I’ve just come across this announcement for an event taking place at the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) on Wednesday, July 21:

Diane di Prima: Making It Happen

So, you’ve been writing, painting, dancing. You’ve got a band, or a performance piece. How do you reach out to others? Find folks of like mind? Get the work out there? How do you create a community of artists & friends who will support each other?

In this informal reading/talk, Diane di Prima, San Francisco’s Poet Laureate, will talk about making your art and getting it into the world “by any means necessary”—whatever comes to hand—in good times and bad. She will also address the importance of creating a sense of community.

Diane’s presentation will be a rare opportunity to glimpse an important and seldom-acknowledged part of Bay Area cultural history through the eyes of someone who lived it. Dialogue with the audience will be invited and encouraged throughout the presentation.

Wow, I am really appreciating this and want to go check it out; of course,  having spoken in Willie’s VONA class on publication, it’s what’s currently in my mind. I am reminded of meeting Nick Carbó for the first time, back in the mid-1990’s at Cody’s Books on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. His word of advice to me and Michelle Bautista at the time was to band together and consider the leap from Maganda magazine into other publication. Come up with a name for a press, and publish yourself, why not? Michelle self-published a chapbook, and eventually, so did I. That was the way in for me.

“By any means necessary,” di Prima’s blurb above says. I think of it this way: do it guerrilla stylee, pull chapbooks out of your backpack and hand them to people at any given moment. Swap product with other artists. Oscar uses his chapbooks as what he calls business cards. I’ve seen him finagle his chapbooks into the hands of Jimmy Santiago Baca, Luis Alberto Urrea, Chris Abani. It’s not really finagle; it’s hustle. (Speaking of hustle, click here for information on Anthem Salgado’s “The Art of Hustle” workshop).

I see so clearly how since my first DIY chapbook, my community and my readership just grew and morphed. These days, as I hustle to sell books (find book reviewers, promote course adoption, secure speaking and performance gigs), I have to figure out other ways to keep one foot planted in gift economy. Does gesture and speech figure into this gift economy, i.e. writing reviews, book blurbs, recommendation letters, blogging, performing, speaking to students? I think also of curating and documenting, creating/producing happenings, evidence, and artifact.

That’s what I do hope folks thick in the schmooze remember: that we should always have work, actual concrete product in our hands to share with others, and that we must always have a plan, a concrete process for creating that concrete product to push into the world.

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6 thoughts on ““Making It Happen”: Getting Your Work into the World

  • July 6, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    I love the idea of “gift economy” where poetry is concerned.

  • July 6, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    BTW, the book by Lewis Hyde that is currently being recirculated and that I started reading earlier this year is The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. I’m not sure if it tells us anything that we can’t, as creative people, surmise on our own, but it’s nice to know that someone was thinking of it 30+ years ago too. I think it first came out in the 1970’s or so in the UK?

  • July 7, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Hi folks, indeed, gift economy is such a good thing, as these nice gestures of reciprocity, but also as necessity, yeah?

    Debbie, thanks for mentioning that title. Sounds like something I’d like to check out. This reminds me of Faye Chiang’s Zero Capital talk at Eth-Noh-Tec, when she said that if you can organize a party, wedding, etc. then you can organize an arts event.

  • July 7, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I hope I can make it to this talk–sounds interesting and helpful. Thanks for sharing your early attempts at the beginning of your career. Fledgling writers like me always wonder how established writers get there…

    • July 16, 2010 at 12:10 pm

      Belated thank you for your comment. Re: how writers “get there,” I always want to make it clear that it’s not mystical. It’s totally doable.

      There’s a wealth of great, nitty-gritty advice about how to submit work, how to decide where to submit work,. Apart from this event (which I’m really looking forward to), Anthem Salgado’s got the Art of Hustle workshop coming up at KSW.


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