Free Stuff!


Free Stuff!

 Posted by Susan Shand on January 17, 2013 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (5) 


Isn’t it nice when you get free stuff? The first live renga I went to some people gave out printouts of their work, little booklets printed at home, containing a small collection of haiku or a previous renga, sequences or longer poems. It was a generous gift and I have kept them. Not so much simply because they were a gift but because for me at the time, that gift of poetry was symbolic of an internal acceptance that it really was Ok for me to be a poet. Poetry was something I had always done, but not something which identified me. I could, I decided, call myself a ‘poet’, I could spend time with people who were also called ‘poets’, I could take time out from other things to go away on my own and enjoy making poetry. When I look at those handouts now I can recall the feeling of pleasure and honour of that moment and renew that feeling of self-acceptance and self-definition.



In this new age of e-books and cheap or free downloads for Kindle etc, my passion for books is thwarted. Here, at my fingertips are hundreds of books ready to download and read, for nothing! Initially I thought it was wonderful and downloaded loads of stuff onto my new Kindle — only to find that most of it wasn’t on my bookshelves because it wasn’t worth buying. Great swathes of fiction never got past the first chapter before being deleted, some no farther than the first page. I struggled along with some books which I would never buy but thought I ought to read, Neitzsche was an early download from Gutenburg which is still on there, just. Its really useful for train journeys that one; because you can gaze out of the window, look as though you are pondering his torpid philosophy, and renew your faith in the beauty of the world at the same time. It doesn’t have quite the sting of wafting the book about so everyone can see the high level of your casual reading matter… but these days you are lucky if anyone is looking any further than their own electronic gadgets to even notice.



I discover that I miss the feel of holding a book, of owning new books that I can flip through for reference or snuggle up in bed with. There is nothing quite so wonderful as the smell of a library full of books. I always used to say that I was more interested in the contents than anything else; the wisdom or the poetry, the escape into other worlds, or the saunter through the adventure of other minds – but I find that is not entirely true. Occasionally there is something which is enduring, something which is so good that I want to physically own it. I want to see the words in real print and hear the pages turn, find a place for it on my shelves and take it down now and again to renew the joy and adventure of that first reading. Or to see new things which I hadn’t noticed before.



People say that the world of print books is dying. That we will all keep our reading matter in one small tablet along with our social lives, the music we like to listen to, the TV programmes we like to watch, and the games we play. They say that writing is as ephemeral as the news. I suppose in a sense that is true, if you look at the bookshelves in any charity shop you will see hundreds of books which, having been remaindered or once read, are discarded. Few of those books are worth a second read; yet there they are, with their author’s names attesting to their claim to call themselves an ‘author’ or a ‘writer’.




With the ease of electronic publishing, the e-book is becoming a popular and growing trend in the world of poetry; mostly because it is so difficult to get any publisher to even look at poetry without the title “Laureate” after your name. It is easier in the USA than in Britain, here there isn’t the same public acceptance of poetry outside of the children’s market. So e-publishing is often the only way for people to get their work in print to a wider audience. There is however, a trend which mirrors the print market. Amongst the single-read pdf’s and the trudge through the dust of someone’s infrequently visited and inadequately explored attic; there are rare examples which leap straight into my kitchen, into my heart and mind, and which I want to touch. I want to actually own and hold these works because I recognise that this is a real gift which will endure.



So I am still buying books, still planning more bookshelves, and looking forward to the revolution in publishing waking up to the enduring allure of the printed page beautifully bound; to when they return to printing the enduring and leave the ephemeral to their e-existence.






(stardate 20130116)


9 thoughts on “Free Stuff!

  1. sara winteridge 07:06 AM on January 17, 2013
    I agree. For me it is about ‘possession’. If a book or a poem captures me I want to hold on to that connection. Recently invested in parallels by Johannes S H Berg, because I had read some of his haiku and found them startling. It is a book to keep and read over again. I am going to build up connections whether it is a library or just mentally noting which haiku poets I like and think good and surround myself with excellence ‘cos life’s too short for rubbish and wasting time! I read a lot but not much makes its way back onto my bookshelves. Possibly not a bad metaphor for living a happy life, but of course one only realises these things after trying out different ones. Thanks Susan

  2. Susan Shand 08:48 AM on January 17, 2013
    Hi Sara. Yes its about connecting isn’t it? Connecting in a real-world way as well as in a mind-to-mind kind of way.

    I particularly liked “Basho Has Left The Building” by Colin Stewart Jones and would love to see that in print. I would definitely pay for that one! I wasn’t so impressed by the recent Jack Galmitz one from Yettobenamed Press though. All that 5 words to a page white space is rapidly becoming old I think. Brendan Slater has a rather more honest rawness but also suffers from the white space thing. Maybe I could do some reviews? What do you think?

