Can poetry be good business? What will it take for it to flourish? How can the infrastructure and support for poetry be developed? Should poets spend on marketing and buying back their own books, or should it remain a labour of love, where a few hundred copies sold is a major achievement?
As mainstream publishers get more stringent with their lists, independent presses have stepped in to fill the gap and to give opportunities to up and coming poets. Scroll.in spoke to five such publishers – Sarabjeet Garcha, founder and editorial director of Copper Coin Publishing; Dibyajoyti Sarma, publisher of Red River; Manu Dash, publisher of Dhauli Books; Bitan Chakraborty, founder of Hawakal Publishers; and Linda Ashok, founder of RædLeaf Foundation for Poetry & Allied Arts – about how to select, edit, distribute and market contemporary Indian poetry.
When and why did you decide to set up a poetry press?
Sarabjeet Garcha (SG): I set it up towards the end of 2013 with Rahul Mitkari and the Marathi poet and translator Manoj Surendra Pathak. I met Manoj purely by chance in November 2012, when he was visiting Delhi to attend a wedding. It was the stellar Marathi poet and painter Mangesh Narayanrao Kale who called me on a Saturday morning and asked me if I could see Manoj. We met, and this brief meeting was the beginning of a deep friendship, and also an enterprise aimed at publishing interesting voices in English, Hindi, Marathi and Punjabi poetry, and fiction and nonfiction too.
I didn’t want to be a publisher, although I was exposed to publishing from the very beginning of my career. I was happy being a poet and translator, besides working as a copyeditor in science publishing, but at the same time my appetite for poetry books showed no signs of diminishing. My search for them, however, left me underfed. It was then that I decided to serve myself a generous helping of the kind of poetry books I loved. Publishing those books myself was the only alternative.
Dibyajoyti Sarma (DS): I did not decide. It just happened. My ambition was to be a fiction writer. I wrote poetry for myself. I published my first poetry collection with Writers Workshop in 2004 and distributed it free to my friends. When I was ready with my next collection in 2014, I decided to publish the book myself, at a whim. So I went to the ISBN office, registered the name, it was then called iwriteimprint, and got 10 ISBN numbers. Fast forward to two years, I completed a mammoth project of translating Assamese poet Sananta Tanty’s poems into English. I was convinced no publisher in their right mind would publish a 300 page book of poems by an Assamese poet. So I decided I will publish it myself because I believed in the work. The book came out in February 2017. It all started from there.A number of my friends had unpublished manuscripts and we started working on them one by one. So far I have published 16 books to varied degree of success.
Manu Dash (MD): I thought of setting up Dhauli Books five years ago, but the press started only in 2016. I have been writing poems since college, i.e. for almost forty-five years, and I have always felt that poetry has not been given the attention it deserves by mainstream publishers. So when I thought of starting a publishing venture, I knew I must publish quality poetry written in Indian languages and also in translation. The Dhauli Trust has also launched an award – Jayadeva Poetry award, named after the renowned poet of Gita Govinda – to be offered to the best poetry collection in any Indian language. But, at the same time, we are at a nascent stage in this venture.
Bitan Chakraborty (BC): Hawakal Publishers was founded back in 2009. We have published several poetry titles both in Bangla and English over the years. However, we don’t claim to be a poetry-exclusive press.
Linda Ashok (LA): RædLeaf Foundation for Poetry & Allied Arts started in 2012. The first RL Poetry Award took place in 2013. It awarded two prizes of Rs 15,000 and Rs 10,000 respectively. In 2015, my provident fund was exhausted and I had also decided to change the model to a book prize because cash prizes don’t last and have very minimum impact and opportunity for the winner(s). Hence RLFPA Editions came to being in 2016 with the first batch published in 2017.
I’ve noticed that most poetry publishers are published or established poets themselves. Is there a reason behind this?
SG: Poetry needs a certain madness, so does poetry publishing. Who else would have this loving lunacy more than the poets themselves?
