The Poor (Nashville) Scene Canticles
I’m trying to be intentional about my remaining time in the United States. Even though I’ve lived in Nashville most of my life, there are a lot of things I’ve never done. This week, Sarah & I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame, using the Nashville Public Library’s Community Passports program. Here are a few photos from our afternoon:
Is out. My gods it’s done. There were years I wondered if I’d ever follow through & finish it in any form. When I got the repo served and the custom domain configured and it was finally online, I felt extremely hollow. Like my soul had been peeled away from me. I was exhausted and wanted to never look at those poems again. After a good night’s sleep, though, I was rejuvenated. Since then, it really feels like a literal weight was lifted, and I’m just so proud of myself for getting it done.
It’s so fascinating to me that, for a project in any domain, a certain level of constraint is actually generative. That was true for me here. If not for the impending move (and realization that I might not be able to refocus on the book again for months), I would not have TGP out in the world now. I’d probably still be finalizing line edits on a couple poems and tinkering with the navigation.
The concept of a Minimum Viable Product was extremely useful. It’s a business term I’ve mentioned before, but in this context it was actually a form of permission (in keeping with the overarching theme of the booksite itself.) I allowed myself to punt on a few non-essential elements (dark theme, a prettier picture gallery, search) in order to release an otherwise complete manuscript.
I have a new respect for anyone who finishes a book now. The stress was hollowing me out. Obviously I had more going on than TGP, but in the weeks & days leading up to , I started losing my appetite & weight (20 lbs!), my digestion was all fucked up and I had debilitating heartburn for a few days, and my hair even started thinning. Now that the booksite is out there and plans for the move are mostly finalized, most of that has fallen away.
Also on , Uncorked at Americano Lounge hosted my Farewell-to-Nashville/Book Release reading. It went extremely well! Probably one of the best readings I’ve ever given. It was a full house, and the audience was so focused.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any IG posts to link to here. Friends posted stories that night, which have of course disappeared in the week since. However, Christine Hall (more on her below) did catch me at my final visit to her show 11 days earlier (should start at 1:15:50):
I also got this clip (in my Berlin outfit) from a open mic at SOUL where I’m fidgeting a whole lot:
In the wake of all this stress & effort, I’m feeling an immense wave of gratitude for all the people who supported me, believed in me, or showed up for me. Many of my friends are not poets, but came to my readings or read my new publications anyway. A lot of gatekeepers in Knoxville or Nashville generously invited me into their spaces to watch or perform. Many, many educators poured time & energy into me, and expected that I could become better than I was at that time in my life.
Writing the Acknowledgements page was probably the most rewarding single effort in the entire process of creating the booksite.
So now I’m trying to get people to read the damn thing.
My friend Emily Keough works in book publicity, and talked me through some of the basics of promoting a book. I did some research, a SWOT analysis, identified reviewers, media opportunities, & other potential avenues of exposure—all of which went out the window when I received my job offer in Amsterdam and I knew I’d be leaving in October.
The fact that the booksite is in the world means everything went right. I wouldn’t change a single thing. But I was already at a bit of a disadvantage as a relatively unknown poet self-publishing in a (surprisingly) untraversed medium. Trying to promote retroactively is not ideal, but I’m hoping that the no-cost & persistent availability render most of that irrelevant.
One challenge I’m noticing as I query reviewers & other media opportunities is that a strongish bias remains against self-published titles. On one hand, I understand that literally anyone can throw a Creative Commons license on anything they produce, and that a publisher dedicating resources to your work lends you some credibility.
On the other hand, I couldn’t have produced my book with a traditional publisher. There’s no model for a booksite because there don’t seem to be any others. I couldn’t find any comp titles. It being open source, exclusively digital, freely available, & PWYW, how would a publisher make any money? (do small publishers make money?) The closest thing I could find is Pressbooks, which has a similar layout & open-source backbone. But they focus on educational resources, and each time I’ve searched their catalog, I’ve found no creative titles. There are no poetry collections, and only a couple dozen of the 2000+ books are at all related to poetry (mostly as textbooks). Even those books that contain poetry are not presenting it in a way that leverages the web or web technology—all are either iframes of static poems or unstyled text undifferentiated from the surrounding content.
