Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cider Press Review

I’ll start with a confession. Many years ago, I dabbled in poetry. Haiku. Sonnet. Free-verse. Villanelle. Sestina. Name the form, I tried it.

But today’s world is no place for a poet, at least not for one with skin as thin mine, so I laid my quill aside and, with a sigh, set my sights on more prosaic pastures. My own failure as a poet, however, gives me great admiration for anyone who stays at it, and even greater admiration for anyone willing to provide poets with a venue, an area in which to be appreciated. Caron Andregg and Robert Wynne, the co-editors and publishers of Cider Press Review, have done just that, and their journal is not only a labor of love, but a bastion of hope for struggling poets and poetry lovers everywhere.

The latest issue of the journal opens with a poem titled “About the Type” by Marilyn McCabe. As its title suggests, the poem consists of an imaginary note on the type in a book set in a font called Requiem. Yet Requiem, the poet notes, has fallen out of use. The irony, of course, is that while the typeface is no longer used, it is, nonetheless, the typeface used in the book that the poet imagines. In many ways, it can be argued that this is the state of poetry in the modern world: while the pundits of cultural production and mass media may insist that the poem is a form of communication that is itself “now out of use,” poetry continues to resurface and prove that reports of its death are grossly exaggerated—as demonstrated, of course, by Cider Press Review and other journals like it.

Another poem in this edition of CPR that caught my eye was “Night of Broken Stars” by Brian Lutz. Ostensibly a love poem, this piece takes the conceit of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 into the free-verse realm of a gothic American October. Where Shakespeare finds beauty in the black wires of his subject’s hair and the reek of his subject’s breath, Lutz finds beauty in “the undusted room” and likens it to the “second hand/of working things ticking.”

Overall, Cider Press Review does a wonderful job of collecting the poetry of new and exciting voices as well as that of award-winning poets from around the world. The latest issue is nearly 150 pages long, perfect bound, with a bright, beautiful cover. If you’re a poet, you certainly can’t go wrong in subscribing to this gem of a journal.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the journal itself looks nice, but this press has a track record of unethical dealings with the winners of its book award. The two previous winners both had to enter into legal action against the press, which speaks volumes about it, I think.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous post. I think it's about time that this press be exposed as the shady business it truly is.

Anonymous said...

Yes, CPR has a terrible reputation. Given the disastrous results of the last two book competitions, I think many poets will be staying away from this press.

Marc said...

For the sake of fairness, I contacted the publishers at Cider Press, and they offered the following explanation, which identifies a poet named Stacey as the individual who has taken "legal action" against the press:

We gave Stacey every single thing she asked for except a photo on the back cover (and we had originally offered that, but she refused to allow us to consider editing the blurbs so it would fit). We spent countless hours and more than $200 of extra money (including purchasing a special font and securing specific cover art) to make the book look exactly the way she wanted. There were certainly misunderstandings along the way, but each one was dealt with as it arose and the only thing we were aware that she was dissatisfied with was the placement of her photograph. In the end, she refused to allow us to publish the book unless we put her picture on the back - when we, instead, wanted to put it inside the back of the book where we deemed it would look better, particularly given the lengthy blurbs on the back.

During the process, Stacey became demanding about every aspect of the book's design, until she became unreasonable and even abusive. At that time we decided to revoke the book award. Since then, she has undertaken a campaign to 'get us back' in whatever way she thinks she can. First she went to a lawyer to assure that she would not have to return the prize money to retain the rights to her book, and we conceded that in an effort to put an end to this unfortunate situation. But she was still apparently unsatisfied, and so she agitated a writer at Poets & Writers (to whom we are providing detailed accounts of precisely what occurred, which may be used in a comprehensive story regarding the matter), and wrote her one-sided blog entry.

Based on her blog entry, she seems to have confused proofreading with editing, since we don't commonly "edit" prize-winning manuscripts but always work with the author to proofread the text for formatting issues only an author could recognize. And she certainly has preconceived notions as to the role of author vs. press, which we can certainly do nothing at this point to rectify. We continue to do what we do because we care about poetry, and want to put out a quality product based on our years of experience as a small press. We have had many good experiences with authors, and very few bad ones. We look forward to more good experiences, and more wonderful poetry, in the future.

stacebro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stacebro said...

Hi, Marc.

I very much appreciate you posting the response by Cider Press, as their side in this story deserves to be represented. That's why I posted it on my blog.

But I wanted to clarify something here. As I wrote on my blog, I did indeed go to a lawyer first and undertake legal action. I was forced to because the press broke a legally binding contract and then tried to maintain that they were still entitled to the rights that would have been afforded to them by that contract.

So I had to hire a lawyer, who had to explain to them that when you break a contract, the contract is void, and you're no longer entitled to what that contract was supposed to give you.

It was a very regrettable situation, and one that could have easily been avoided. If they wanted to break the contract, they should have freely given me back the rights to my work. They did not own them, nor were they entitled to them. And their attempts to withhold them further amplified the "ethically questionable" behavior of breaking a contract without legal reason.

Thank you.
Stacey Lynn Brown

Marc said...

There you have it, folks. Both sides of the story.