DS: I think it points to lack of publishing platforms for poetry in the country. At one level, every independent publishing setup is a protest against the capitalist motives of mainstream publishing. You don’t publish poetry to make money; you do it because you believe in poetry. Therefore, poets themselves must take the lead.
MD: I agree. There could be several reasons but the foremost reason as far as I am concerned is passion. Zig Ziglar had once remarked: “When you catch a glimpse of your potential, that’s when passion is born.”
BC: As publisher, it is imperative that we understand the needs and demands of our authors. It is essential to mark and respect a poet’s sensibilities. Poets wish to share their aspirations, apprehensions, fears, and expectations with their publishers. Poets can only be dealt with successfully by another poet or writer.
LA: There can be many reasons. I have my own. For example, I received an illicit proposal from a publisher when queried about getting my poetry published. As a woman I would hate it if any other woman has to face the same given that poetry publishers are so few in the country.
Also, since I can never discover a new land or a planet or microbe, I enjoy discovering new voices. Being the facilitator of new poetry by running the poetry award and consequently publishing its winners brings me a lot of joy.
How is editing poetry different from editing a work of fiction or non fiction? What do you need to know to edit poetry?
SG: The principles of good editing work across genres. They are universal. In poetry, however, every word is exposed to its fullest. Bulk is in short supply, so more rigour is involved. To me, it is like neurosurgery, but it becomes easier for poems that tend to move towards prose. A good poetry editor will never lose sight of such elements as form, structure, sound, rhythm, voice, style, the music of the line, and line breaks. Besides a mind alive to the sorcery of language, you need endless patience to edit poetry.
DS: You need to know poetry, I guess. Some grounding in the basics of meter and prosody certain helps. Also reading. To be a poetry editor, I believe you need to be discerning reader of poetry, not necessarily a critic.
MD: The editor of poetry must understand the craft well. Since the structure is relatively tighter in poetry than in prose, one needs to be sensitive to the nuances and word play etc. For poetry, intuition is more important than grammar.
BC: Do we really have poetry editors here in India? If your answer is yes, I’ll promptly ask, how many? Generally, poets refuse to get their works edited. To act as a poetry editor, one should essentially be a voracious reader of poetry. The greatest challenges for an able poetry editor are to locate the keywords and the essence of a particular poem. This is hardly a challenge when one is editing works of fiction and non-fiction.
LA: I haven’t edited fiction or non-fiction, so, I can’t comment on that. But editing poetry is not an easy job; a punctuation error may have stylistic significance or a line break maybe suggestive of two ideas trapped in one sentence.
Indian poetry has been making the right kind of noise in terms of output, and visibility. Yet, most poetry books barely manage to sell a few hundred copies. Why is that so?
SG: Poetry books will sell more if the poets work harder on selling them. It’s an exercise in cultivation of taste. To the taste buds that have known the flavour of Darjeeling tea or single malt scotch, other kinds of tea or whisky might be tolerable, but never replaceable for Darjeeling or scotch.
DS: I believe few hundred copies are good enough. I don’t want poetry books to be bestsellers. For, if you sell more, that means you are resonating with the mainstream. Poetry is the voice from the outside. Its survival depends on resisting the mainstream. I believe practice and patronage of poetry is a specialised art; it cannot be commodified. We survive by being rare, being unique.
MD: The number of serious readers who buy and read poetry books has always been small. Those who like to hold a book and lie in bed and read still do buy books. But with the introduction of digital magazines readers read a lot of good poetry (also prose) on their smart phones and tabs for free. And they don’t feel the need to buy books.
Poets often distribute their books among friends and colleagues at book release functions. This practice, in my opinion, does not encourage sales. There’s also the issue of the right kind of promotion and distribution etc.
