Sunday, September 02, 2007

MWF - John Tranter

I'm feeling a bit festivalled-out, after 12 sessions - yes, I did get a bit carried away when booking, but most sessions have been great, and it would have been hard to judge which ones were going to be the duds. So an 83% success rate was pretty good. And my qualms about parking, which is often an issue in the Sturt Street area, came to nothing, as I found a parking spot relatively easily each day.
So, I might just talk about Session 1 today, and cover the other two in another post.
"Making It New" featured poet John Tranter, and he ranged over a number of interesting topics. He is the editor of the online journal, Jacket, so is not just interested in books but also what online publishing can achieve. He talked first about his life as material, and said his early childhood and growing up years in the country are "ruptured" from his life now - he can't go back. His poems tend to be about urban topics. When asked if he was a magpie in terms of gathering ideas, he said he preferred butcher bird (nice song) or kingfisher (hunter). He often provides notes to his poems, as sometimes you can't know what the reader will see in a poem and he wants to make sure they don't miss anything. Putting poems online allows him to add not just notes but also pictures and images.
He thinks of poems as primarily being on the page - a poet who writes for performance tends to be catering too much for audience approval. A poem that is only heard must give up all of its meaning in one hearing (no chance to go back and read again). He said some poets write too much, and put out too many books.
Putting poetry online or in electronic form solves many of the distribution problems. In ten years, Jacket has had 600,000 hits to its main page. He once, through Sydney University, put a whole book of his online, and it was getting 1500 hits a month, whereas the library copy was only borrowed twice. But he also said time has shown that a book put online will actually generate greater sales for the hard copy version.
He has republished two of his other books via POD, and says it is also a viable form of publishing and keeping books in print.

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