One big disadvantage of small press poetry being unmoneyed is that most of the work being done is of the unpaid variety, so if you’re from a less privileged background or have serious financial responsibilities, you’ve got to do work that pays the bills. What this means is people who are able to make and do really wonderful things in the small press world—and to be sure, they are doing wonderful things—often are the ones that can afford to do them, because they have time. It’s a complicated little secret that I think many people are uncomfortable with, which is why it doesn’t get brought up. And it’s not the fault of small presses. These people also don’t tend to have a lot of money, but they maybe have access and a familial or network safety net that they can tap if things don’t pan out. I think this is one reason why we see non-white and white people from working class and poor backgrounds largely absent from the small press world. It’s not exclusionary so much as it is the case that many times they can’t afford to risk going outside of the big contests and academic prizes, which to my mind is very slippery and complicated. I don’t have it figured out myself. But it’s a systemic injustice that is much larger than small presses. While it can sometimes be uncomfortable to talk about, I think that it’s important to have those conversations and take that DIY ethic we’ve brought to publishing and use it to take on the things that makes poetry so vital: examining power, honesty, truth and beauty in all its various forms, in order to make opportunity accessible to everyone.
- Joseph Mains, editor of Octopus Magazine, in interview at LitBridge. You can read the whole thing here.