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Poetry’s Slow Digital Revolution

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Kobo Glo and Mini

Many publishers have resisted releasing poetry collections as e-books, for a variety of reasons, mostly centered around the difficult task of faithfully reproducing a poet’s line breaks for devices that vary in physical size and that allow readers to shrink or enlarge the font. There’s also the “fetishistic” nature of many readers of poetry, who prefer to have a physical book in their hand. Some argue there’s not as much demand for poetry in e-book form—poetry, after all, makes up only a small percentage of total book sales.

But an article in the New York Times earlier this week discussed how technology is finally allowing poetry to be published electronically, preserving some of our greatest poets in the digital age.

Although it increases their cost, publishers have begun hiring coders and programmers to manually manipulate line breaks and other formatting issues so that poems are reproduced faithfully in e-book form. For example, Copper Canyon Press recently spent $150,000 to digitize their back-list. Most of that money went toward programmers.

“Many of my poems have lines that are very long, and it’s important to me that they be accurately reproduced on the page,” said poet John Ashbery, who recently agreed to have seventeen collections digitized. “The impact of a poem very often comes down to line breaks, which publishers of poetry often don’t seem to find as important as the people who write the poems.”

According to the article, in 2013, “publishers released about 2,050 poetry e-books, up from about 200 in 2007, the year the first Kindle came out, according to Bowker, which tracks releases. Last year, e-books accounted for roughly 20 percent of the nearly 10,000 poetry books published, compared with around 10 percent in 2012.”

Some poets, such as former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins, have begun adding disclaimers to their poetry e-books, warning that digital readers might “change the physical integrity of a poem.”

But publishers are hopeful, and continue working toward a solution.

“We wanted to feel confident that what the poets were doing visually came across in the e-readers before we made this transfer,” said Christopher Richards, an assistant editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. “The visual look of a poem is really important and can communicate a kind of meaning, and if it’s not preserved in the e-book, you really lose something.”

Time to Nominate NC’s Next Poet Laureate

From the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources:

RALEIGH—Nominations for the state’s next poet laureate, the ambassador of North Carolina literature, will be accepted now through October 14, online at www.NCDCR.gov/PoetLaureate. The timeline is short, so immediate attention to nominations is encouraged.

The post, created by the General Assembly in 1935, uses the office as a platform to promote North Carolina writers and the power of poetry and the written word. The 2014 poet laureate selection process will be led by North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz.

“This is an important position to our great state and I am committed to working with my department to find a poet laureate to represent North Carolina’s literary community,” says Kluttz. “North Carolina has a passion for poetry. I look forward to working with the experts in my department to assist Governor McCrory in identifying the next poet laureate.”

Secretary Kluttz has expanded the poet laureate process to include the North Carolina Arts Council, the Office of Archives and History, and the State Library—the three areas that make up the Department of Cultural Resources. Local and university libraries are easily-accessible locations for those without computers to make their nominations online.

“I am extremely excited that our Secretary, Susan Kluttz, will be leading the process to choose a new poet laureate for North Carolina,” says Wayne Martin, Executive Director of the NC Arts Council. “The fact that she has made the poet laureate a department-wide priority speaks to her support for the arts and of poetry in particular.”

While each North Carolina poet laureate leaves his or her own personal imprint on the program, duties typically include public activities with schools, community groups and the press, and contact with writers and readers by mail, email and/or through a website. Former Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti distinguished his term working with veterans to share their stories of military service—including combat—through poetry.

The selection criteria for the poet laureate position include:

  • A North Carolina resident with deep connections to the cultural life of this state
  • Literary excellence of the writer’s work
  • Influence on other writers and appreciation of literature in its diversity throughout the state
  • Ability and willingness to conduct the public engagement duties of the office
  • Statewide, national, or international reputation

“North Carolina is known for its excellence in the arts. Our writers, poets, artists,and musicians add to our enjoyment and quality of life while also supporting tourism and economic development in our great state,” adds Kluttz. “Governor Pat McCrory will announce his choice for the new poet laureate the first week of December and the induction ceremony will occur soon after the first of the New Year.”

