Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2001


1. To say that I admire and appreciate your stance on everything. You seem
like one of the most consistent perspectives I hear of these days. I'm glad you
can still use the word "capitalist" (as glad Yiddish survives).

2. I was likewise impressed by your "performance" on Fence's Housing Works
Literary Magazine Benefit panel, several months ago. (Thanks, Fence.) Standing
your ground against the likes of George Plimpton and that other Tin House (sp?)
editor was a much-needed foil. I took notes at that session. The transcripts
are below (defective, unable to read my own handwriting at points, and I think
they may be in reverse chronological order).

P.S. Marcella Durand wrote:

>>> (i.e., Here kids, here's the oldest texts I found still in print!
Assyrian-Babylonian stone tablets listing olive oil sales! Pop quiz at the end
of class!) <<<

I spent a few years studying cuneiform and working on a paleoeconomics research
project measuring the price fluctuations in six Assyrian commodities over a 600
year span (barley, cress, dates, . . .). It's very savvy of you to betray that
you know clay tablets were indeed principally a record of sales--- but olive
oil is an invoice I do not recall ever seeing.

>>||||<<<^^ {cuneiform emoticon for Happy Face}

Armand Schwerner's THE TABLETS are remarkably truthful in conveying what it's like to struggle with reading cuneiform. (And Sumerian tablets are older than

Dramatis personae:

IRA SILVERBERG (CLMP --- Council of Literary Magazine P)

GEORGE PLIMPTON - 1953 - Paris Review

Amber? Dorkerstopper? NIGHT RALLY (founder of the first MENSA chapter of Tarot

MOSAIC published (Af. Am.) & put on bookshelves but not marketed - publicity -
now going for lesser known

PLIMPTON: --- A quarterly can't deal with issues as well as a weekly ---
["isms"] ---

SPILLMAN: {illegible} ?wet to higher first -- did test



Q.: How difficult is it to make a living --- [?work] rest of the time --- How
oftren do you see something you can edit to use?

SPILLMAN: Giant gulf between GOOD and BAD ---- if there's a

MOSAIC: Don't have stuff---

PLIMPTO: we have an A slip and a B slip (rejections) --- to encourage with
"borderline" cases {sic} --- You can tell awfully [fast?]

Q.: Flow from old school to new school --- on-line --- merger/conflict between
trade & on-line---

PLIMPT: Paris Review has gone on-line to promote, not to distribute---
Interviews are on-line --- snippets of poetry to entice subscriptions --- Next
week: Supreme Court rights

Q.: People who begin on-line? making trans.

PLIMP: assuming that the web is a lower form of printing

MOSAIC: if you decide you can't publish ??strengthening?? what Random House

MARCELLA: ALL political --- constantly subvert --- why you want to publish

SPILLMA: not overt --- Trojan Horse --- wld. love to be more like '60s:
Evergreen Review

MOSAIC: final statement abt. ?absuing yr. employee(s?) --- used to have work #

CLMP: final Q. "The Market"? In Chicago panel on distribution --- ?Ingrams ---
largest distributor ---1 40,000 units of mag --- 60% Reader's Digest

Granta, Poetry, Tinhouse {something about a pie chart here}

If it's possible to get out there, do you want to? Is mass distrib. something
to aspire to?

MENSA GENIUS TAROT READER: --- don't have the first idea how to make it happen
--- wld.never stop anybody

PLIM: tried to increase circ. by having Random House do it --- worst decision
they ever took ---

MARCELLA: --- she works for mag w/ circul. 150,000 --- cats magazine!

Specific community --- innovation poetry --- NY, Lang., Beat ?across from US ---
a certainmode of writing not accepted by mass distributed in big outlets ---
Staying small keeps you accessible --- You don't receive 500,000 ---

CLMP: name?

MARCELLA: (1) ANGLE --- was not accepted by SDP --- 8 1/2 x 11 --- Stroffolino, Violi --- ?ed. onto glossier?; (2) COMBO; (3) INTERLOPE? Asian-Am.; (4) TINFISH, each hand-made; (5) CLAMOR, queer women of color --- amazing people doing in their homes

SPILLMAN: --- mood to '86: disappointed by NY scene --- went to Cedar Tavern
--- everybody gravitating to NY to write & publ. is out --- purposely picked
eds. elsewhere --- cross-cultural --- like to feel writers aree part of a
community in mag. but it's tenuous at best

CLMP: is there an inherent politic?

PLI: you can't tell from content that Vietnam War was going on --- not
politically oriented whatsoever

MENSA: ---no---

MOSAIC.: --- isn't overtly political --- almost by default you're making a
statement abt. capitalism, & what's left by the ?roalfide

read Paris Review --- not just among the converted --- but ?Boise --- going to
buy heavy metal mag.

