and small, and work out a joint-venture system for mutual support and advancement. Who has the time, the pull, and the connections to make this happen? I don’t know. As artists and humanitarians, our first thought is always “what’s in it for me?” From that standpoint I’d say, check out my unpublished books - you can publish and market them, they’ll be best sellers, and we’ll all get filthy rich. And not just me, amongst us we can come up with dozens of top-notch books that’d be big hits with the proper marketing and promotion. If we but knew it, we’re sitting on a gold mine here, and all of us too stupid to realize it.

Think about it, we know the artists, we know the publishers, and we know the bloggers. All we need is somebody big and bold enough to put it all together.

JH: Last couple of questions…in the broadest sense where do you see New Media Literature go-ing? In a micro perspective, what’s the future of Lit Up Magazine?

MC: The future for Lit Up Magazine is wide open. Our target audience is six billion earthlings, and we anticipate reaching each and every one of them. In the near future, world leaders like the G-8 summit will need to check with Internet lit readers to make sure the G-8 guys are on the right side of the issues. That’s the kind of influence we’re looking for.

We plan on upgrading the site to include pop-out menu’s, live interactive chat, breaking news features, and all sorta other shit - print edition magazine, a publishing imprint, corporate sponsors, the works…or not. By the way, you know any web designers who want to do all this for…a great big thank you? Oh, yeah, and the benefit of mankind too.

You’ll think I’m putting you on, and you’d be dead wrong. It’s a visionary thing. And it’s going to hap-pen, only question is will we be in on it or not? Trust me, this is the new IPO, the new California gold rush. And it’s all at our fingertips, just waiting…

JH: Any thoughts you want to add about New Media Literature, poetic movements, small press, and/or Journals or Presses the consumer should be aware off…

MC: Just to tie all the loose ends together, we need to organize. We need to get together at a conference somewhere - Cicily Janus runs one out of Aspen that could work. Also Aleathia Drehmer has some interest in putting one on in upstate New York. And we need a central web site for all us to gather ‘round, keep in touch. We need for just a moment, to shed our massive egos and try to be a part of something bigger, something called planet earth. This is our world. It belongs to us. (Woodie Guthrie told me that, and it brought tears to my eyes.)

JH: Thanks for putting up with my questions. I greatly appreciate it. Final question, and, perhaps, most important: What’s coming up with Mikael Covey?

MC: Mikael Covey in London on a college study tour, back in ’77 or so; thought about hurling himself into on rushing traffic, but didn’t. Walking down the sidewalk he saw the most beautiful child, a little girl, come round the corner. Little kid with the face of an angel, and then her crutches, metal braces on little kid legs. Consider then, making a world that’s better for all little children, little kids in Darfur, in Palestine, anywhere, everywhere. Consider then, doing something in life that actually has value has meaning. Consider what we’re here for. And then do it.

Post Script - I realize that many of my responses contradict themselves; any bright little eighth-grade graduate fuck head editor could gleefully point that out. But to understand on a larger scale, if you’re telling the truth, it doesn’t matter if self-contradiction is actually a way of looking at two sides of the same coin.

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