Nominations for the position will be accepted online through October 14 at www.NCDCR.gov/PoetLaureate. Only electronic submissions will be accepted.

NC LIVE Brings 1,200 New e-Books to Patrons

From the North Carolina State University Libraries:

RALEIGH, NC – NC LIVE, North Carolina’s statewide public and academic library consortium, is experimenting with a new e-Book project that gives North Carolina library patrons unlimited access to more than 1,200 e-Book titles from North Carolina-based publishers. This collection offers a wide range of content, including novels by popular North Carolina authors, poetry, short stories, and nonfiction. The e-Books are available for public use on the BiblioBoard platform and on North Carolina library websites, featuring titles like Guests on Earth by Lee Smith and North Carolina and Old Salem Cookery by Beth Tartan, among many others.

The consortium partnered with eight local publishing houses to purchase the e-Books, including Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (an imprint of Workman Books), Crossroad Press, Gryphon House, Ingalls Publishing Group, John F. Blair Publishing, McFarland, Press 53, and UNC Press. Unlike traditional library eBooks, this collection features always available, unlimited simultaneous user access during the life of the pilot, meaning patrons will not have to place a hold or wait for an eBook to become available. Additionally, the BiblioBoard platform allows users to view the eBooks in a web browser or download them to their tablet devices via the BiblioBoard Library app.

With this project, NC LIVE was able to acquire e-Book titles not previously available to libraries at lower prices than would be possible if the libraries had purchased them independently.

Executive Director Tim Rogers noted, “For the cost of about 5-10 e-Books per library, the Home Grown collection gives every North Carolinian access to more than 1,200 e-Books. It is something we can all feel good about.”

State Librarian Cal Shepard echoed Rogers’ sentiments. “I believe this project showcases one of the many ways the state’s libraries are harnessing technology and working together to efficiently offer services that people want and need. When we pool our resources in this way, we’re able to achieve a lot more than we could individually.”

The pilot program will run through December 2014, during which time NC LIVE will work with publishers, libraries, and BiblioLabs, the provider of the BiblioBoard platform, to assess the long-term sustainability and success of these models.

About NC LIVE
NC LIVE is a statewide library consortium that provides shared digital content and services to North Carolina’s community colleges, public libraries, the UNC System, and NC Independent Colleges and Universities. Patrons of NC LIVE’s 200 member libraries may access e-Books, magazines, newspapers, journals, streaming videos, and more online via library websites, and through www.nclive.org.

About BiblioBoard
BiblioBoard is the PatronsFirst mobile library. The folks behind BiblioBoard are a powerful team based in Charleston, SC. They aim to transform access to information by providing a world-class user experience that thrills library patrons and is profitable for publishers. BiblioBoard is moving library content delivery into the future in a sustainable way. BiblioLabs is also a proud member of the Charleston Digital Corridor. To learn more, visit www.biblioboard.com.

Come See Us at BookMarks This Weekend

BookMarks Festival of Books and AuthorsWhat are you doing on Saturday?

The North Carolina Writers’ Network will have a booth at the BookMarks Festival of Books and Authors in downtown Winston-Salem. Why not stop by and say hi?

We’re also the proud sponsor of that day’s “Southern Identity in Writing” panel featuring Jeremy B. Jones, Mary Alice Monroe, and North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee Robert Morgan. This panel runs 11:45 am – 12:30 pm, followed by a booksigning.

The lineup on Saturday includes NCWN members Terri Kirby Erickson and Joseph Mills; NCWN board of trustees member Terry L. Kennedy; and former NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti. The day includes forty authors, food trucks and exhibitors, and of course the NCWN booth, where we’ll be looking forward to hanging out with you for a while.

For the complete lineup, click here.

The festival takes place in and around the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts and Spruce Street.

See you there!

