hankrules2011

A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Posts Tagged ‘poets’

Reflections on Lyn Lifshin’s Cold Comfort: Selected Poems, 1970-1996

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 5, 2022

Cold Comfort: Selected Poems, 1970-1996Cold Comfort: Selected Poems, 1970-1996 by Lyn Lifshin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book. I’ve known Lyn personally going back to the 1980s and as “Queen of the Small Presses,” I saw her in every damn magazine I came across for decades. And I would buy, obtain or she’d send me copies of new books and chapbooks over the years so that while I only have a fraction of the roughly 150 books she published over the years, most are among my favorites and this is definitely one of them. This was Lifshin’s first book to be published by Black Sparrow Press, Bukowski’s publisher (and I think about the same time another old friend, Edward Field, started getting some of his books also published by Black Sparrow), and it was the biggest one of hers I had seen to date at close to 300 pages, or what I would call “average” for Black Sparrow book sizes. Lyn had a lot more complexity and talent than some people give her credit for, and I’m thinking of certain academics, none of whom will ever accomplish even 1% of what Lyn did, but all of whom with their big (small, actually) 2 damn books in hand have the temerity to look down on her as “inferior” because she wasn’t part of “the Academy” (despite spending time teaching a year here and there at many schools such as Syracuse). And yes, I actually had a good but mainstream academic writer friend use that description. I tried not to be pissed off. After all, most of the academics who are critics of Lifshin, Bukowski, the old Beats, the slam scene, confessional poetry, ME, etc., are quick to tout themselves and each other as descendants of Keats, Byron, Cummings, Thomas, etc., but few can match those old masters and more importantly, note the world “old.” These academics are stuck in ancient decades and centuries and either haven’t realized or cared that they’ve been killing any remaining interest in poetry from non-academics for decades, explaining their sad press runs of 250-750 books no matter how many awards they win (back when I was heavily publishing, people were often surprised to hear the average press run for most American poetry books was 750 copies. You don’t get rich off that. Which is why so many teach. Or if you’re lucky, live a life like Bukowski, be a drunk in the gutter screwing whores, gambling, playing with cats, pumping out 10 poems a night and became successful, popular and live off your writing because you don’t give a shit and you’re simply a) more talented and b) a harder worker) because while they may master craft, they have little concept of actual LIFE for you and me and most people outside the Ivory tower, so remembering back to a standard university lit review (and yes, I’ve been published in many, but rejected by more), I recall one of its average issues having poems with titles such as “Sunset at Deer Late,” “Robins at Sunrise,” “Mysteries of the Pond’s Ripples” and other bullshit like that, boring most people to tears until some are lucky enough to happen upon “less talented” (meaning “less formal”) populists who are writing not only confessional, but experimental (the LANGUAGE poets of some decades ago, the surrealists, etc.,), and who are writing about topics and things in life that are REAL to most people who don’t have the luxury of taking sabbaticals to go mentally masturbate and accomplish little while looking down your nose at everyone else. Most of the rest of us have to actually work! Ferlinghetti busted his ass to make his bookstore a success in the Italian North Beach section of SF while also making his new publishing company successful as he was being prosecuted for publishing Ginsberg. Also found time to write the best selling book of American poetry in history in A Coney Island of the Mind, a book that changed my life in changing my understanding of poetry, allowing me to learn the rules dictated to you in classes are constructs created by the untalented academic dictators and they exist to be smashed, which is what so many more interesting, popular, meaningful, influential poets of actual substance have been helping do to save poetry from the destruction that was being wrought on it by academia. Thank god! The irony about Lyn is the Academy was wrong just like my friend was (who was the director of the creative writing program at a big university). In this big book, rest assured all of these poems had been published in magazines before being collected to make up this book and most assuredly appeared in hundreds of the “small press magazines,” she and many others (I know and was one of) were known for but while she could have included those in the Acknowledgments, it’s almost funny to see the huge Acknowledgments page so full of largely only mainstream literary journals of high quality that very few academics so critical of her could barely match it! Revenge is sweet. (A small arbitrary sample: Chicago Review, Georgia Review, Carolina Quarterly, North American Review, Ploughshares, Long Shot, The Sun, New Delta Review, Chelsea, Christian Science Monitor, Caliban, Literary Review, Mudfish, Denver Review, Cream City Review, Wormwood Review, ACM, Grain, Puerto Del Sol, Hollins Critic, Free Lunch, Midwest Quarterly, Hiram Poetry Review, and on and on and you get the picture, right? Yeah, like usual, the academic snobs are wrong. Just because she mixed with the masses didn’t mean she couldn’t play in their yards too and she did so more and better while at it.)

