Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Another Reason to Buy Literary Journals

Late last month I received the following e-mail from an annual literary journal that accepted one of my poems for publication more than a year ago (the issue it was to be printed in had been pushed back, at last query, to November, and it still hasn't come out). It's a pertinent reminder how important it is to support the arts, especially in trying economic times such as these. This journal is making things work for now -- albeit somewhat behind schedule -- but many publications aren't so lucky.

Here's the e-mail:

"Dearest XXXXXXX Poets,

"Thank you so much for your patience in waiting for the issue to be released. The state of the economy has driven funding down in all areas, including support to XXXXXXX from contributors who appeared in prior issues. Independent publishers are particularly hard hit, as well as journals affiliated with colleges and universities. These journals are losing financial support from their own schools. Many have already announced that their current issue is the final issue.

"For several reasons, securing funding for collections with multiple contributors is more difficult than for collections by individual poets. We at XXXXXXX are working furiously to secure the additional funding that you and your poems deserve, and are looking toward a spring publication date.

"It is a dangerous time for independent publishers and the writers we publish. The following statistics are staggering. The loss of funding for many of us drives the statistics down even further. According to the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses:

> Less than 4 percent of publishing (that would mean all publishing) is literary (fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction).

> Independent literary publishers produce over 98 percent of poetry being published each year, and the majority of literature in translation and works of fiction by emerging writers.

"Because independent and not-for-profit publishers are mission driven, and not profit driven, we publish writers whom the large publishing houses pass over. The delay in XXXXXXX is not the scenario we had hoped for, and all of us appreciate your patience while we work diligently to present your poems in as professional a manner as we have always done.

"With admiration for you and your work,

"Xxxxxxx Xxxxxx, Executive Director"

One of the things I'm thankful for in these times is the openness which many of those in charge of publications like this one have shown to those who do support the arts and think they are important. This particular director, for instance, could have just ignored those poets whose work her journal accepted and could have scrapped their plans for the upcoming issue indefinitely.

But she hasn't abandoned her writers, serving as a positive example to the rest of us on both sides of the publishing spectrum: Publications should stick with their writers -- and readers -- and writers and readers should stick with their publications. Which means if you enjoy good literature, take some time this week to actually purchase a literary journal (Electric Velocipede is a good place to start).

After all, we don't want our colleagues to end up like the poor guy above (image via here).

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