Penelope Niven, RIP

Penelope Niven

Penelope Niven, the critically acclaimed biographer of Carl Sandburg and Thornton Wilder, has died. She was seventy-five.

“She was just a beautiful person inside and out,” said poet and biographer Emily Herring Wilson. “She was extraordinary. She was a great public speaker and teacher. I heard her speak many times, often at Salem College. She was funny, intelligent and generous. So many people have lost a close personal friend. Her family has lost a great family member. Her readers. … Her loss will just have a great impact in all those areas.”

Niven, who lived in Winston-Salem, wrote Carl Sandburg: A Biography, Steichen: A Biography, and, most recently, Thornton Wilder: A Life. She and James Earl Jones co-authored Voices and Silences, praised as a classic on acting, and she wrote a memoir, Swimming Lessons. Carl Sandburg: Adventures of a Poet, her biography for children, was awarded an International Reading Association Prize “for exceptionally distinguished literature for children,” one of six books honored among publications from ninety-nine countries.

She has been awarded two honorary doctorates, three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Thornton Wilder Visiting Fellowship at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, among other honors. She received the North Carolina Award in Literature, the highest honor the state bestows on an author. During the past twenty-three years she has lectured across the United States and in Switzerland, Canada, and Wales; has served as an editor for various publications; and has been a consultant for television films on Sandburg, Jones, and Steichen. She recently retired after twelve years as Writer-in-Residence at Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where an international writing prize was named in her honor, along with the creative writing portfolio prize given each year to a Salem student.

Penelope Niven is the mother of award-winning author Jennifer Niven.

“I want my epitaph to testify that I have been a loving mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend,” Niven said on her website. “And I have taught, written, and lived with joy.”

NCWN Sponsors Poetry in Plain Sight

The North Carolina Writers’ Network is a proud sponsor of September’s Poetry in Plain Sight Program.

Poetry in Plain Sight brings poetry to downtown Winston-Salem. Four poems are chosen each month and displayed on posters in sixteen shop windows throughout Winston-Salem’s Arts District and downtown. The goal is to bring poetry to a wider audience and to support North Carolina poets. This Winston-Salem Writers’ program is a collaborative effort with Press 53, with a monthly event at Barnhill’s Books. It is endorsed by the Downtown Arts District Association of Winston-Salem. Monthly sponsorships from local businesses and corporations support printing costs.

For September, the featured poems are “Pharr Yarns” by Molly Rice; “Sourwood” by Bill Griffin; “Owls on Runnymede” by Becky Gould Gibson; and “Song” by Adrian Rice.

The Winston-Salem Writers will host their monthly event, “4 Poem & a Party,” to celebrate these works on Saturday, August 30, at 1:00 pm, at Barnhill’s Books, 811 Burke St. in Winston-Salem.

For more information on Poetry in Plain Sight, including how to submit your poem for consideration, click here.

Poetry in Plain Sight

Let’s Thank Our State Government Reps

NC Arts CouncilFor the first time in what feels like a long time, the state budget signed earlier this month by the North Carolina governor sustained funding to the North Carolina Arts Council at current levels.

ARTS North Carolina is asking constituents to write a hard copy letter to your Senator and Representative at their Raleigh office:

Why a hard copy letter instead of an email? The intent is for your people to actually receive the note of thanks which is unlikely if it arrives as an email. First class, personalized communication has a far greater impact.

They suggest including the following ideas:

  • Visionary leaders make hard choices, and in choosing to preserve our state arts agency and its programs, they have chosen to help keep North Carolina the creative state. The direct and indirect results of their support of the arts will be felt in our economy, our schools, and in the lives of our citizens.
  • Share a specific program planned for next year that would not have occurred if state funding had been cut. Use data AND anecdote to illustrate your claim that public funding matters.
  • In supporting the arts in North Carolina, they have helped create a public/private partnership that benefits cities and towns across the state. Give a specific example of how public funding serves as a catalyst for private giving and earned revenue.
  • Give examples of jobs or contracts that will be possible because of the NCAC funding

In concluding, reinforce the theme of “pride in place” by positioning your relationship with the Legislator as a partnership because you share a passion for making your community a better place to live and work.

