[IF YOU WANT THE BASIC SUMMARY SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM]
Introduction / Where to Start?
There has been a poetry jam before this one, though there is little to no connection between me as a host (@hologramvin) and this previous jam. I recommend looking through the submissions of said jam to have an idea of what people have done with regards to poetry hosted on itch.io before. The game "Saint of Vines" seems to be a very simple and enjoyable "lyric game" or "interactive poetry game" for example (though I'm looking more for chapbooks than coded games, but any variety of poetry is welcome). There is an entire zine community as well as poetry hosting on this site, regardless of whether or not they are interactive game files or a collection of text. This is not a competition, nor is there an expectation of "high quality" or "professionalism" within this concept. Not just because that kind of mindset ends up excluding people who doubt the value of their own work, or the quality of it, but also because this "mini jam" is so short, and is acting as a test to see if a continued series of potentially longer or more in depth poetry jams could be viable in the future. It would be unreasonable, unhealthy, and exploitative to be asking all contributors to churn out a "ready for print" poetry collection in 30 days. If you want to and are able to do so, please feel free to - just know that is not a "rule" or "expectation" of this poetry jam.
If you have been curious about "How do I get into poetry?" (whether as a writer or reader or both) this month long welcoming submission space hopefully can be just the place for that. Even if you don't feel comfortable or prepared to openly post writing of your own, I deeply encourage you to connect with contributors, writers, artists, and other readers participating in any degree with this jam. If you are unsure of where to start and what poetry can look like (it can look like anything) for finding indie, small, or micro presses which publish poetry to read and study I recommend this very comprehensive list of twitter accounts by The Poetry Question as material to sift through. An important aspect of the poetry community I want to encourage and help sustain is a sentiment of being "anti-industry" or "anti-press". There is decades of history around complex conversations with regards to ethics, accessibility, and passive-aggressive discouragement from actually challenging establishment or institutions within a lot of mainstream poetry scenes and discussion. It would be unreasonable to expect people not experienced with that or aware of that to know everything about that tension. You don't have to deeply study quiet disagreement between academics and the 'troublemakers', just know there is both a) a much longer history of anti-press publishing than this current wave and we know that and are not pretending otherwise and b) a lot of popular, well-known, or 'high-esteem' poets deeply look down on these scenes because they cannot visualize communities where people are not playing to win. If you are aware of me personally you probably have an inkling that I care very deeply about poetry outside of the status quo and poetry which is not centrist or liberal in nature, but genuinely coming from left-wing analysis. I am not an expert on this topic, (I'm very very new to the discussion in comparison to most others, and don't proclaim to have a lot of experience) but believe in mentioning it always when discussing poetry because the mindset behind it is such a good one to have in all the work we do and not just our art.
To have an idea of the poetry scene I am most exposed to, and what this approach is based in and looks like I recommend "Against Publishing" by Jamie Berrout (and would recommend all of her writing and work in general), paintbucket.page, radical paper press, BEST BUDS! Collective, and marlskarx as where to start. Look through the accounts and writing and websites of the contributors/founders if you still desire a more solidified idea of what it means to write in opposition of "the system" that keeps actual communist, anarchist, and left-wing thought or analysis out of public consumption. Does your participation and contribution within this poetry jam need to be identical to the work and style of what I have linked above? No, but I do sincerely encourage contributions coming from a place of "I want my poetry to encourage community instead of isolation or individualism." as opposed to the "I don't care if you take any real challenge of the system out of my work to publish it, I want thousands of readers, to be on every "Best of" list, and get all the accolades to be welcomed into the New York 'champagne socialist' lifestyle all the Real Poets in the Real Magazines have." Not that that is the binary of mindsets people have around poetry, (there is no black and white only to every single situation), but if your dream is to get on your favorite "edgy leftist" podcast, and your primary goal is not working against capitalism and imperialism as a whole but more of a "Let's make a few laws mostly better but ultimately not change society too much." then I will say while this poetry jam does aim to be anti-gatekeeping, the only stance and standard taken is that I don't want this to seem welcoming to people who do not have the actual motivation or intention to make the world a better place. [I hear that the Poetry Foundation is always taking submissions though.]
Goals of the Jam
1. To encourage and promote a space for marginalized working class people - who are often routinely kept out of spaces where one's work can be read, reviewed, or hosted - to publish, read, discuss, and enjoy any variety or medium of poetry on any topic in any stage of completion or 'quality'.