Lyn was loved and appreciated by millions and I hope she’ll get her just due fully one day. I feel privileged that while I was serving as poetry editor for Ray’s Road Review for some years, I had worked to build the quality of submissions and works published to a very high degree, during which time our acceptance rate dropped from 40% to below 2% and we went from largely unknown, uncredited writers (nothing wrong with that — we were all there once and as long as the stuff was good, I published first timers alongside household names) to contributors whose credits typically included Poetry, NYQ, Partisan Review, Rattle, Paris Review, The Atlantic, the New Yorker, etc. Even had an 8-time Jeopardy winner. While I was publishing writers I like and respect who have credibility and credits like Simon Perchik, Alan Catlin, Dancing Bear, BZ Niditch, Marilyn Kallet, Clifton Snider, Lowell Jaeger, etc., Lyn naturally sent me some stuff and of course I liked it and accepted most of it, prompting her to immediately send me more — even though we were booked 2-3 issues ahead and she wouldn’t be published for 6-12 months. AND while one normally submits 3-5 poems, she would send me 75 pages on average each time. As a result, without ever intending or even really discussing it, I was able to publish some two full books of hers in serial format and I loved having her aboard as a publisher, rather than a competitor — I mean fellow contributor — in so many mags.

Thus, about a year ago when I got the news that she had just died, it hit me damn hard and I had to take a deep breath. Possibly shed a tear or two. I remember going to visit her at her condo in DC decades ago. She was still so very into ballet. I remember trying to compete with her, back when people were describing me as the male version of Lifshin because I was so prolific for a good while. But honestly, so many old friends, colleagues and even heroes and mentors in this community have been dying over the past few years that it’s gotten really hard for me. Ferlinghetti a couple of years ago. Dare I call him a friend? We spent time chatting, he gave me a million autographed books, he gave one of my books a back cover plug. About the same time, another Beat poet, old friend Diane di Prima, who I’d enjoyed a great relationship with died. She lived in the same pad as Amy Tan in SF, got together with me when she came down to LA. And joined by fellow Beat writer Michael McClure. Shit! And since then I’ve been finding more and more have died during the past 5-6 years that my health has forced me “underground,” so to speak, and no longer part of the scene, no longer up on the news. So I’ve learned far too late of the deaths of Will Inman, Walt Phillips, Todd Moore and hell, I was looking through the contents of an archive of an old friend in Stanford’s Special Collections (actually Ginsberg, to be honest) and I realized half the people were damn dead now but the worst was when Gerry Locklin died last January thanks to COVID, or how I choose to describe it, thanks to the white christian nationalist science denying alt right republicans. Bastards! Proof of no god right there. It’s gotten so that I’ve started trying to find old writer colleagues who are still alive because I fear I may be the last one standing and I always thought I’d be one of the first to go. Alphabeat Press’s Dave Christy just died a few months ago. Good old Ed Field is approaching 100 and I don’t want to jinx that. I know Cat Townsend and Belinda Subraman are still out there, and I think I’ve heard Dan Nielsen is still around, but Gerry? Lyn? Life is cruel.

Look, Lyn was famous for her Madonna poem series, for her mother/daughter anthologies, for the film they made about her, for laughingly (almost) knowing you’ll see her in any mag you get published in, no matter how small, how niche, what country or language, and she was known for a million other things too, but she was damn talented and interesting and always had this mystique about her and I think this is a great book to either get to know her or to relish reading her again. I can’t recommend this book more fervantly. Get it!

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New Ray’s Road Review

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 23, 2015

I’m pleased to announce the publication of the Fall 2015 issue of Ray’s Road Review. It has plenty of new fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and photography. Feel free to check it out at http://raysroadreview.com.