You can find the mailing address of your Senator and Legislator at www.ncleg.net. If you are unsure of the specific person, first visit Who Represents Me at http://www.ncleg.net/representation/WhoRepresentsMe.aspx.

Announcing a New NC Publisher: Orison Books

Orison Books“Orison” is a thirteenth century word meaning “prayer.” At Orison Books, a new Asheville-based press focusing on the life of the spirit, the staff believes “the best spiritual art and literature call us to meditate and contemplate, rather than asking us to adopt any ideology or set of propositions.”

Determined that their list will ask questions and seek the truth—as opposed to presenting the truth as something already understood—Orison Books plans to publish “spiritually-engaged poetry, fiction, and nonfiction books of exceptional literary merit.” They also aim to contribute to the cultural conversations around spirituality and literature by hosting classes, readings, symposia, and other public events.

“A significant gap exists between literary publishers and strictly religious publishers,” says Luke Hankins, Senior Editor of Asheville Poetry Review and the founder of Orison Books. “Literary publishers occasionally publish books of spiritual depth, but few, if any, set out to do so as a mission and raison d’être. Religious publishers, on the other hand, tend to publish work that offers little appeal to readers outside a particular ideological group.”

Orison Books hopes to bridge this gap. In order to do so, they are hoping to raise $40,000 through Indiegogo, an online crowdfunding platform.

Orison Books will release its first title on March 15, 2015: I Scrape the Window of Nothingness: New & Selected Poems by Stella Vinitchi Radulescu.

For more information, click here.

Spiral Bound Documentary Highlights Arts Education

On Tuesday, September 9, Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council will present the world premiere of Spiral Bound, a “documentary about the unlikely union of eight creative high school students from a youth development program and a group of liberal arts college students over the course of one summer.”

Together, these education activists are seeking social justice not only in the public school system but also in the higher education arena. On this journey, both groups learn the power of the arts in giving a voice to those who need it the most, including themselves. From the inner city streets of Charlotte and the quaint college town of Davidson to the bustling steps of the US Capitol, these young people stand together to change the face of education through their courageous narratives.

The movie will screen in the McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square. Tickets are $8 – $10. For more information, click here.

Per the Arts & Science Council, the documentary asks why our education system fails to reach some of the most at-risk children in our education system and offers arts education as a solution for helping those children find success personally and in the classroom. Arts education provides opportunities for students to find their passion and strive for improvement and growth. It helps develop creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. And it is disappearing from our public schools.

A second premiere event will take place Thursday, September 11. at the Davidson College Duke Family Performance Hall in Davidson.

Be the Next Piedmont Laureate

Carrie Knowles

Carrie Knowles

The Piedmont Laureate program is accepting applications from speculative fiction authors for 2015. Authors must be residents of Wake, Durham, or Orange counties. The deadline to apply is September 19 at 4:00 pm.

The Piedmont Laureate program, co-sponsored by the City of Raleigh Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council, Orange County Arts Commission, and United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County, has as its primary goal “to promote awareness and heighten appreciation for excellence in the literary arts in the Piedmont region.” The program is dedicated to building a literary bridge for residents to come together and celebrate the art of writing, enriching the lives of all our citizens.

The Piedmont Laureate will be appointed for one year and will offer the following activities in Wake, Durham, and Orange counties:

  • Present readings at designated public sites (libraries, arts centers, schools, universities, and other community gathering places);
  • Encourage creative writing for all age groups (by offering workshops or other types of outreach);
  • Promote literature at select public events;
  • Bring attention to literature in less traditional settings; and
  • Propose original activities to expand appreciation of the literary arts

Past Piedmont Laureates include:

For more information, and to apply, visit: www.piedmontlaureate.com.