November 19, 2007

Poetry Press and Paranoia

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Paranoia struck this weekend. I wrote the following in my journal: Big Q, will Dr O let me use her intro and commentary if the contract is only with me? It seems they are not offering her any contract. At least they haven't mentioned Dr O in anything so far. And unless she has heard from them separately -- which I doubt -- I don't think she will/ they will. Dunno what to do or think about this. Did I give her the prominence I think I did in the ms? I can't remember! All I know is, SHE considers this OUR ms. Lynnie doesn't, I don't. NO ONE else does...It's MY poetry, years of work. She did the commentary in a few hours, a few evenings I imagine. I don't know how she can think this book is hers in any way...But I worry that in fact she will not let me use her intro without some contracted...something to her! I dunno what to do about that. Does she deserve it? And what is it? Money? Hah! What money?! If that's her concern she is greedy and crazy! But mostly just -- I dunno. I just don't know. What does she deserve? Her name UNDER mine, credited with the intro and the commentary, yes, surely. Of course. But anything beyond that I don't know, nor do I see why she'd want anymore than that! How much credit does she need? This is NOT HER BOOK! She wrote an INTRODUCTION, period. And jotted a few words of commentary that I typed up and cleaned up and made look bigger than they actually were. Very little in the end. Mostly a sentence or two about 2/3 of the poems.

WHAT DO YOU WANT, DR O? THIS IS NOT YOUR BOOK! You have other writings, other books, other projects. Why do you act like this one ever was
"yours" when you ought to admit you know perfectly well that it was ALWAYS only mine. SO you helped select the poems. So you helped me choose and wrote the commentary. You HELPED me put the book together and for that you will get due credit, all my gratitude and all the credit you could possibly claim or deserve. But what else can I give you? What else could you possibly claim? What else could you possibly deserve to get from my book of my poems, dear Dr O...? What? What? What?!

It turns out she wanted nothing at all. I was overwrought about, well, my own imagination and lack of trust and I dunno what or where it all came from, frankly...Paranoia I guess. I sent an email asking Dr O a question I asked only after vetting it with Lynnie, and sending her first a long letter ...which she suggested gently that I NOT send. She thought I should merely ask Dr O first whether she believed she was in fact deserving of equal credit. She gave me a suggested question. I simply lifted it entire and asked Dr O the exact same thing. This morning, instead of answering the email, Dr O called me, sensing my panic, and clarified everything: NO, she never thought of herself as co-author, of course not. No, she wanted no credit more than I'd given her already, "Introduction by M. O." and any money was strictly mine. If I'd wanted to give her any, she would simply donate it to the charity of my choice...She didn't seem upset that I accused her of these things, only supportive and understanding that my paranoia once again had made me seize upon such possiblities and build them up into a real, that is, truly believed-in plot against me. She took it in stride, not the slightest bit fazed, or if she was, not letting on.

I was so relieved, I can't tell you. All weekend I'd been tortured by this, and had told my nurse my suspicions and Lynnie and even Karen...Everyone doubted me, doubted my perceptions, but of course I held to my certainty, because that is the nature of paranoia, and I had no idea I was paranoid, once again, having no clue and no way to test reality this time, until I had a chance to ask a question and get an answer. I didn't realize I was testing reality this time, I thought I would get a corroborative answer! But in the end, the answer I got was much better than the one I expected.

Posted by pamwagg at November 19, 2007 08:23 PM | TrackBack


Hi Ky,

My p-doc doesn't expect ANYthing for her intro, I was simply being paranoid. I allowed the seed of doubt to grow into a whole big thing about her wanting to claim co-authorship and threatening to with hold her intro and commentary if she didn't have a contract for royalties etc...But it was ALL paranoia. She doesn't want a thing, except acknowledgement that she wrote the intro etc, which I obviously want to do, and have done so on the very cover of the manuscript. But as for money or co-authorship, NO, she never wanted anything, I simply FEARED she did and allowed my fear and certainty (sound familiar?) to blossom into a huge plot against me. Luckily, she was prepared for me to be as paranoid as I usually am, and took my accusation in stride, clarifying her wishes --- none vis a vis the book, beyond acknowledge of her intro -- and explaining to me how my paranoia had gotten to me and created a story around the FEELINGs of fear and certainty once again.

As for CKP's demands, well, as for readings, I love doing them, so long as someone else helps set them up...And Dr O will help me do a phone call or letter explaining my limitations. But I can certainly read manuscripts...Though as you say, most presses are happy to publish poets and do so without demands...Not only that but as a non profit press, I probably cannot expect to earn anything from the books I sell! I dunno what non profit means in that sense, though I should ask, I guess.

Thanks for your in-put!

Pam W

Posted by: Pam W at November 21, 2007 08:23 PM


The press sounds too demanding. They should be pleased to be publishing someone with your fame and publishing history. Why not write them a letter explaining your limitations and boundaries?

I understand the publishing game all too well, and getting accepted is such a thrill, but if the press wants too much from you, I am sure there are other presses which would jump at the chance to publish your work.

I recently self-published a broadside, and it is in independent bookstores across North America, including City Lights in San Francisco. This, after much frustration with publishers.

We plan to publish others, and would love to publish you, if all goes well, perhaps next year. Each broadside has four to six poems.

You have my e-mail address.

And don't worry about your p-doc expecting a lot for the intro, I'm sure. Voice your concerns to her.

Take care,
ky perraun

Posted by: ky perraun at November 20, 2007 08:48 PM

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