    • I think you haven’t the slightest idea what Yellow Light is about or rather is-white space is old? Perhaps if you understood that the book is based solely on ambiguity and dissociation of predicate nominatives and adjectives as a Western alternative to that elusive and unwanted Japanese mu, you might think more of the book. ]

    • As to doing reviews, I suggest you broaden your understanding of modern art before you take up the role. For instance, you should learn something about conceptual art before you make little remarks about examples of it. This would be true, too, of minimalism. Perhaps, you might begin with reading some Robert Lax on that subject.

      • Thank you Jack. I’m always interested to get advice on what I should do with my life from people who don’t know me, haven’t met me, and know absolutely nothing about me.

        My first thought is usually “Who are they trying to benefit? Me or themselves?”. I suppose in this case it would be you then? Since (had I stayed silent) my casual and entirely irrelevant little remark would not have reflected on your little book. I’m flattered that you consider such a casual remark to be so influential. Do you pursue every slight negative comment like this or are you commenting here because you are still annoyed with me for pointing out your errors in the other text?

        You can’t expect everyone to like all your work Jack – but in any case your personal intrinsic value is not measured by other people’s opinion of you or your work. Neither is mine.

  3. Reply
    sara winteridge 03:52 PM on January 17, 2013
    Colin’s Basho Has Left The Building is very raw and powerful. It had echoes of Iain Banks, for me, but that is probably because of the language, dialect and being rooted in working class, industrial world rather than the pretty haiku suburbs we are more often presented with. I could relate to much of it, or ‘too much’ of it, and part of the reason I like haiku is that they are not especially self- revelatory. I dare not ‘go haibun’ yet; it takes courage. I should really have said all this to Colin, but I guesshe will come across it 😉

    As for should you do reviews, well you indicated that they left enough space for you to do so! I find some gendai to be (nothing more than )a stream of consciousness, but I consider myself a newcomer/ learner so… Certainly if I am frustrated that people commonly may not find my haiku transparent (or cute) enough maybe I am missing something in those streams of words and white paper. What can I say I like Emin not Hirst, but that too took a while!

  4. geaneditor 08:19 PM on January 17, 2013
    I love books, I have many. Have read many and many yet to read. I would dearly love to produce print books but Gean Tree Press operates on a shoestring and my principles will not allow for “reading fees” or “vanity publishing ” where the author has to buy a certain amount of books which basically pays for the print run. I also will not use print on demand, and quite frankly I do not know how to format books for POD systems. Poetry is a niche market and haikai even more so and books by non established writers generally sell less than one hundred books. To get a good unit cost ratio one needs to produce about 500 books. My main thinking behind Gean Tree Press is to provide a platform for exciting and interesting voices to be heard — Brendan is doing something similar with Yet to be Named Free Press by utilising POD; in a recent conversation with Brendan I suggested that free e-books were a way to generate reads and interest and may spur people to go on to buy the printed versions. All writers want to be read and folk are reading GTPs books. Is it not better that 100s are reading these books than maybe a few who own print copies and the rest gathering dust in a warehouse? Perhaps I am also making a statement that quality work can be published by an independent press without cost to the author or without running competitions which are basically a vanity publishing scam.

    By the way, thank you for the kind comments re Basho Has Left The Building. I do appreciate it but the is no need to “big me up” just because this is my press

    The free e-books on GTP is stimulating a lot of interest and PDFs will soon be available for download. The latest: Jack Galmitz’s Letters is stunning and I also have three very exciting new book projects in the pipeline and hope for many more. If just one is picked up by a major publisher then perhaps the authors and GTP can indeed go on to bigger things. In the meantime, however, I will continue planting small acorns.

  5. sara winteridge 10:16 AM on January 18, 2013
    E books are innovative and as valuable as any form of printing. They are incredibly accessible and potentially level the playing field so everyone has the same opportunity to show their work. However they also open the flood gates to self publishing / vanity publishing (which I am not opposed to) of stuff that only has ‘literary’ value to about 6 people.

    For me, whose ego is not exceptional, finding people whose opinions I value who like my stuff is still important. A validation that has value whether it is online or in print. I don’t mind, am pragmatic, about paying to enter a competition if the outcome is that quality work wins out. I could not cope with being an editor and hurting feelings and treading on toes: too timid. I like my haiku, they give me pleasure, reminding me of moments. I do want to improve and will take all criticism, confident enough that I can ignore stuff I don’t agree with! Some come out fully formed most evolve and are edited. I hope after a year of reading other work and ‘pimping out’ my poems, rewriting, scrapping – I will see more clearly what works and whose opinions and work I admire and perhaps then feel ready to submit a whole e-book. But I would love to see a book in print, to hold and keep and pass on, that will not just get lost in the cyber ether. I regret all those photos and letters and creativity that is lost as our best intentions are overtaken by our laptops dying…

    I won’t personally ‘big you up’ because you are an editor. I am generally opposed to sycophancy 😉 it devalues the work of both parties. I am always keen to say when I like something though.


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