“One purpose of poetry is to articulate our existence — to give our inchoate experience shape and consciousness so that we might better understand and remember it.” –Dana Gioia, foreword to Wire Song
Announcing the First Three Books of RMPS!
- Not one, but TWO collections from master lyrical poet Bruce Berger (acclaimed by the Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Kansas City Star, and many others)
- A new collection from emerging poet Sigman Byrd (an early reviewer raves, “Sigman Byrd’s poems have energy and grace, high wit and low humor, heady thoughts and common sundries, as well as trouble and troublemakers, including that maker of all things, the Great Troublemaker Himself.”)
- An anthology of Colorado poets (a fitting place to start!)
When you subscribe to RMPS, you get:
Three books per year plus probably a bonus volume, including:
- An anthology of the best poetry from a state in the region
- A collection (or two) from a master poet
- A collection from an emerging or mid-career poet
Discounts and exclusive invitations to events and other titles by Conundrum Press
A Letter of Introduction from David Rothman, RMPS General Editor
What if a small press were to launch a serious, sustained campaign to attract poetry book subscribers – but without a contest/competition/prize/award? In this model, individual readers sign up for a year or two, just as they would subscribe to a magazine, but they receive carefully chosen, thoughtfully edited and beautifully made books. They don’t know beforehand what they’re going to get and there is no formal prize pipeline – it’s up to the editors to choose, just as it’s up to the editors ofThe Atlantic, Harper’s and Scientific American to decide what appears in those journals every month, based on their best judgment. This model may seem odd given the assumptions that currently underlie the current poetry book publication model, with its emphasis on adversarial combat as the basis of publication, yet the subscription model, which has a far more collaborative premise, doesn’t seem to bother magazine subscribers. They have some faith in the brand because they expect that the editors will deliver and because they want to be part of a community of readers who share or are at least interested in the vision of the journal as a whole. They constitute a community of readers all of whom are invested in the outcome as readers.
This communitarian model of subscription is the big idea behind the Rocky Mountain Poetry Series: to create a poetry audience, a community of readers in our region who share this vision of reading, share it deeply enough to forget about their own ambitions for just a few minutes and actually read something by somebody else. Indeed, we hope that many of our readers do not even necessarily aspire to publish books of poetry – they just love to read it. As a result, we have no contests, no prizes, no awards, and no competitions, …just poetry. As Walt Whitman said, in what we take as the epigraph of our series, “to have great poets there must be great audiences, too.” This may seem obvious, but has profound implications. It runs against the very grain of certain kinds of poetry, including high American Modernism. In direct response to Whitman’s proposal, Pound once wrote “The artist is not dependent on the multitude of his listeners…This rabble, this multitude – does not create the great artist. They are aimless and drifting without him.” Well – in this as in so much else – to hell with Pound. Condescension to one’s audience is no prerequisite of excellence, and acknowledging they exist is no sign of weakness. Pound’s influential but authoritarian vision of the author is part of what has led to the current situation, where poetry has such a fragmented and fractured audience, a trend we aim to do what we can to change.
The idea of a poetry community brought together by reading and therefore based on a subscription model may seem a bit wild-eyed. But it has worked in other times and places for other arts. Think of, say, Dickens’ novels, all of which were published serially, or Hogarth’s prints, all published by subscription. Consider, for that matter, how all the performing arts work, where subscriptions are key to building institutions and fostering bold new work. Imagine if, say, an opera company tried to fund its productions by charging hefty entry fees for a composers’ competition and then marketed the selected work primarily to those whose work had not won. Does anyone actually think that would work? We feel the same way about finding and publishing worthy new books of poetry. By avoiding the contest model, RMPS and Conundrum avoid substantial administrative costs and we support you, our readers, first and foremost, by bringing all of us together to enjoy the very strongest poetry we can discover.
In the end, the most vibrant arts communities only emerge when three crucial conditions exist: enough peace to allow people to think about art instead of having to run for their lives on a regular basis; enough prosperity to give them the time to learn how to make it and enjoy it instead of trying to avoid starvation; and enough of those people who care enough about it to come together and support it in whatever ways they can. Assuming you are not running for your life, that you have enough to eat, and that you care about poetry, we hope you will join us as a subscriber to the Rocky Mountain Poetry Series.
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