Click Image to Visit the Pecan Grove Press Web Page for Poetry from Paradise Valley


Poetry From Paradise Valley

Pecan Grove Press has released an anthology of poems, a sampling of works published in Valparaiso Poetry Review during its first decade, from the original 1999-2000 volume to the 2009-2010 volume.

Poetry from Paradise Valley includes a stellar roster of 50 poets. Among the contributors are a former Poet Laureate of the United States, a winner of the Griffin International Prize, two Pulitzer Prize winners, two National Book Award winners, two National Book Critics Circle winners, six finalists for the National Book Award, four finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award, two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, and a few dozen recipients of other honors, such as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, etc.

Readers are encouraged to visit the Poetry from Paradise Valley page at the publisher's web site, where ordering information about the book can be found.

Best Books of Indiana 2011: Finalist. Judges' Citation: "Poetry from Paradise Valley is an excellent anthology that features world-class poetry, including the work of many artists from the Midwest, such as Jared Carter, Annie Finch, David Baker, and Allison Joseph. It’s an eclectic and always interesting collection where poems on similar themes flow into each other. It showcases the highest caliber of U. S. poetry."
—Indiana Center for the Book, Indiana State Library

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Gateway of the Database

Last week while browsing through the many feeds from blogs on my Google Reader, I came across a curious couple of contradicting entries offering apparently opposing perceptions on an issue that could soon confront readers and writers in literary journals, and ought to be a source of ongoing conversations. The pair of posts seemed to need each other for complete appreciation. Indeed, the two posts—“The Graveyard of the Database” by Kevin Prufer at Critical Mass and “Library Hack: lit mags, free” by Emily Lloyd at Poesy Galore—drew me into an unintended discussion with one another.

I was interested in Prufer’s remarks, especially since I admire his poetry and the publication he edits, Pleiades. I also found Lloyd’s comments constructive, particularly because I once worked as an editor at a print journal, and I have long wondered about how the best literary magazines could become more available to wider audiences. I recommend both posts.

In his statement, Prufer laments the drift of literary journal issues at libraries from paper copies to their presence on a database. He notes how his own university has canceled individual subscriptions to various journals—including Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, Sewanee Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review—in favor of making those publications available in a database. Prufer objects to this trend and questions the consequences such a shift may create. His conclusion: “beyond my own admittedly sentimental attachment to the printed page, there are a number of reasons why this is a bad thing.” Although I share with Prufer the sentimental attachment to paper volumes of magazines and prefer turning pages of a print journal, I cannot go so far as to share Prufer’s determination that this trend is necessarily “a bad thing.”

The rationale offered for Prufer’s evaluation begins with his opinion that literary journals differ from scientific journals or other publications found in databases because “magazines like The Kenyon Review” appeal “to a general audience.” Prufer doesn’t define what he means by “general audience”; however, since he contrasts the readership of literary journals with the “limited audience of scholars and scientists” he sees reading other publications present in a database, I can only ascertain Prufer imagines anyone who might like a good story, a quality poem, or even some critical commentary on contemporary literature would be among that general audience.

But doesn’t the expansion of availability made possible by the universal reach of databases enlarge the potential readership for literary journals? How many members of the reading public, who could be counted among the wider audience previously defined, have until now practically lacked access to most literary journals, whose limited distribution (except for the rare few one might find at a nearby Barnes & Noble store) leads to their being stocked only in university libraries or various specialized bookstores usually located in large cities or university towns?

As Emily Lloyd indicates, through the use of a database at one’s local library branch, all readers among the “no-longer-have-access-to-academic-libraries crowd” now can find the full texts of many literary journals that otherwise would be beyond a general audience’s grasp, including “American Poetry Review, The Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Chicago Review, The Kenyon Review, The Massachusetts Review, etc.” Lloyd humorously points out: “Yes—you can be mildly disgusted by the current issue of Poetry for free without having to skim it surreptitiously at Barnes & Noble.”

