Andy Brown: How do you cultivate a culture of interest for esoteric beautiful books of poetry? How do you sell it to the average individual?
Andrew Steeves: I guess to oversimplify the matter, I would suggest you invest heavily in the educational system, and in cultural infrastructure that everyone gets to use – not just in industrial infrastructure like publishing houses...
I think books are only a small piece of the equation. What I’m really all about is getting people to pay attention. You take the small corner of the culture that’s devoted to books and writing and ask why no one is reading the types of books published by literary presses, the reflex response is that it’s because publishers are not professional enough about marketing and promotion. What I’m trying to suggest is that we dig deeper. If we build stronger communities culture will follow. Right now there are programs that fund the writing of book, the publishing of the books, the marketing of the books. Hell, governments fund everything except buying the books too. And yet despite all this investment in 'culture', very little benefit trickles down to the citizen in the street. Only the people directly involved in the industry (the writer, the publisher) really benefit. The average citizen has very little contact with this official literary culture. I don't like it. But let's say you take the same amount of money and instead of funding the arts from the top you fund it from the bottom. Let's say instead you gave every Canadian a voucher to buy one Canadian-published book this year. There are many problems with this suggestion, but the big advantage is that you have engaged the general populace with literary culture. Right now that’s kind of what’s missing. Right now we are propping up an industry that is dysfunctional. We all have a bunch of really great books in our warehouses that nobody’s reading, even though they helped fund their production through their tax dollars. I would rather get those books out there. Afterall, a good book is a ticking time bomb, it can sit there a long time. If it's well made, that is.
- Andrew Steeves, in interview with Andy Brown for Matrix. Quoted from the Gaspereau Press blog, where you can read more excerpts from the interview here.