BC: When you say “sell” we understand “business.” You are right. Indian poetry is making the “right kind of noise,” but where is it generating the buzz? This buzz exists only among poets. Contemporary Indian English poetry has started moving away from general readers of literature. Its simplicity, its charm and appeal is being heavily masked by the rigorous word jugglery that has become integral to it.
LA: We are poor people, mostly. We talk of revolution with betel nuts in our pockets. We aim for change when we are not sufficiently equipped. Quite Don Quixotic. We want good poetry but we don’t have Rs 250 to buy a book of poems. Once, a book editor of a reputed publishing house in Delhi asked me if I can have my publisher revise the price of my book Whorelight which is Rs 225 and shipping fees. She thought it was too expensive.
Other than the price, sometimes poets themselves are too elitist to market their book(s), and some are more often lazy and introverted. They think they have already done a huge favour to their publisher.
Do you think there is a disconnect between what poets are writing and what readers are looking for in poetry books?
SG: Not at all. There is no disconnect. We shouldn’t underestimate our readers. There are a lot of adventurous ones out there who are eager to stretch the boundaries of their reading. All the poets need to do is reach out to them.
However, we can’t overlook the delusions some poets are under, the weight of which at times is so much that readers get smothered. Others are overblown bags of bile who don’t even need a pinprick to burst. All they need to explode is see the image of a pin. Just show them that, and they’ll slop the world with their vitriol, thereby redeeming it of its many sins. Then there are those whose heads are only missing powdered wigs. I recently met someone who was sold on Wren and Martin. I’ve nothing against the book, but why stop just there for grammar? Why not move to Quirk et al., or even Pullum and Huddleston? If the head is a dump yard of advice that is more than a century old, how will it have room for poetry? Craft will come later. One must first get at least the fundamentals in place.
DS: I’m not sure. I believe today we have more variety than ever. In the last couple of years, we have seen so many poetry books being published that there is something for every kind of readers, whether you want to read Ranjit Hoskote or Chandramohan S or Akhil Katyal.
MD: To some extent it is true. On the other hand, if you examine the Indian psyche, you find that Indians can live without buying a single book on literature. That could be one of the reasons. The culture of buying books prevails in West Bengal and Kerala. Unfortunately, people who speak other languages hardly imbibe this virtue. How many educated Indians spend money buying books? In the half a dozen book fairs that take place each year in Bhubaneswar, computer and school texts always sell the most.
BC: Yes. And this is exactly why the business for poetry books in India is so miserable.
LA: Depends on market segments. There are popular poets writing calendar content that caters to a certain kind of audience and that market is full already. Then there are those poets with some serious craftsmanship and they have their audiences too.
What’s the selection criteria for your books? Do you look at only craft and literary merit or even considerations such as saleability and the poet’s popularity?
SG: Quality is the sole criterion. While selecting manuscripts, we look at craft, content and literary merit only. However, it also helps to work with poets who are keen on marketing their works.
DS: Personally, I go by instinct. Since I’m the only person managing everything, I’ll have to live with the book for the longest time. So the manuscript should speak to me at the personal level. I must believe in the book, everything else is secondary.
MD: Literary merit comes first. If the poet is popular, it is the icing on the cake. Dhauli Books has published a very popular and old poet from Assam, Harekrishna Deka and a very young poet, a twenty-year-old from Shillong, Mengtei Kuparlang Thangkhiew.
BC: We have published several poets who weren’t “popular.” When we publish poetry, we look at the content. We also want to explore the poet’s own understanding of poetry and help them achieve their ambitions.
LA: RLFPA Editions has published three books so far – Apostrophe by Barnali Ray Shukla, The Land Below Water by Manik Sharma, and Somewhere But Not Here by Stephen Byrne. These are the first batch of books after the RL Poetry Award transitioned from cash to book prizes in 2016. It is certainly quality that matters, which is why Stephen Byrne’s book was the finalist of the 2018 International Book Awards, US. This year, RLFPA editions is set to publish Preeti Vangani’s Mother Tongue: Apologize, Shalim M Hussain’s Betel Nut City, and Soonest Nathaniel’s Teaching Father how to Impregnate Women.
