Wednesday, November 29, 2006



The Bedside Guide to. . .NO TELL MOTEL, Edited by Reb Livingston and Molly Arden

The Bedside Baedecker…POD RISING

The last year has proven to be great in the world of small-press publishing, and the anthology The Bedside Guide to…NO TELL MOTEL, is no exception in its tour de force premiere. The valiant efforts on the part of the editors reveal both path and possibility for others of its ilk. Ilk? O, subgenre among subgenre: POD, or “print-on-demand.”

POD and Lulu (a popular poetry press POD) surely carry different meanings than they did a year ago, if not even more recently. There are others -- Café Press, Book Mobile, Lightning Source -- among other POD companies. And surely we are all tired of people attempting to argue that there is a substantial difference between Walt Whitman self-publishing and the ‘new-poet’ publishing via POD, the difference perhaps being that the poet is already a ground piece in the U.S. poetic canon.

When Whitman self-published, he did so in a time when his poetics were not main-stream but were misunderstood and questioned. His was also an era which, like our own, was rapidly changing in terms of technology. So, in 1855, when Whitman typeset and paid to publish his first book, Leaves of Grass, anonymously at that -- with the beaut of the everyman inside to boot! (le sigh) -- the cylinder press had been invented but a few years earlier. The literacy rate then also was increasing rapidly.

When No Tell Books published this anthology utilizing POD-publishing via Lulu, it was, undoubtedly, on the head of the rising wave of small presses deciding to opt for POD versus the standard route in terms of production and printing. POD has given a level-handed democratic sway to the field of publishing. A field that has so long resided in the pocket or pocketbook of whomever has the funds to dispense. I had wandered by the Lulu sites several times before going POD with Dusie without ever really realizing what force POD would have on publishing in barely a year alone.

What gives, one might wonder, and why opt to publish POD vs. in the standard grain of using a printer? Well, POD, my friends, is affordable. This, of course, is the number one reason and, as a western phenomena, more ecologically and ethically responsible in terms of not outsourcing, yet. The Bedside Guide made its debut at a time when POD had made great leaps and bounds in terms of quality. I would attribute POD’s rise in quality to the fact that many publishers were opting to go POD; that it is no longer monopolized by vanity presses; and that, with design experience, its main demands are time and effort. Going POD is virtually no different than with going with any other printer as that’s all it is: a printer.

I think it would be interesting to have a booth at the next AWP: “POD or NOT?” I am wagering most readers would not be able to identify which new books were published via POD as they are essentially the same if not better looking, depending on the press and editor. A huge wave, a revolution, if you will, is occurring. All of those unemployed or underemployed/underpaid writers with MFAs who also gained typesetting experience at the press of their Alma Mater are taking off, no holds barred, experimentally perhaps as the writing which they hope to publish.

Anyhoo, I am going off on a POD frenzy. NO TELL BOOKS, Meritage Press, Dusie, Moria, among others, published books utilizing POD this year, and all are new presses, except for Meritage Press, in terms of bookbook. But, what is fascinating is that established presses are making the changeover.

What are some other positives in regard to POD? The editor undoubtedly takes greater chances, which going the typical printing route simply couldn’t afford. This is also great in terms of how it will affect new writing -- writing that is allowed, out there, just as Whitman allowed his ever-changing Leaves of Grass out there.

And so, with all of this terrific POD going on, we have with The Bedside Guide not just an anthology but a great and readable anthology. It contains some real page-turners, particularly in way of poems by Lance Phillips, Eden Osucha, Laura Cronk, Aaron Belz, Alyssa Wolf, Shin Yu Pai, Laura Carter, and Betsy Wheeler. This anthology, I must note is not -- Phillips’ work being a prime example -- just a typical poem a page endeavor. The editors have created a quirky lay-out whereby they not only allow each poet three pages but presence in three separate sections. What I mean to say here, is that there are not guidelines necessarily and the editors playfully and quirkishly present poems, which most times are in different sections...and not just one poem per page as in lots of anthologies. I think the freedom from financial restriction of going POD helps in regard to how many pages are possible per poet.

I certainly should mention how this anthology provokes much naughtiness. I mean, I feel like a damn voyeur. But I find humorous the overtly sexy, frank and absurd kinky bantering. The book includes poems with titles such as “In Response to Pussy,” “In Defense of Orgasm… from Shot Up in the Sexual Revolution,” “Überdesigned
Happy Juice,” “To a Penis,” “No Bra Required,” and “Prick,” among others. Divided in four sections -- Discretion and Its Discontent, Parsing Body Language, Techniques Guaranteed to Please, and The Difference Between Seduction and Manipulation -- this anthology could be mistaken for a sex manual, but most definitely will be a coveted coffee-table pleaser.

And the book’s dedication?

“for the pool boy”


Susana Gardner can be found here, here, and here. You can also see some of her reviews here.


At 5:11 PM, Blogger na said...

Another view is offered by William Allegrezza in GR Issue #2 at:

At 6:37 PM, Blogger na said...

Another view is offered by Nathan Logan in GR #9 at


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