2. To end the jam with a FREE collection of poetry that can be shared and promoted to encourage different avenues for writing and readership, and to provide participants with a cite-able source regarding their own work. [This means a participant can add "Poetry Jam; February 2020" to their resume if they desire, to hopefully secure future writing opportunities.]
3. To connect writers, artists, editors, micro-presses, readers, people looking to review poetry that usually doesn't get that chance, and anyone curious about poetry, printing, or writing in general.
4. No submission fees, no contest, no 'winners', no "polished manuscript" intimidation, no academic requirements, no prior experience needed, no radio silence, no respectability, no toxic positivity.
5. Hopefully to nurture relationships between micro-presses and writers, where if a chapbook, collection, or draft catches their eye, they can solicit the writer personally for digital or physical publication. This cannot be promised, but is a goal where the work is not placed entirely on the writer's shoulders to be in the know of how to communicate with a micro-press, and also provides micro-presses with an opportunity to be introduced to unknown or unpublished writers.
6. To have a discussion space welcoming to beginners and long-time writers mostly just wanting to write and finish a draft or project (getting anything out can sometimes really help motivate someone for a period of time) without anxiety or concern about "Will this get rejected?" (it won't), "Will I never hear back?", "Is this good enough?", "I'm going to lose.", or "Everyone else participating will be better than me.". This jam wants to be the opposite of a limited or evasive process.
7. To create new friendships and acquaintances across a lot of different circles so that as time goes on, whether or not more jams follow, all participants and spectators come out with a sense of feeling a little less alone or in the dark about who is doing what where in which ways.
8. To introduce the concept of "anti-industry" and "anti-press" approaches to work to those interested in such alternative frameworks, and especially the consideration on accessibly providing free material to poor readers, or imprisoned people cut off from everything.
I'm not one to say you have to do this, this, this, or no cigar. Do whatever the fxxk you want! You wanna write about the one summer as a child you went to a place you can't forget but have never returned to? Write that. You wanna write about how scared and sad you are in your life right now? Write that. If all you wanna write about is your sexy escapades, or other nsfw, 18+, kink, or sex work topics? Write that. You wanna write about how much you hate your job, your landlord, your boss, the police, capitalism, whatever? Write that. You can write about nature, oppression, working class experiences, memories, power fantasies, sex, agriculture, food, science fiction, a murder mystery, clothes, crafts, history, cultural or ancestral relationships, literally anything you want to write about you can. Poetry is pretty limitless. You don't need a theme, though it can help to have one, and the aesthetic can be whatever you want it to be. You and your work don't have to be pretty. This isn't the kind of open submission space where your thoughts, emotions, experiences, or ideas will be deemed "too much" to be considered. You are not required to be from any particular background or marginalization. Let your poems be messy. What's important is that everything from this poetry jam will be accessible to everyone for FREE, but readers can and will be encouraged to tip or donate to participants for their work.
[Obviously though, if you don't make it clear that you care about not encouraging harmful beliefs and aren't just running a free for all where "oh well sometimes bigotry happens can't do anything about that sorry", people won't feel safe in participating. If you publish something within this poetry jam that contains racism, colonialism, antisemitism, transmisogyny, transphobia, homophobia, anti-sex worker sentiments, anti-addict sentiments, anti-prisoner sentiments, anti-homeless people sentiments, classism, ableism, misogyny, or sexualization of children or teen children ... as an admin I will likely remove your submission because while I do not want people to feel like they cannot honestly express difficult or negative topics and experiences, I do not find the promotion of bigotry or harmful material to fall into the "messy" category. "Messy" is being real about the way we think about ourselves, or our experiences, or what we struggle with and not trying to appeal to the feelings or sensibilities of those who hold systemic or material power over us. It is not for example trying to be "subversive" by making a chapbook about how censored you are because you can't say you hate marginalized people. The best way to make it clear I won't tolerate this as "a difference of opinion" and avoid a situation is to outline it now, so you know whether or not this jam would be a good fit for you.]
The only real 'guidelines' are that if you do go into topics that a reader could potentially find upsetting at some point either in the bio, synopsis, or within the text please give a content warning or content note. [Note; if a reader complains something was upsetting to them because it was a case of them reading material from a marginalized person critiquing them in some way, that is not what is meant by a CW for upsetting material. Not here to censor real experiences or critique as 'too harsh']. Please also provide a plain .txt file without formatting so that it can be easily read by any screen-reader tool. There is no length minimum or maximum (yes, even if all you write is one poem that's fine!). You can approach this poetry jam any way you desire. Think of it like NaNoWriMo. You have a month, you go at your own pace, and it's okay if you don't make an entire 'book' by the end because all that matters is that you got to write and you didn't feel limited. While the advice I will be providing is with an assumption most participants will want to offer downloadable text files formatted as a chapbook, if you want to make a game, a twine, a piece of interactive fiction, or artwork based off of a writer's work, please feel free to do what you wish in any medium. Audio and video submissions are welcome as well.