All the authors are winners of the RL Poetry Award 2016, 2017. We are waiting for 2018 results. And yes, soon RLFPA Editions will consider publishing books outside RL Poetry Award winning manuscripts.
Do poets who perform and recite well attract a greater readership than those who don’t? Is that ever a consideration for you while deciding on a submission?
SG: Page poetry is very different from stage poetry, but good page poets who recite well stand a better chance of attracting new readership than those who don’t. However, when deciding on a submission, we just look at the page in front of us.
DS: I agree. In a reading, if a poet performs well, there are chances that the book will sell more. However, for me, this is not a consideration. As a poet, I am a terrible performer. So I must be empathetic towards others.
MD: No. A not-so-good poem may be recited very well. It’s an old gimmick; it does not work.
BC: Poets who perform enjoy a wider audience; however, not all people buy and read poetry books. So, we don’t really count on “performance.”
LA: Writing is performance in itself. I would go 90% for the content and 10% on delivery. I pay for the content, I would be glad if delivery is as astonishing, that’s where the rock star comes into being. Take Jeet Thayil, Danez Smith, Malika Booker, Tishani Doshi...
Do you feel that your press is adequately representing different forms of poetry?
SG: There are many forms of poetry, and it is not feasible for us to represent all of them. We are striving to go beyond adequacy, for we believe in abundance.
DS: Yes and no. It’s just the beginning and we are experimenting. I would love to publish more translations.
MD: Not yet, but we do have this mind.
BC: We are more into free verses and prose poetry. We have published sonnets as well. We are now looking for haiku and haibun manuscripts.
LA: I represent poetry; black and white and brown. Diversity is my USP in terms of content as well as representation.
Is poetry in translation harder to sell? How many translated works of poetry do you bring out every year?
SG: If done well, a translation is not hard to sell. We have published very few translations so far, including the Marathi translation by Manoj S Pathak from Prabhati Nautiyal’s Hindi version of the Paraguayan author Juan Manuel Marcos’s Spanish novel El invierno de Gunter (Gunter’s Winter). However, we are open to all kinds of translations. So far, we haven’t imposed an annual limit on the number.
DS: Yes. Yet, it’s something that needs to be done.
MD: The translated poetry collections we have published so far are in English, Hindi and Odia. We published an anthology of Contemporary Austrian poetry in Odia translation. This year Dhauli Books has brought out five collections of translated poems, another five are in the pipeline.
BC: Translated poetry does not sell much unless the original poet is very well-known internationally. It is extremely difficult to find the right readership for translated works. We have published translations of Tomas Tranströmer, James Joyce, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Bibhas Roy Chowdhury and S Vaidheeswaran.
Do poetry books backlist well? Are there some titles that sell over a long period of time?
SG: Yes, they do. Some titles sell for ever provided they remain in print.
DS: Yes. I believe more than fiction or non-fiction books, poetry books backlist well. So I am not concerned if a book doesn’t sell immediately after publication. It has a lifetime to find readership.
MD: Yes. Some poetry collections hardly sell and there are others that go in for reprints too.
BC: In most of the cases a collection (poetry title) stops selling as soon as a new collection by the same poet is published. Readers seldom want to explore a poet’s older works. They seem to be more interested in newer publications. The reason may be a failed (or loose) connection between the poet and reader. Moreover, poets and their publishers lose focus on older works while promoting most recent publications. There are exceptions, however. Kiriti Sengupta’s The Earthen Flute (2016) and Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral (May 2017) are still in demand even after we released his Solitary Stillness in August 2017. Now the question is: who are the buyers? Poetry books are frequently bought by fellow poets and friends and acquaintances of the author. We can only expect a title to sell over a long period of time only when the poet is read by unknown readers in good number.
