Thanks to Radikalchick, I caught most of the BLTX Talks via live streaming here. As I listened to the talks, it struck me that much has changed since Adam David wrote the essay “Better Living Through Xeroxography”–the impetus for what has now become an annual small press expo–three years ago. There is no question that the conditions of literary production mapped out in the essay–which, in sum, are largely defined by the padrino system and the inevitably profit-driven mentality of mainstream publishing–endure to this day. What the experiences of small presses, solo/collective zinesters, independent booksellers, and art/writing groups represented in BLTX make clear, however, is that there are ways to create and thrive outside this system, or at least, with only a casual and detached relationship to it.
A common denominator among those engaged in alternative publishing is the decision to prioritize creative agency, which translates to eschewing the (maximum) profit-driven life. Mabi David of the poetry press High Chair said it best in her talk, which, fortunately, she wrote down. “We believed then as we do now that the value of any human endeavor cannot be measured by commercial success. I’m sure it sounded precious and naïve to a lot of people then. But this belief continues to guide a lot of our decisions, from distribution channels to print runs and pricing to marketing, which is: no to maximum profit.” You can read the rest of her essay “BLTX Talks: Some Notes on Alternative Publishing” here.
In the meantime I’ll sign off with Ann Lauterbach, on the same matter in different words: “I want to suggest that artworks can disrupt the degradation of choice as the site of, and synonymous with, commodification (consumer preference) and (re)align it with the rewards of independent determinations of value—processes of aesthetic discernment and critique seen as part of a continuum across individual, social, political terrain. Choice confined to the marketplace endangers the very core of participatory democratic processes.”