Have you found a Guerilla Poetics Project broadside? Register it here.
By Ross Marvin
How did GPP come about?
The GPP, for those unfamiliar, is an innovative way to bring the small press to the big world - a subversive yet bold bloodying of that ear before knocking all these aforementioned structures ass-over-tea-kettle. Ten small press poets and publishers who have been writing and publishing their work for a number of years feverishly came up with a new idea of getting poetry to the masses over a three day period on a blog, solidified the nuts and bolts through emails and chats, and eventually sprouted wings into what we currently call the Guerilla Poetics Project. Most of us have had similar ideas in the past, be it with chapbooks, leaflets, brochures or broadsides. But, we had the people, the printer, the webdesigner, the money and the wherewithal to finally realize it. And, so we ran with it. It's a fusion of new technology, with its power for community building, and old, with all printing done on an antique 1914 Chandler Price letterpress.
The beauty of the GPP is that we are not reliant on sales. We are not reliant on any distribution companies. We are not scratching and begging at the door of the publishing conglomerate for acceptance. We don't need academia to officially endorse what we do. We are not interested in prizes or awards. We are reliant on one thing and one thing only: each other. By setting aside our fragile egos and working as a collective, our ever-growing army of operatives put exquisite letterpress broadsides of solid, contemporary small press gems into the hands of the people who just might appreciate them most, and do it at no cost (and hence no risk) to the unsuspecting reader. We serve the idea here at the GPP; that and the written word - poetry.
Broadsides are a traditional poetry artform. They have a marvelous tactile quality that communicates to the finders that this is more than just simple xerox, newsprint, religious ephemera. Hand printed and designed by people who care deeply about poetry and the way it's presented to the world. We hope that our broadsides are an extension of the poem itself, a total work of art. Plus, in terms of execution of the GPP's mission, we needed a size that would fit into almost all books, and also not be mistaken for an advertisement or bookmark.
Why combine an antique method of printing with an Internet-based organization?
The antique method represents an artistic lineage that we want to carry through to the current times. We also want to make our artform follow the function of what we are doing. It is something concrete, something that exists in the real as opposed to the virtual world. As for the internet-based organization, it allows for rapid fire communication, easy organization of Operatives, a place to gather at the forum and blog, and most importantly, the website is where all Operatives go to submit poetry and vote on which broadsides represent them out in the world. The ability to create a virtual network that operates successfully in the real world and actually has a tangible effect on people is exciting.
Talk a little about the secret aspects of the group. Why keep identities secret? And if the admins are staying anon. why put the poet's name on the broadsides?
The administration tries to keep our names out of it because the mission is to expose the entirety of the small press to a larger potential readership. It's not about getting credit or who runs the show, it's about the poets and the poetry. Thus, the poet's names are on the broadsides because we hope to garner new readers for the poets, new supporters of the small press who might purchase books, magazines, etc. That's the whole mission of the GPP. There's a whole lot of great writing being produced in relative obscurity, and we feel like it deserves a wider audience. Besides, anyone who finds a poem they enjoy would be frustrated at not being able to discover more about the poem/poet. The administration works the levers behind the scenes but it's the Operatives who submit work and vote, and everyone has the same influence on what gets published.
Talk a bit more about the grassroots aspect? Does the group have any sort of grudge against the academic/MFA side of most widely published poetry?
We don't have a grudge as much as we have a difference of opinion in terms of what poetry is supposed to accomplish; and what poetry even is. Poetry to us is meant for everyone, be it the cook or garbageman, the dentist or lawyer, the poker player or the chemist. The academic/MFA side of modern poetry is more insular, more concerned with maintaining the grant structure and generating new MFA candidates, more concerned with manufacturing deliberate obscurity in verse for their own consumption than they are with producing work that moves the average reader. Too often MFA workshops produce obtuse language and cryptic allusions where we value straight language dealing with common human struggles and joys. The grassroots aspect of this is mainly out of necessity as we are far flung and separate. It sort of blossomed out of the idea and we embraced it. So far we seem to have attracted only those who genuinely believe in poetry and the mission of the GPP.
Where's the weirdest place a broadside has been found? Most remote/outside of the U.S.?
Broadsides have been found from Alaska to Sweden, from Los Angeles to Italy and hundreds of places in between. You can find out more by going here. As for the "weirdest," we'd say that would be everywhere on the earth as the Earth can often be a weird and confusing place.
I don't know if you can help me on this one, but I was wondering if you could set me up with an operative in my area OR if you could tell me how many operatives are in Upstate New York/ Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga area.
There are several Operatives working in that area but their identities must remain secret. We're sure you understand. We can tell you though that one of the published GPP Poets is from that area; it's no secret that the excellent poet Alan Catlin hails from there.
Feel free to include anything else that you think might make for good copy.
We might be wrong, but we feel that a much larger poetry reading audience is out there - it's just been either ignorant of, or denied access to, the work being produced today. Maybe it's just never occurred to many readers that poems were being written, in a readily accessible language, about things that just might be relevant to their own daily struggles here in the early 21st Century. Our hope is that a GPP broadside opens a door to the poetry being produced today. We believe that a poem can still matter, even in a society where it's been marginalized into greeting cards and eulogies, and we hopefully bring beautifully printed work to people in a way that surprises and delights them.
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