To follow’s a brief interview with Justin Marks, author of a Million in Prizes
Rauan: what’s right and what’s wrong with the small (indie) press world?
Justin: I think there’s a difference, if only in my mind, between the small press world and the indie press world. I would say places like Greywolf and Coffee House are indie presses, whereas Octopus and Birds, LLC (the new publishing venture I’m working on with Chris Tonelli, Dan Boehl, Matt Rasmussen and Sampson Starkweather) are small presses. Indie presses have offices and staff, some of them paid staff, and a select few among those paid staff are actually making a living on what they get paid. Indie presses tend to be non-profit, or maybe funded in part by a university. In the small presses world, no one is getting paid. At best, small presses are recouping the money they put in to put out a book and sinking that straight back in to the press to publish the next book on their roster.
I don’t mean any sort of judgment in those definitions. They both have their advantages and disadvantages.
This is all just my personal experience, but in the small press world I see a really amazing sense of community. Small presses are often being run by one or two people. When they have the opportunity to get together, they form friendships. They help each other out. Team up for readings. Divvy up the work of organizing somewhat larger events that draw much deserved attention to their poets and their presses. I’m not saying indie presses don’t do this, but, in my experience, there’s a more communal spirit in the small press world. Maybe it comes back to money. Small presses stand no chance of making any money, so there’s nothing to do at the end of the day except hang out, have some drinks and fun with your fellow small press editors and poets. It’s a much more informal crowd. Or maybe I’m full of it.
As far as what’s wrong, I don’t know. Maybe I’m naïve, but I don’t see much that’s “wrong” with the small press world. Maybe the way I split hairs between indie and small presses is wrong. Mainly, I wish there were more small presses. I’ve had to turn away interesting books simply because I don’t the time and resources. If there were more presses, we’d have more books, and that can only be a good thing.
Rauan: Why do you go (or why have you gone) to strip clubs?
Justin: I haven’t been to a strip club in years. They really aren’t my thing. But I first went because I was curious. This was back in my undergrad years. So me and a bunch of friends, a mix of guys and girls, went to a strip club. I remember thinking how surreal it was. I mean, everywhere I looked, naked boobs. It wasn’t particularly arousing, but at the same time, I liked it. It was such a different world. I remember this one girl came out on stage dressed as a devil. VanHalen’s “Running with the Devil” was playing, then it was “Shout at the Devil,” by Mötley Crüe. It was all so cheesey and fascinating. I laughed out loud. Then felt really bad about that.
The last time I was in a strip club was seven or eight years ago. I was out in Portland, OR visiting a good friend of mine from college. That was a strange experience because the clubs there allow full nudity. I mean, it’s one thing to see topless dancers, but something different entirely to see a fully naked woman on stage. And when one girl went off stage, the next coming up would wipe the pole and the floor down with antibacterial wipes. It was so awesomely unromantic. Clinical, really.
Then there was this one other time: I was in Baltimore visiting a friend. Apparently all the porn in the city is kept on this one block. It’s where all the clubs are. It’s called “the block.” That was the nastiest, raunchiest, most debauched place I think I’ve ever been to. The clubs were very thinly veiled fronts for prostitution rings. And everybody seemed like they were on drugs. That was a little too much for me.