But what of other concerns raised by Prufer? Through a comment contributed by Kevin Morrissey, the managing editor of Virginia Quarterly Review, Prufer suggests print editions of journals could become marginalized by the widespread access in databases. However, later in the blog post Prufer also cites Meg Galipault, the managing editor at Kenyon Review, as observing thus far no measurable impact on magazine sales due to the journal’s presence in a database.

Galipault does speculate: “I suspect, though, that eventually libraries will do away with periodicals completely and only offer access through the online services they subscribe to.” However, her comments cannot be seen as any indication the review’s overall readership will decline. On the contrary, the audience could grow as it becomes accessible to many more potential readers. Such a possible growth in exposure of literary journals to a greater contemporary audience also seems to argue against another of Kevin Prufer’s worries voiced when he wonders: “To offer these only on databases may be wonderful for researchers fifty years from now, but probably at the expense of the contemporary readership for whom they are intended.”

Also, when he quotes Ted Genoways, editor of Virginia Quarterly Review, as to the fact that some elite authors’ works (the examples delivered are a nonfiction piece by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and a fiction piece by Isabel Allende, both represented by the same agent) may not be available because their agent won’t allow “electronic rights,” that seems to me more a problem necessitating further negotiations with the agent, who should be willing to adapt with the technological transition much the way musicians have done. The fact that I can access online the latest releases by most musicians, including videos of them performing their songs, only increases attention in a new and larger audience, and brings greater interest in their other works.

On the other hand, Prufer provides an excellent point that characteristics associated with some special issues of literary journals could not be accurately reproduced in a database. He quotes Genoways: “comics by Art Spiegelman don’t translate well—and certainly the inserts and fold-outs we’ve run can’t really be digitized at all.”

I will acknowledge my own regular reliance on databases for much of my reading of recent journals. Just as I am now pleased to be able to read nearly any newspaper from all geographical regions (something impossible in the past), I also am delighted that I have access from my laptop at home to so many journals, more than my library could ever afford in individual subscriptions. I also will confess that due to my repeated requests the last twenty years or so, the university library still continues a fair share of subscriptions to literary journals I had recommended; however, ironically, now when I try to view these reviews from afar on my computer, I’m sometimes frustrated by the message that a particular journal is not available in the database because my university’s library still stocks it in the stacks of the periodicals room.

Another irony presents itself in the two posts by Kevin Prufer and Emily Lloyd. Prufer, editor of Pleiades, laments the transition of some of his other favorite literary journals to database, whereas Lloyd closes her comments by lamenting that not all literary journals are yet available on database: “if only it had the full text of Pleiades . . ..” Additionally, there appears to be a bit of irony in the way I arrived at Kevin Prufer’s thoughtful commentary, remarks I found only because they were posted on a blog and were among those stored among the numerous feeds to which I subscribe.

I do not believe the literary magazine will disappear as a result of technological evolution, though a few changes may occur. Almost all print literary journals have a presence on the web, and many permit access to their publications in electronic format as well. In some cases, full texts and archives are accessible, and occasionally additional elements allowed by the format, such as audio and video or simple linking to other texts, actually enhance the journal’s presentation. Admittedly, my students probably are more comfortable reading electronic media than I am, and future generations of readers might find no difference between the electronic text or the printed page.

Nevertheless, like Prufer, I enjoy reading the printed page; therefore, I continue my subscriptions to some journals I could read online. But I cannot afford to subscribe to all the journals I’d like to read, and neither can my university library. In the opening of his message, Prufer reveals he only visited the periodicals floor of his university’s library to look at the journals because “it had started to rain and I was on campus anyway.” In fact, at this time of year, as during other vacation periods, nearly all students and faculty in the university community are traveling elsewhere and unable to visit the library’s periodicals room; therefore, the library’s database provides a continuous presence for online reading anywhere at anytime of the year. Even during the academic year, I frequently find myself after hours or on holidays taking advantage of the convenience of reading the journals in the online database available from my library.