Since I’m the poetry editor, I may as well plug the poets. They are Ruth Z. Deming, Ernest Williamson, R.T. Castleberry, Ross Knapp, Michael H. Brownstein, and Lowell Jaeger. There’s also a book review. It’s a pretty good group of poets representing wide styles of poetry with a variety of subjects. If you enjoy contemporary poetry, check it out.

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Submission Guidelines

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 26, 2015

Why don’t so many people read or adhere to magazine submission guidelines? This is the eternal mystery for me. As a magazine poetry editor, I have published a set of submission guidelines that I expect people to follow when submitting. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. When you’re a writer submitting to a magazine, presumably you’re putting yourself and your work out there as a professional to be taken seriously, not as a schmuck. You don’t submit whatever you want however you want. Every publication has guidelines. One of the first things you learn when writing and beginning publishing is to read and follow guidelines. It’s just common sense. One of the easiest ways to make sure your work doesn’t get read is to not go by the guidelines. One of the easiest ways to make sure your work does get read is to follow the guidelines. Simple.

Editors set up guidelines to streamline things and make their jobs a little easier. They get deluged with submissions. Sometimes it’s simply overwhelming. If everyone submitting can stick to the same format, it really helps. But if people are submitting all sorts of ways, it can really throw you off. It also helps to level the playing field. If everyone follows the same guidelines, presumably there won’t be anyone getting preferential treatment. That’s not always the case, but it helps.

My guidelines are a little strict, but certainly not as bad as many magazines I’ve submitted to over the years. More lenient than many even. And my response time is better than average. One of the things that has mystified me, however, is how many poetry submissions our nonfiction editor gets. I mean, what the hell? Why? Our fiction editor never gets any. I, as the poetry editor, get a ton. But our nonfiction editor gets quite a few and forwards them to me. And you know what? They ALWAYS suck! Always. They’re horrible. It’s like sixth grade poetry. And they obviously haven’t read the guidelines, which state to email the poetry submissions to the poetry editor, giving my email address. So, they’re not to be taken seriously, since they don’t take their own submission seriously. And I’ve taken to trashing them. I used to read over them and consider them. And respond. But at the beginning of the year, I grew tired of the idiocy and posted a post on the website telling people this practice will no longer be tolerated and any poetry submission sent to the wrong editor will simply be deleted unread. And still they come in. Dolts! What the hell are they thinking? Who emails poetry submissions to nonfiction editors? I would never think of doing that. That’s just damned stupid. In fact, when I was heavily submitting, I tried hard to find out the name of the poetry editor and mailed my submission to him or her by name. The pros who send me submissions read over our masthead on the website and often do that to me. You can tell who the pros are by their submissions. There’s a reason why they have the good credits. They write better poems and they follow submission guidelines. Simple.

If any of my readers can shed some light on why anyone would submit their poetry submissions to the nonfiction editor, I’d love to hear it. Thanks.

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New RRR Out!

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 21, 2015

Since it’s the first day of summer, I’d like to announce the publication of the Summer 2015 issue of Ray’s Road Review. Please read and enjoy.

Since I’m the poetry editor, I’d like to highlight the poets. They include Susan C. Waters, Bill Abbott, Ivan Jenson, Grant Mason, Mitchell Grabois, Michelle Askin, and Erren Kelly. Additionally, there are two books reviews for books by Frederick Pollack and Dimitris Lyacos. I hope you like it all.

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New Ray’s Road Review

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 20, 2015

It’s spring and that means the Spring 2015 issue of Ray’s Road Review has been published today. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and photography. Check it out! http://raysroadreview.com

Of course, since I’m the poetry editor, I have to acknowledge the poets in this issue. They include Lyn Lifshin, Robert Joe Stout, Terry Savoie, Alan Catlin, Richard Fein, and Colin Dodds. Good stuff. Good poets. Check them out.

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New Ray’s Road Review!

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 21, 2014

Since today is the first day of winter, I’d like to announce the publication of the Winter 2015 issue of Ray’s Road Review. Read, enjoy. I hope you like it.

Since I’m the poetry editor, I may as well promote the poets. There are some really great poets in the new issue of Rays Road Review. They are Simon Perchik, Bruce McRae, Lyn Lifshin, Michael Mark, William Miller, and Rich Ives. Really good poetry. Check it out.

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