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such, such are the joys

Nice little spread in the Guardian with writers talking about how they feel about writing. The money quote comes from Hari Kunzru:

Beginning is daunting; being in the middle makes you feel like Sisyphus; ending sometimes comes with the disappointment that this finite collection of words is all that remains of your infinitely rich idea. Along the way, there are the pitfalls of self-disgust, boredom, disorientation and a lingering sense of inadequacy, occasionally alternating with episodes of hysterical self-congratulation as you fleetingly believe you’ve nailed that particular sentence and are surely destined to join the ranks of the immortals, only to be confronted the next morning with an appalling farrago of clichés that no sane human could read without vomiting.

Well, that would be a nice occupation then.

He does go on to say that when he’s in the midst of things he does reach a state rather like enjoyment — but it’s not said with resounding confidence.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s Will Self who seems the happiest about his writing gig. The others? Not so much.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Jeff Sparrow is the former editor of Overland. He is the co-author (with Jill Sparrow) of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History and Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within, the editor (with Antony Loewenstein) of Left Turn: Essays for the New Left and the author of Communism: a love story, Killing: Misadventures in violence, and Money Shot: A Journey into Censorship and Porn.  On Twitter, he's @Jeff_Sparrow.

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  1. I’d comment properly on this, but I’m presently wavering between a pitfall of self disgust and a lingering sense of inadequacy.

  2. Yeah, kind of Paul – I’ve also been working on trying to get a novel fit for publication later this year, but I’ll post some more poetry soon.

    I’ve been getting a little flack from some people about the poetry posting outside of Overland – why would anyone pay to read poetry when they can get it online for free, people will rip your work off, it demeans the art etc.

    Also, people seem to enter dialogue less with the poetry blogging so I get paranoid: you bear your soul & the silence echoes back at you. You know how it is…

    Luckily, there are people like you to keep me going!

  3. Oh yes. I have had this discussion many times too, Maxine. Giving your poetry away in your blog means you are a less ‘serious’ poet. It’s ridiculous and it makes me laugh. I give my poetry away to any who would like to read it and I suggest that anyone who doesn’t is awfully vain seeing as you can’t make a living from being journals anyway.

    The key issue is why would anyone pay when they can get it for free. Why would anyone pay money for Overland when they can read equally good (and lots of it is) poetry for free all over the net? The fact is people won’t and poets won’t stop giving it away while it is so hard to get into journals and the journals are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

    The question for me as a poet has long been, why would I bother trying to get into Overland when it is obvious that the entire elitist infrastructure around poetry is crumbling into dust. Just for the couple of bucks they pay? Or just so I can feel I have been ‘accepted’ into the crystal citadel?

    “It demeans the art” How does giving poetry away demean it? That is typical of the elitist snobbery involved in their desperate attempts to hang to their positions as arbiters of taste and quality.

    By the way Jeff, I’m sure you realise all my comments are deletable and editable and I am trying to do my best for poetry in Australia by bringing a little reality to the table.

  4. This goes back to the debate about copyright. I don’t see it as an either or question. Giving poetry (or prose away) is not necessarily counterposed to publishing in paid organs. If one can build a reputation through performance or a website or whatever, it’s only going to foster your work elsewhere.
    As for whether people will continue to pay for Overland, I’ve made my position on this clear. People will subscribe to Overland and other journals not because we compel them (it’s always been possible to read lit journals for free in libraries) but because they support the project. The obvious analogy is with subscriptions to public radio.
    Increasingly, there’s empirical evidence for this. The sales and subs for both Overland and Meanjin are rising steadily, despite the fact that both journals do lots of stuff for free.
    Again, the point is this: we’re not in competition with poets who give their work away for free. The more people reading poetry (or anything really), the better for all of us.

  5. This Guardian article’s relevance to unorganized writing workshopper: 100%. Racing to photocopier in 3,2,1. Yours gratefully etc.

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