Larry Sawyer

Quick Fix for a Tired Tribe

When I started milk magazine a few years ago, I was confronted with the problem of spreading the word about my new creation. I had great work from people like Jack Hirschman, Bill Berkson, Frank Lima, Sheila E. Murphy, Gerard Malanga, and John Perreault, but needed an outlet. Now I've got the whole thing online, plus information on how to order the print version, which I’m convinced will become a collector’s item. There’s so many great sites today. Now that milk’s site is linked with some of the best of the net, sites such as Exquisite Corpse, Big Bridge, and Long Shot, people will be able to read the great material I've gathered.

milk has now become an international thing, with contributions from Amsterdam (Hans Plomp), Japan (Cid Corman), Switzerland (Aziz Elhihi), and Australia (Hazel Smith). Plus, I don't need to worry much about postal costs anymore. After I mail out the contributor’s copies and take care of additional orders, I just keep updating the site with Frontpage 2000, which lets my web designer, Lina Vitkauskas, do all that without worrying about HTML. The internet is still in a wild-west stage, with a lot of free information there for the taking. It is my hope that I can add to the volatile atmosphere of web-publishing and generate even more interest in poetry. I see the free trade of ideas as a good thing, and milk's site is wide awake on your computer screen at all hours, 24-7. Unlike the print medium, if you just have access to a computer, all that information comes directly to you. There’s no need to search through stacks of books at a library or to stand on line at a reference desk for help. The difference now, in the Information Age, is that you stand online in front of a computer screen. The whole thing is at your command. For people who are critical of what kind of information is now available on the internet, I say well then just turn off your computer. Poetry should be as readily available as the morning paper.

I fully believe that people everyday really do die from lack of what poetry provides. Also, I was concerned about the elitist concept of poetry being bandied about these days. Now I get submissions from people like Timothy Baum, a world-recognized authority on Surrealism, Duane Locke, a professor in Florida, and Thurston Moore, founder of the rock band Sonic Youth. These are people from all walks of life. When I did Nexus, I published Jack Micheline, who lived his life straight up, but often didn't have the money to buy himself a sandwich. He never compromised. But also I published work by writers who are lawyers, art dealers, etc. I'm trying to shake things up a bit with a variety of styles and approaches.

The internet is a great medium for the lightning exchange of ideas and images. My job, as I see it, as editor of an internet magazine, is to keep things interesting, without sacrificing consistency or quality. I’ve utilized other aspects of the web as well. As a poet, I’ve seen the benefits firsthand, from the flipside of the coin, by submitting my own work and being accepted by great internet magazines like Exquisite Corpse. The print medium will always have a permanent and tactile quality that will always appeal to me in a more traditional way, but e-publishing is the alternative for those who don’t have the means to tackle huge print costs. Eventually, the cost of paper will continue to climb. Paper in the future will become a depleted resource. E-publishing is a venue that helps spread the wildfire of poetry but requires minimal funding. I read an article in Poets & Writers the other day that really made no sense to me. The author put forth the proposition that there should be fewer magazines in existence, because that has resulted in poor quality and intense competition. I take the reverse view; the more magazines the better. I created milk in order to take on and fill a void I felt existed in the world of poetry magazines. I want to bridge the gap between the east and west coast because my influences reach from writers influenced by the New York School, as well as west-coast writers like the late, great Jack Spicer. milk is a surreal, contrapuntal note sounding across the American night, and I’m constantly seeking submissions to make it a full representation of my take on the current scene.

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