Saturday, 18 July 2009

Poets Have it Easy...Part 1

Why is the process of sharing work so hard for the independent scholar? In America the term is better known. An independent scholar is someone who isn't covered by the protective umbrella of a university or institution, who works away reading through many of the great list of books which comprise the history of ideas and philosophy, and essential contemporary works in their chosen branches, alone, fashioning their own reading list from a mixture of good sense and previous knowledge from when they did (usually) belong to a university or other higher education institution in some capacity. They work on writing their own - what to call them? a huge mixture of texts; commentaries, philosophical dialogues, essays, treatise, extended essays, book length manuscripts, some or all of these. They submit to conferences and are often accepted. Conferences are of course nearly always held in universities - some of whom are shocked, when the time comes to e-mail the 'notes on the speakers' - to see the words 'independent scholar', 'private thinker', or whichever. Most carry on with the paper anyway, - it might look odd to turn it down now, some are more objective and have really just chosen on merit, some have a curious soul in the department interested to hear the said paper, others just judge that few will notice/go to that one anyway/at least it's just a live event so doesn't matter too much. 
   Editors of books and book chapters are another matter however. When poets send out work or are rejected because they haven't enough work accepted in some big/crucial print magazines, it's tough and it's disheartening. Especially dismal is to get a rejection that says 'we would have liked to have taken this, but we've never heard of you' - never will either now! thinks the crestfallen poet. But at least there's still plenty of magazines out there, still a large number of high flying print zines, and maybe one will say yes and get the ball rolling. Editors and quality/kudos zines change and the scene usually has an opening somewhere, it's just finding it. Think then of the independent scholar, having put together papers of a quality that get them into conferences where academics come up to them afterward and ask intelligent questions, give thoughtful praise...and then ask the said scholar what department they belong to? It may not be one of the world's MOST embarrassing social situations, but the 'sorry, say again?' after the first reply to the question isn't something most people would choose to go through. Then the time comes for them to chance upon a conference which is gathering the papers for the chapters in a book which the department organizing it has got in mind. The paper is good enough - easily by all accounts, and gets requested. Then the scholar has to get in a proof reader to make sure the text is flawless on the page, not just the podium, and every little footnote checked, every quote agonizingly word perfect from texts far more complex than any heavy duty novel. Next it gets sent out only to come back that the biblio details have to be rearranged like x system, oh and by the way, could they have exact page number ref's for z point in paragraph y? and paragraph w as well? 
   When it's finally done and dusted, and all sent back, it seems now the scholar just has to just wait for the proofs to come in...until the day the editors ask for a contributor's bio. Once that's sent off with a dreaded phrase like 'independent scholar', 'independent philosopher/thinker' or whichever seemed best, within a week comes an e-mail with the words 'sorry, we thought there was room for this chapter, but there isn't after all'. Oh yeah? 
   For the independent philosopher for whom I do a fair amount of proof reading, it was just unreal after all the work that went into a chapter on Kant and Deleuze for a book that was afterwards issued by a well known publisher and edited by the members of the philosophy department of a well respected London university.
   So when I found myself earlier this year unexpectedly having to proof read another chapter - this time for a book on Deleuze and his book 'The Fold' and one which I'd proof read was with some trepidation...

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