How difficult is it to get media attention for poetry books, especially those by debut, unknown writers? What sort of response do you get from books editors at media houses?
SG: It is certainly difficult, but not impossible. Good poetry books, even if by debut or unknown writers, will find their audience, no matter how slowly. Poets who take interest in their own books help take them far. The response from book editors has been encouraging so far.
DS: They are not keen, and I completely understand it. So I don’t approach them. But there are a number of online publications which have carried reviews and interviews of our books and we are grateful for that. Our main means of promotion is word-to-mouth and social media platforms help.
MD: Social media is a boon in this case. The mainstream media tend to give relatively less attention to poetry, but the trend is slowly changing. It is often a mixed response. Some are kind enough to carry reviews of books; some editors do not respond at all.
BC: It is extremely difficult to get media attention for debut poets and their publications. Generally, the media is not very poetry savvy.
LA: Terrible. There is so much awkwardness when a poet or a publisher has to ask for reviews. In India I see you need to be strong at networking to have your work accepted for reviews. You can have a bad work reviewed if you know the editor personally. Also if the reviewer/editor is a poet herself, it gets worse. And after all, media can be only limited support to poetry; reviews and interviews for book promotion can be sought from bloggers and journals run by university presses and departments
Most poetry books struggle with distribution issues and are not available in many bookstores.The majority of sales seem to be happening online or via the poet’s own network. How are you planning to overcome this problem?
SG: Our challenges are not much different from those that the bigger players of the publishing industry are facing today. Amazon India is our major distribution outlet, and we have also been tying up with a few small distributors. Our readership is niche, but most of our readers know where to find us. The internet certainly helps. So far, our most successful book has been Sohan Singh Bhakna’s Meri Aap-Beeti. It had a print run of 1500 copies.
DS: It’s not a problem, because I have observed that even if books are available in a bookshop, a reader wouldn’t pick up a poetry book, unless the poet is around. Instead, we organise readings where we encourage people to come and listen to the poets and buy their books. Then there are online platforms, which are good enough.
MD: Online selling is the best option in my opinion. Who can guarantee that books will be sold in bookstores? Due to the constraints of space, independent vendors choose the safe option and only keep books by popular writers. Often distributors are far from professionals. We have contacted some good book stores around the country to sell our product, let’s see how things move.
BC: Offline availability of poetry books is important if not crucial. Book stores across the world have recorded a receding business. Readers are largely buying books online. The online availability of poetry books is crucial when it comes to securing global readership. We have our own dedicated e-commerce site where Indian buyers can buy and claim a discount if they wish to buy books in bulk.
LA: Here’s the math about distribution through bookstores:
(Book Price: Rs 250) - (Print Cost: Rs 90-140) - (Bookshops: 40-50%) = the leftover where author deserves a royalty, and the publisher a profit to sustain the business. Overcome this by taking advantage of e-commerce as much as possible.
Unlike in the west, where poetry is taught formally in MFA courses, India doesn’t seem to have an adequate infrastructure for poets to learn and hone their crafts. Nor do we have too many well known literary magazines or journals where poets can gradually showcase their works. Does the lack of infrastructure affect the quality of poetry books being published in India?
SG: Lack of infrastructure has been our lot from time immemorial, but that hasn’t affected the quality of poetry books in India. Bad books will remain bad. Time won’t transmute them into something good. Similarly, good books will remain good. What’s more, they can even become better for a new generation of readers. We lack only the physical infrastructure, but the virtual one exists, thanks to the internet, and it is powerful.
DS: No. First, we may not have well-known journals, but we have enough avenues to publish poetry in India, both print and online, and majority of them are quite good. Second, I have a problem with MFA courses. I have noticed that these courses tend to force students to follow a set format. This is not good. I believe poetry cannot be taught. It must be learnt by the poet.
