Tuesday, May 22, 2007



Poetry Daily Essentials 2007, Eds. Diane Boller and Don Selby
(Sourcebooks Inc., Naperville IL, 2007)

As a blogger, I've set up several blogs related to works-in-progress as they unfolded. Some of the contents in these blogs later ended up in books. So I've long been interested in the difference between the "same" material presented in a blog versus a book. That is, I've sought to have a reason to move material from blog to print. For example, the material in my former garbage blog was recontextualized to be part of a poet's fictionalized autobiography in my most recent book SILENCES: The Autobiography of Loss.

If the challenge, then, is ensuring there's a good reason why material that's already available in the internet would cut down trees to form books, it's ably met in, say, the anthology E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S: the first XI Interviews, Ed. Tom Beckett (Otoliths, 2007; full disclosure requires that I note that I am one of the interviewees in this first volume): in addition to the interviews which already are available online at the Will To Exchange Blog, the book offers sample poems by each interviewee which are good to have in terms of possibly exemplifying the poetics discussed in the interviews. The Introduction by Tom Beckett whose astute editorship is known (Beckett edited The Difficulties (1980-1990), a now legendary critical journal) also reveals the nature of "curating" vs "editing" an anthology -- itself an interesting example of poetry community.

This is all a prolonged introduction to noting my disappointment with Poetry Daily Essentials 2007, Eds Diane Boller and on Selby, which puts in book form an anthology of poems culled from its Poetry Daily website. Their Introduction offers no creative or compelling aesthetic/editorial rationale for their choices (well, it does say that the book's release is timed to coincide with celebrating the web site's 10th anniversary--and they certainly have the prerogative to believe such suffices for releasing a print version).

But in recent decades, enough anthologies have come out so as to enable a lively dialogue on what makes an anthology successful or not. As an editor or co-editor of five anthologies of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, I've been attuned to this matter, too. The Poetry Daily anthology barely makes it into this discussion arena with its basic claim that its existence simply manifests the editors' claims to present what's representative of the web site's content.

I don't want to simply bash the editors for having taken, from an editorial vision standpoint, a one-dimensional way to edit the book. Let me offer an example of how they could have gone about it. That is, in choosing to do a book anthology that doesn't simply replicate the web site, the editors, could have shared some observations of some themes or popular topics or direction of poetic forms that their ten-year overview and/or sampling surfaces. That would at least be more interesting than a book's truncated rehash of the web site.

Even if we assume for the sake of the argument that all of the poems in the book are excellent, there is no value-added to the anthology's existence, as might have been provided by a stronger editorial vision. The book project simply fetishizes into an object something that need not be fetishized.

Let me be clear that my criticism of the book is not intended to be a criticism of the web site. There is value in clicking on a poetry web site that daily introduces a new poem by contemporary poets. For having conceived of the Poetry Daily website project, I praise Boller and Selby. But I don't see a reason to cut down trees for this anthology.

Well, I suppose there could be one reason to pick up the book -- many readers still prefer to read poems (and other matters) viz a book versus looking at a computer screen. But the most effective anthologies delineate a more ambitious editorial vision than celebrating what most poetry lovers already know: that Poetry should be celebrated.

The improvements in print-on-demand technology is facilitating print versions of online projects. But on behalf of the trees, I hope that editors/publishers of such future anthologies do something besides making print replicate e-content -- if only, too, to respect the intelligence of your readers. For print to replicate the internet is not book-making so much as it is using the computer printer.


Eileen Tabios HEARTS wine, dogs and Thou. She can't do anything but shrug over the loudness of her Silences...


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