Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Monday, May 17, 2010

Writing Without Payment

As a human being you house within you the potential to do an infinite amount of work for no payment. As a writer, you tend to realize the potential.

The poetry I mentioned, last posting, provides a nice example. The strange aspect of the matter is that we who felt the urge toward poetry, in earlier Age of Masses decades, put out cash in order to even have the whisper of a chance of publication. Back in that strange time, absolute requisites for the poet included the purchase of paper, envelopes, and, above all, a great many stamps.

Stamps! I feel the great philatelic treasure trove of the Modern Century well might be all the self-addressed, stamped envelopes of the greats, the not-so-greats, and the not-great-at-alls, among the poets and other writers of the generations before mine. Those envelopes would have been postmarked in towns and cities where all the presses, small and large, pursued their own struggling lives; and they would have borne the writers' own names and addresses, typed there by their own fingers. As I did in the 1980s, those writers must have thrown all such ephemera away. The latent philatelist in me would love to hold the envelopes that returned rejections to the late greats. What immense histories would be contained within those slender, emptied confines.

Who knew to what a degree matters would change? The stamped, self-addressed envelope still exists -- but in a time when so many small presses and even professional presses accept electronic submissions, their existence must be under threat.

In recent years I have been in the situation of still writing poetry but not, by and large, sending it out. One element playing into this is the rise of electronic submission. I find it hard to bring myself to commit that act. A part of my soul cries out, "What, no postage costs? Where is the expression of commitment? Where is the demonstration of determination? No wonder the world has gone to the wolves!"

Cheers ...

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