Everything about publishing is new to me, so I’m mostly just keeping my head above water. Here’s what I’m most concerned about now that the booksite is done:
Will anyone read my book?
I’ve read social media from other authors who have basically said, “Be prepared for the harsh reality that your friends & family will not buy your book”. In my case, of course, they won’t have to spend any money. But will they bother to read it? I think many of them will, yes. I have a tight group of supportive friends. As of this posting, Google Analytics tells me about 300 people have visited TGP. I don’t, however, expect that anyone will spend money on my book.
Right now, I have no plans for my next project, but I’m already unsure about devoting the effort I put into this collection for zero compensation. I don’t create for money, but it’s hard to create in a crushing capitalist hellscape without getting something back.
Creative commons implications
I did a lot of reading to feel confident that I was applying the right license and understood what it meant for future licensees. Still, it’s a lot of legalese—a domain where I have no professional experience. It’s also strange trying to specify what kind of reuse or adaptation is “allowed”, since that’s not really how art works. Artists have a reaction to other art and create without any real attribution all the time; though, I try to be very explicit about my influences at a granular level.
I don’t really expect copyright issues, but I do feel very strongly about the non-commercial aspect of the license I chose. If I’m not gonna make money here, I don’t want other folks to. Plus, now that I’ve applied the CC license, I can never revoke it.
Traveling an underutilized road here, and I’ll obviously blog about any updates in this regard.
Not so much a concern (since I don’t expect to make any money), but a few people have asked me about monetizing. Honestly, the pay-what-you-want model doesn’t feel like a risk at all. Based on my friends & acquaintances who have published books, it seems like no one makes money on their book anyway; and if they make any money at all (especially as poets), it’s from paid readings. I have heard that book sales for academic settings (like creative writing classes) can be lucrative, but since I’m not open to producing a physical copy of TGP, that’s moot.
A couple small updates on this website. Links now includes a subsection for published poems that didn’t make it into the manuscript. It’s mostly older poems from college or immediately after. I had planned to create a Read page for this, but since I already have Links, it didn’t make sense on rhetorical level to separate the two. I don’t love the current look, so I’ll probably tweak it later.
The homepage now calls out The Great Permission: A reliquary with some boilerplate text from my query letter. I also added my Patreon link to the Contact callout.
Finally (and this was a total accident), the The Great Permission link in the header now points to thegreatpermission.com. Coincidentally, when I initialized the new repository for the booksite, I named it
/tgp. I didn’t realize that this “baseurl” would get appended to my existing domain (andrewdillonpoetry.com). If I hadn’t purchased a domain for the booksite, the URL would be andrewdillonpoetry.com/tgp. However, I was already using
/tgp as the permalink for the book promo page on this site, so now it just redirects to my book. Which is great!
Christine is a legend on the Nashville poetry scene. She is the longtime host of Poetry in the Brew, a monthly poetry-focused open mic that includes a feature. Some folks who have featured for PitB under Christine’s stewardship include:
- Michelle Awad
- Destiny Birdsong
- Tiana Clark
- Kendra DeColo
- Billy Henderson
- Ananda Lima
- Ciona Rouse
- yours truly
Christine is ending Poetry in the Brew after November’s event to reclaim that time and focus on her own personal/artistic endeavors. PitB has been at Portland Brew East since 2011, and Christine has hosted since 2014; before that (if I have my history right), it went by a different name at Windows on the Cumberland—a venue that shuttered so long ago, I doubt 10% of Nashville’s current residents would know the name.
If you’re on Nashville’s arts scene in any capacity, you probably know Christine at least by reputation. She has been a ceaseless & enthusiastic advocate for art, anticapitalism, & social justice. She’s the best kind of gatekeeper—welcoming one & all (unless you’re a shithead) into the spaces she controls, while enthusiastically promoting all forms & genres of poetry, from artists at all stages in their career. She’s the kind of literary citizen I’d aspire to be if I had half her dedication. I can’t adequately express my gratitude for her support these past six years (since I moved back to Nashville). She brought me into Nashville’s literary scene, and pointed me in all the right directions.
For more about Christine, read this short interview she did with Nashville Voyager in August 2021.
Thank you, Christine; and good luck! I can’t wait to see what you do next.
- The title of this post comes from david lee's collection the porcine canticles