MD: Absolutely. Forty years ago, Jnanpith awardee and father of modern Odia poetry, Sachidananda Routray attempted teaching poets how to write better poems, but he had to bear the brunt of the writers’ fraternity at that time. Many writers, even today, feel that writing is a god gifted quality and no training or honing of their craft is required. Balladeers are more well recognised than the best practitioners of poems.
BC: Does an MFA ensure quality poetry? Honestly, I don’t think so. Quality of poetry is not dependent on the infrastructure of the publishing industry but on the making of a poet.
LA: The world is connected. If you talk about literary magazines, there are plenty if a poet cares to find them. We are too poor to have non-engineering courses like poetry taken seriously. But look, we have amazing poets and they are rocking. Take Rohan Chhetri who won the RL Poetry Award 2013 who has just won the prestigious Kundiman Poetry Prize which so far went to other Asian-Americans and none from India.
What do you make of the global Insta poetry phenomena that has turned poets like Rupi Kaur into household names?Will readers of this kind of poetry graduate to reading serious poetry at some point?
SG: It is heartening to see poetry getting its share of popularity, but I can’t predict whether readers of one kind of poetry graduate to so-called serious, artistic stuff. For all I know, they might. At the end of the day, all writers, including poets, write to be read. The more the readers, the better.
DS: I do hope so.
MD: Insta poems are like summer rains; they can bring temporary relief but cannot be compared to monsoon showers.
BC: Instagram poetry is a recent trend, and it is too early to comment on insta poets and readers
LA: Who cares? And I say so after Keki Daruwalla recently marked me a “difficult poet” in his column in The Hindu. All is fair in love but not in war. All is fair in poetry too.
Have you published any insta poets?
SG: No, I haven’t.
MD: No, not yet.
BC: Not yet.
LA: Maybe I will and that’ll be a different market. Nayyirah Waheed is a kind of Instagram poet I would certainly publish as RLFPA Editions diversifies its catalogue.
While we do have some private foundations and individual poets supporting poetry publishing, it’s not at a scale found in the West. Are adequate attempts being made to secure funding for poetry?
SG: The attempts are more than adequate, but the funding is not. Being very aggressive in raising funds can also lead to compromises that aren’t healthy for solid poetry. However, poetry will always find its champions.
DS: No.There are many gatekeepers. I don’t think I will ever get funding.
MD: I have tried but have not yet been successful to secure funding in India.
BC: Publishers in India, especially independent presses, suffer from poor funding and cannot allocate enough of their budgets toward publishing poetry.
LA: I am employed as a communications professional in an MNC where I work pretty seriously to ensure I earn as much to be able to fund poetry. As for the rest of it, I give a rat’s ass. I have to live with the reality that this is India and people die of hunger. Funding for poetry is a SpaceX mission.
Which is your highest selling poetry book by a debut poet? How many copies has it sold?
SG: Sophia Naz’s Pointillism.
DS: Raghavendra Madhu’s Make Me Some Love to Eat, more than 400 copies. Paresh Tiwari’s Raindrops Chasing Raindrops won an award in the USA, and sold more than 300 copies. Also, Uttaran Das Gupta’s Visceral Metropolis, Jhilmil Breckenridge’s Reclamation Song and Amit Ranjan’s Find Me Leonard Cohen, I’m Almost Thirty have already sold more than 200 copies and are still in the market.
MD: XXL is a poetry collection by Amit Shankar which has sold about 300 copies in almost three months. Readers have appreciated his poems.
BC: Huzaifa Pandit’s Green is the Colour of Memory is Hawakal’s highest selling title by a debut poet in the current year. We released the book in May 2018, and in just three months have sold more than 160 copies in India, and 7 copies in the United States. We are grateful to Rhythm Divine Poets, a Calcutta-based poetry community, who gave us the opportunity to publish Huzaifa’s award-winning manuscript of poems. Last year (2017) Amit Shankar Saha’s Balconies of Time made it to the highest-selling title by a debut poet. So far we have sold 195 copies of his book in India.
