How did you come to name the press Pedlar? Many have asked. In 1996, searching for a name, I uncovered the little-known fact of Walt Whitman selling his Leaves of Grass door-to-door across America. A pedlar of poetry & of beauty & of a great love for the human & natural worlds: I believed, in 1996, that the image of a queer poet (who had suffered already more than his share of detractors), on the road in the dark with only a pronounced trust in the worthiness of his project, was an image that would sustain me across the vicissitudes, the blind alleys and cries in the night. And it has, a thousand times over.
Pedlar Press is dedicated to the memory of Walt Whitman’s agency & dignity & faith.
Independent literary presses are mission-driven not market-driven. The motive to publish is to enrich the literary culture by bringing works by important and often neglected writers to the widest possible audience. Manuscripts are selected and books are published as part of a press’s fulfillment of its mission. Mission Statement (excerpt): To publish modern and contemporary literature of enduring cultural and artistic importance, works that challenge accepted views of life and art, foster an international and multicultural sensibility of literature and preserve and extend the literary tradition that values innovation and experimentation in form.
I do worry considerably about a reader’s patience—how much mental or emotional space they have in their life in this crushingly full world to give to the reading of a poem. Many of today’s readers prefer fast poems with stated conclusions, partly because they can fit them into their day. Who can blame them? They have precious little time. They want the Cliff Notes to the overwhelmingly huge novel. Of course, it is poetry’s job to try to provide the very opposite—to recomplicate the oversimplified thing. This doesn’t require going on at length—lord knows some of the more complex acts of human awareness occur in Basho. At any rate, it’s not hard to see where the shortened attention span has gotten us, the desire for speed, for the quick rush or take or fix . . .
Some of that is the impact of technology.
Yes, don’t you think? For example, when you have a split tv screen giving you main news (images), secondary news in text (often war facts), weather, stock reports, and even an “update” in the corner, on sports, how is a person—let alone one in a democracy and therefore responsible for clear-headed choice—supposed to feel any of the information she’s gathering? One is reduced to simply scanning the information for its factual content. The emotive content, unless reported to one or rhetorically painted onto it, is gone from the experience. It seems almost in the way. And yet it’s in the overtones of the facts, in the emotive overtones, that much of the real information lies. None of this can be separated out from contemporary poetics. The “multitasking” asked of us by the CNN screen is precisely geared to dissociating our sensibilities. It forces us to “not feel” in the very act of “collecting information.” But what value does information unstained by emotive content have, except a fundamental genius for manipulating dissociated human souls? Why, you can frighten them to the point of inhumanity. You can get them to close their eyes and let you commit murder in their name.