Wait? What? Help! How do I Make a Poetry Chapbook?!?
This is probably the biggest barrier anyone interested in participating will have. The thought of making a downloadable .pdf in 30 days that other people are going to read is intimidating whether or not this has rules or expectations. I've gone through the following material to make a comprehensive list of helpful tutorials and advice on how to make a chapbook, and by February 1st I will try to have offered a downloadable chapbook template to make the process even easier. You don't need to buy all this software to be able to contribute. Luckily there is a huge amount of advice and tutorials about chapbook or zine making out there, so hopefully any worries about the formatting aspect can be assuaged with this information.
1. "Practical Notes for DIY Publishing" - Jamie Berrout
2. "How to Make Your Own Chapbook" - tools and tutorial list on writerswrite
3. "How to Make an eBook on Canva" - a video for beginners with a free browser based builder, note this is based around a business oriented .pdf, not a collection of writing.
4. "How to Make a .PDF in Google Docs" - really simple explanation about how you can convert a Google Docs file to a .PDF
5. "How to Make a Poetry Chapbook" - this is pretty standard and is geared towards how to DIY print physical copies, but could be useful anyways
6. "The Ultimate Guide to Google Docs for Writers" - detailed guide with tips around .PDF optimization, a video, though it's a bit about "engaging your fans online"?
7. "How to format a poetry book in Word" - basic video about Word formatting, but Word can be really complex and confusing so don't feel like you have to use it.
8. "Typesetting in InDesign" - basic video about formatting in InDesign (you can pirate a copy if you want to)
9. "Poetry Books: Guidelines & Design Options" - video with useful general design tips
10. "Youtube Results for Making a Chapbook in InDesign" - a lot of these videos are more in depth or longer than previously linked ones. I'd say this is just a starting place for people who want to take a step beyond writing in Google Docs and making a .PDF, and you could look into alternatives but overall this understanding of what goes into formatting both for ebooks and for print is useful information to get into DIY printing.
11. Alternatives to InDesign - a list of pros and cons with the alternatives. For example, I use Scribus which is free and open source, but doesn't have as many tutorials as InDesign does.
Basically all you have to do is write how ever many poems you want, create the downloadable files, make a basic image to upload with it, and tada. You made a digital chapbook or chapbook draft. So long as it's legible and can be read, as far as I'm concerned, that's a chapbook. Go wild, or keep it simple. If the deadline for submission comes and you need an extension I can generate a late submission link and will accept late submissions no questions asked for up to two weeks after the 29th of February. Happy writing!
For Artists, Editors, Presses, Reviewers, and Readers
Even if you won't be participating as a writer please don't let that discourage you from engaging. If you find out because someone you know of or friends with is participating, encourage them, offer writers support, or express interest. If you're an artist feel free to contribute art on your own or specifically to a writer if you would like to. If you're an editor and take a liking to someone's submission and wanna help them refine it, reach out to them and offer that advice as an option. If you are a press I definitely encourage both letting your writers and friends know that this poetry jam is happening, and soliciting any writers whose work interests you or which you enjoy. Reviewers please feel free to write any kind of thoughts or review whether in the comments or on a blog or anywhere else. This poetry jam has a lot of potential to just be a pleasant and non-restrictive event where people get to know one another, form connections around writing and printing, and overall provide just something fun with a place for everyone to be a part of it. If you have any further questions please feel free to tweet them at me, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
SPREAD THE WORD!!!
Starting February 1st and with submissions closing on March 1st the "Poetry Jam; February 2020" is open to anyone interested in any degree of engagement with poetry collected (does not have to be written only within this time frame) and published over the course of February. No theme, no topic, no rejections. Tweet about it, use the hashtag #poetryjamF, tell your friends about, enter it yourself, or just come hang out for the hell of it! Make a chapbook, make a draft, make a game, make a video, make a recording, make one poem or make one hundred poems, or participate as a reader and discover new writers you really enjoy. There's no one way to do shit, so do and write whatever the fxxk you want!
Thank you for reading. Can't wait for your submissions,
- Vin Tanner, (they/them)
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