Do you feel that the hegemony in poetry publishing is even more pronounced than in other forms of publishing?
SG: No, I don’t think so.
DS: Not really. Only that the hegemony is more visible because very few poets have managed to achieve that status.
MD: It is there, but one must know how to thwart it. Besides, poetry, Dhauli Books has published other genres of writing: fiction, plays, autobiography, non-fiction and screenplays etc. So, the hegemony is well distributed.
BC: I can only talk about my house. Hawakal has its share of guidelines in selecting poetry manuscripts, and we publish what we actually like.
Do you expect poets to buyback copies of their books to cover publishing costs?
SG: We don’t.
DS: Yes. More than that, I want my poets to sell their books. I want them to take pride in their work and promote it. I am not looking at profit, but I want the poet to help me recover the publishing cost. We are in this together.
BC: We have never asked poets to buy their books in order to help us recover our investment. Never. Poets often buy a handful of copies of their books for personal reasons.
LA: No. I do not believe in liability either for myself as a publisher or for my authors. The clause so far has been 20 author copies for each of the winners after which they may purchase at 20% author discount.
India doesn’t have a single major prize recognising excellence in poetry. Poetry books rarely feature on the list of prizes where poetry is eligible as genre. What can be done to change this?
SG: All poets should unite to change this, but that’s asking for too much. The distances between poets range from hairline crevices to yawning chasms.
DS: I am not sure. The gatekeepers of publishing will have to work on this. However, I am happy to report that we do have poetry prizes in India. There’s The Great Indian Poetry Collective, who have published some brilliant books. There is Linda Ashok’s RL Poetry Award, which has introduced a number of brilliant young poets. Then there is Jayadev National Poetry Award.
MD: It is a very sordid state of affairs. The Dhauli Review Trust has initiated The Jayadev National Poetry Award in 2018 and the first recipient of the award is poet Vishnu Khare. The award carries fifty thousand rupees and a plaque of Goddess Saraswati. But, without having institutional support, it will be difficult to continue.
BC: The media has to be motivated to focus more on poetry. This is the only factor that can generate the desired attention poetry deserves.
LA: I am confused. Do you mean laureateships? Lifetime recognition for poetry? The RL Poetry Award is a standalone poetry prize and even before the Kanhaiya Lal Sethia Award for Poetry was conferred to poet Jayanta Mahaptra in 2017, he was honoured with the Lifetime Recognition for Poetry by RædLeaf Foundation for Poetry & Allied Arts in 2013.
As mainstream publishing drastically cuts down on publishing poetry or publishes only classics or the very big contemporary names, indie poetry presses are uniquely positioned to publish some very accomplished works of poetry.Have you seen an improvement in the calibre and profile of poets submitting to you?
SG: We get submissions from all kinds of poets, but over the years, the profile of those submitting to us has certainly improved.
DS: Yes and yes. One reason is, most of these poets have published in magazines, which have helped them edit their work.
MD: I do it a little differently. I have a two-way mechanism. Poets make their submissions and I also approach some poets directly. I have an advantage as I have been a poet for all these years.
BC: True, we are now being exposed to a wide range of stylistics as far as poetry is concerned. I’m not sure if all new submissions will be quality poetry.
LA: Of course. Along with Rohan Chhetri starting off with RL Poetry Award, Sohini Basak too was the recipient of the RL Poetry Award 2013. She later won the Beverly Poetry prize by UK’s leading indie-press Eyewear Publishing. I already mentioned Stephen Byrne’s Somewhere But Not Here that ranked amongst the top 6 finalists in the US International Book Award 2018. Tushar Jain’s book Shakespeare in the Parka with poems that won the RL Poetry Award 2014, is being published by Bombaykala Books in 2018. RL Poetry Award also received submissions from poets like Annie Zaidi, Sumana Roy, Sudeep Sen, Rochelle Potkar and others.