Hardcover books did not disappear with the introduction of cheaper and more convenient paperbacks, and home theaters have not wiped out presentations of films on the silver screen. In fact, the television networks are now making some of their shows available online, and I no longer have to worry about forgetting to record Kiefer Sutherland’s attempts to save the world when I am not home, perhaps away at a poetry reading, because I can catch them on my laptop the next day. In the spirit of this week’s previous posts concerning the Fourth of July, Walt Whitman, and democracy, I’d like to think free universal access of literary journals to readers provided by database inclusion at all libraries may eventually lead to a more democratic distribution of literature.

Perhaps I am too optimistic, but I hope the future will supply a situation that satisfies the desire for more availability of journals online free for everyone as requested by Emily Lloyd, yet allays those legitimate concerns correctly raised by Kevin Prufer. Moreover, I would like to see an environment in which Prufer would no longer consider his reviews published by magazines universally available for reading online as “destined immediately for the graveyard of the database.” Instead, I’d prefer to view a future in which all literary journals, including Prufer’s fine Pleiades, are democratically available for Emily and me, and all others. I’d like to discover that writers, editors, and readers then will perceive not “the graveyard of the database,” but the gateway of the database.


Anonymous said...

What an interesting and thoughtful response. And I love this accidental collision of Emily Lloyd's and my posts. (& I hope I didn't come off as a technophobe on the NBCC blog -- I'm really quite the opposite & make use of databases all the time.) But, as an editor, I can't help affirming that I design Pleiades to be read cover to cover, even if many of our readers don't prefer to read it that way. Other editors do, too. (I learned to edit a litmag from Hilda Raz, who taught me to think about a litmag as a sort of book, to create a kind of conversation between pieces.) And that's lost, I'm afraid, on a database, which doesn't encourage that kind of reading, at least not for me.

And so many of these good magazines include art inserts, fold-outs, etc., etc.--The Georgia Review, VQR, Gettysburg Review especially.

(And, OK, I do have a sort of aesthetic attachment to the feel of good paper, the look of a nice font. And I like to kick back in a comfortable chair and read a book, which is merely a personal preference, though one I expect I share with many readers.)

The letter I sent to my own library included the plea that we stock the print issues of these magazines for browsers in the library AND continue to subscribe to the database for posterity or those who aren't reading on-campus. To be honest, the costs of doing both -- an additional $200-$300 each year-- are negligible, about 1/5 the cost of another computer, a computer that will be obsolete in five years, anyway.

I hope all's well on your end. And, again, thanks for your kind words about Pleiades, which may (who knows what could happen?) be coming to a data base near you.

Kevin Prufer

Edward Byrne said...

Thanks for your comments, Kevin. Certainly, you did not come across as a technophobe--especially since your original remarks were in a blog post.

Indeed, your opinions about the construction of a journal are those I often voiced as an editor who likes two-page poems to start on the left page so the whole poem can be viewed at once, who prefers to pair one-page poems with similar subjects on facing pages, who carefully considers paper quality, who has favorite fonts, etc.

Your request for both print and database presence of literary journals at your university library is the ideal solution I also would share. However, I believe most libraries with strict budgets might resist, realistically regarding that to be a redundancy and a luxury they can't afford.

I feel fortunate that I've had sympathetic friends among our library staff. (In fact, the longtime library director, until her retirement, has been a published poet, close friend, and my next-door neighbor.) Therefore, my library has had a decent collection of print subscriptions I've requested over the years. However, not all university libraries are as well supplied or sympathetic to stocking literary journals, and only a rare town public library would have many literary journals. Consequently, I believe the database still best fills a need in the goal of widespread availability of journals for all readers.

As I suggested, I'd like to think a satisfactory solution will eventually be achieved that would preserve print journals at least in some libraries. I'm pleased you have begun this necessary discussion at the NBCC blog, and I look forward to seeing the conversation continue.