Quite a few people enjoy community theater shows. It might not be Broadway, but it can certainly be entertaining. Others, enjoy local sports leagues---not the major leagues (and luckily a fraction of the price) but in many cases, just as much fun. In recent years, more and more, we see poetry joining the ranks of community activity. Local readings and open-mic nights are nothing new, but they are becoming more organized, with local organizations forming and breathing poetic life into specific regions---and along with this trend of community poetry, comes community poetry publications.
That is to say, publications that are specific to particular groups of poets or more commonly—specific regions.
These local and community publications have been an interesting topic of conversation in recent times. While many people are very excited about them, they have garnered a little bit of criticism as well.
“A Poetry Anthology from Astoria, Oregon, whose going to read that?” one might ask.
It might be true that of the many poetry anthologies out there of various topical and interesting themes such as autism, breast cancer, politics, romance, comedy and many others, a publication based on region is not going to have much appeal—at least outside of the…well, region. (Although, there are some exceptions here.)
But what someone who might ask this question doesn’t understand is just what a powerful effect this publication might have on that region and the poets within it. Each anthology, review, magazine that comprises poets on a local level is a shared experience, a community effort that enriches all of those involved in it. There are countless readings and workshops and contests. Poets love all of these, they love to read their work in front of an audience, many of them love to get critiques of their works in progress and helpful ideas on where they might go with their pieces. And for some poets, this is good enough. But many of them want to be doing it for SOMETHING. Some kind of tangible goal that they can reach to let them know they have achieved something for their efforts.
One of the interesting things about the creative arts or sports is how many people stop being heavily involved with them once they are out of high school or college. For many of them, it’s not because they lack a continued interest in the activity at hand—and in some cases it’s not even lack of time, but lack of a next step. The gap between school sports and the professional leagues for example is quite large, luckily in some places they have community leagues and teams so that those with a real interest can keep playing.
Quite a few young poets would start out with hope and promise as they got their poetry accepted in their school publications in high school and then maybe college---but like high school and college athletes normally find out when trying to reach the major leagues, poets would find that after those high school and college lit journals, there were usually no more publications out there within reach for them---the fancy elite journals having such a high rejection rate that unless you knew someone who worked there it almost didn’t even pay to bother trying.
The sad side effect of this wide gap between the elite journals and the art and lit magazines of the local colleges and high schools was that many of those poets without a next step to strive for, would simply stop writing---put their poetry in a cabinet somewhere and move in to something else with more apparent and obvious outlets for growth.
“How will this local publication advance my poetry career?” some poets might ask of a local publication—and those people are missing the point of them entirely.
Local poetry publications, like local sports leagues, fill the gap of the post-school activity.
They are not designed to make the poets inside them famous on a national or international level, but instead are intended to inspire and invigorate the craft in a specific region—stand as proof of the work a poet has already accomplished, and provide avenues for them to encounter and interact with the work of others that they might not have seen otherwise.
Local Publications Provide:
1: A goal to write for.
Everyone needs a goal to shoot for and writers are no different. People can set goals for themselves, but having something external set the goals for us makes it far easier. (Think of working out at home versus a trainer!)
2: A sense of accomplishment.
People need to feel accomplished—and they need to have a metric to judge themselves as to where they currently are to where they used to be—this is why they have belts in karate, this is why we have different levels of education. Publication in local books, reviews, magazines, provides a notch on the belt of a poet—a sense that all their hard work paid off, and can serve as a stepping stone towards their eventual book of poems!
3: Amazing networking events.
Most local publications have events to launch themselves. The organizations or groups that sponsored the publications typically sponsor these events and invite the poets within them to come and read. There is nothing quite like a book launch event---the number of people, the family and friends who come to show their support, and the networking between poets—meeting the movers and shaker and writers in your local area all serve to provide some of the best events a poet could possibly attend.
So love poetry at the local level, give out copies of the books as gifts to your family and friends, and enjoy being a part of the ever-growing history of poetry!
If you are part of a community poetry organization that doesn’t currently have a local publication and are interested in starting one, reach out to us, local publications are our specialty at Local Gems Press. Let us know in the contact form to the right.