Hierdie is die LitNet-argief (2006–2012)
Besoek die aktiewe LitNet-platform by www.litnet.co.za

This is the LitNet archive (2006–2012)
Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za


 
Menings | Opinion > SeminaarKamer | Seminar Room > English > Mini-seminars

Big Book Chain Chat #11: Why I publish poetry


Colleen Higgs - 2010-09-22

First and foremost, I’m a passionate reader, and have read voraciously ever since I could. Starting Modjaji Books, and becoming an indie publisher, is a way of taking that passion to another level. I hope that it is possible for a small, niche press to thrive in this tough economic climate. I attempt to take each title on its own merit and find readers for it. In 2010, with the internet, e-books, Print on Demand, digital printing, Book SA, LitNet, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social networks, it seems to me it may just be possible. By the end of 2010, Modjaji Books will have published 12 collections of poetry. As anyone in the know will tell you, it is almost impossible to get a book of poems published. “No one wants to publish poetry.” “Poetry doesn’t sell.”

Why have I set myself this very difficult task of publishing poetry?

I love poetry – that is the first reason. I especially love the kind that speaks to me of the unsayable, the unthinkable, the mystery at the heart of life. I love poetry that makes me tingle, makes me feel uncomfortable, that stirs me and disturbs me. Poetry is where my spiritual life finds a home. Reading more generally provides me with a home and a sense of belonging, community, connection and understanding of others and what it means to be alive and human. Ordinary daily life is made richer for me because reading is an essential part of it. I have learnt as much from reading as from actually living my own life, if not more. The world of books and words, images, stories, meanings, the insides of the minds and hearts of others are the air I breathe and the food for my imagination. Through words, images, poetry I believe I have developed my ability to have empathy with others.

If it wasn’t for books of poetry, I would be much poorer, I wouldn’t have been able to absorb and distill the beauty and strangeness of other sensibilities, other minds, other imaginations, other hearts, other ways of seeing. I can be with the poems of Adrienne Rich, Joan Metelerkamp, Muriel Rukeyser, June Jordan, Emily Dickinson, Makhosazana Xaba, Sindiwe Magona and feel as though I have heard them speak to me. Some of their words and meanings stay with me always, as a psychic resource in the same way that good mothering is. Some of the poems are the richer, purer air for me to breathe in, that reminds me with each deep breath that I am indeed alive.

Publishing poetry, therefore, is an enormous privilege, a pleasure and a joy; even if it doesn’t entirely make financial sense. I get to be midwife to the mysteries the other poets live and dream. Publishing poetry seems to me to be a small, yet essential job. I pay tribute to others before me who have also known this in their own ways and also publish poetry. I think here of Robert Berold, Gus Ferguson, Lionel Abrahams, Gary Cummiskey, Mxolisi Nyezwa, Vonani Bila and Allan Horwitz. As you can see, the South African list of indie poetry publishers is all male. This is another reason I chose to be a publisher, to make a space for the voices of women.

More than with any of the other publishing work I do, publishing poetry is an imperative. It makes me nervous to say this out loud and in public, here on LitNet, as I already have more poetry manuscripts than I know what to do with. And yet, I got asked the question, so this is the answer. I want these voices, these images, these shining pieces of beauty to see the light of day.