PL: agrees w/ Rob you have to get it to people --- otherwise it's VANITY
publishing --- ?pinced --- into hands of people --- if you don't do that, you're
running in circles --- Rob was thinking of reader --- gave wrong impression
before w/ one reader {story about having only once seen someone reading Paris
Review: Hemingway in the Paris Ritz! :{ }

CLMP: reader vs. writer --- Rob ?yng you read --- me Evergreen --- community ---
even if you have a small aud., you're part of a bigger world ---what community?

MOSAIC.: --- his community rather ?defined by race --- no longer trying to reach
everyone in that group ---

MENSA (her journal: ?NIGHT RALLY): --- don't have an aud. that defined ---
earlier decision/belief --- sent out flyer to opera companies --- wanted
non-writer opera & museum docents

P: --- mag. often defined by poetry editors --- Tom Clark published NY School
--- felt so bad for bad poetry --- published mysterious issue for bad --- Donald
disapproved of Ginsberg & now regrets it ---

?MOSAIC: ---- ?for as on writer as personality

CLMP: each of you has tried to fill a void --- if there are so many voids ---
the reader? --- who's out there to get the message

PL: --- one of the dismaying things --- have only seen one man in his entire
life --- Hotel Ritz ---Ernest Hemingway --- circ. of 4 fig. or even 2 figs. ---
why all this time doing it? 20,000 MS a yr. --- every once in a while you get
something that makes you jump out of your chair --- a void in your own
perception of what --- on-line --- many more subscriptions---

MENSA: --- only 500 --- everone signs their letters "Love,"--- w/ more $ wld.
she pay more --- No --- she'd get prettier end-paper --- What Marcella sd. about
saddle stapler so beautiful she'll think about it all the way home on the bus

MARCELLA: --- don't worry abt. a reader - but the writer - it's imp. that if
someone's written - not worry abt. pleasing this faceless aud. - this special
art of stapling some things together - maybe put some art w/ it

SPILLMAN: --- diff. angle - first thing was to hire designer - strategy of
getting a wide readership - distribution - by being well designed - picked up by
Barnes & Noble and ?Binders w/ first issue - did not want itto be for
poet-writers - for broader humanity - Baltimore {where he came from?} was end of the earth - John Waters

TIN HOUSE: - others are like mediocree that you had to swallow ugly but good for you - TH add humor

added at non-writer creative people (nuc. physicists) - half of staff is in
Portland - a great BS screen?? on-line - ?split

MARCELLA: - Tiny Press - tiny - no ISBN - 1-5 issues handmade - non-urban
how-to-use saddle stapler - so that people who are isolated

double change? {charge?} internat.. Poetry is tightly ?confined - what's coming
into the country

community vs. commodity


{Please note: I have nothing against George Plimpton, personally. Many years
ago, when I did an interview with James Schuyler, Geoffrey Young of The Figures
Press told me that Plimpton and the Paris Review had been trying to get an
interview with Schuyler for years,--- but unsuccessfully. So, I looked up
Plimpton's telephone number in Manhattan White Pages and phoned him. He was
home and picked up the phone. I also had an 11-page partial transcript of an
interview with Harry Mathews. Plimpton said he would enjoying reading both.
Sent him them. Later, proper etiquette of handwritten thank you follow-up on
Paris Review stationery, I guess. --- It's just that he and Tin House becomes so
dialectically opposed to Marcella and the MENSA genius, that their mercantile
values appeared all the more caricaturish in contrast to Durand/MENSA Tarot
Reader's altruistic authenticity.}


Marcella Durand wrote

> Hi Aaron,
> The question for me is not so much whether temporal durability is a
> legitimate measure (or "principle" is the word you use--almost like using
> the "test of time" as a definition of good art is a moral stance) of good
> poetry, but why poets (and, therefore, supposedly, "active" readers) would
> want to use it as such? It seems like the most extremely dull (as well as
> unreliable) way to gauge good poetry, only to be used if you're stuck at the
> very last moment for something to teach your students (i.e., Here kids,
> here's the oldest texts I found still in print! Assyrian-Babylonian stone
> tablets listing olive oil sales! Pop quiz at the end of class!).
> I mean, what is the "test of time" anyhow? Some sort of mathematical model
> of greatest popularity (and do we mean popular with critics? The masses?)
> plus durability of physical materials over longest length of time? X times Y
> equals = Great Art that Has Meaning & Significance for Many (European?
> American?) Generations?
> best,
> M (Letting her assessment of a principle be overwhelmed with questions)