I’ve never liked mimeo. Sure, it’s fast and it’s cheap but it doesn’t look like a book. If you can do it yourself, why bother? Why not just xerox your favorite new poems from time to time and hand ’em to your friends? Or better still, why not stylishly fold your latest into your back pocket and show it to the several people who matter? How many people’s taste do you trust? I mean, who actually understands poetry? I publish my poems in mimeo magazines. I like to see them breathe beyond my own typewriter though I’m much happier when they’re typeset….
dodgems , 1979.
Somebody once described mimeo publication as “punk publishing” and that made it work for me for awhile. But not really. When someone asks me if I’ve got a book I say Yeah…but it’s just mimeo. That usually means you can’t get it, it’s not available, or else Sure, but I don’t like it anymore. Was the ’60s the Golden Age of Mimeo? That makes me think it’s a dated idea. Mimeo. But I think it’s too late for all that. The best poems should be well packaged, I’m not even thinking about big-house books (oh, sure), it’s not even like comparing cable to prime-time teevee, it’s like comparing—there’s no comparison—view-master to movies—no comparison. I just mean mimeo vs. a book-book. A nice shiny book-book. Doesn’t money make money? Won’t people take your poems more seriously in a great typeface with a far-out cover, expensive, in color. Wouldn’t this here ratty publication be more “influential” (influential on what—Genius critic Denis Donoghue says poetry now occupies a “marginal” place. Like the funniest lines in Mad
magazine?) if it was typeset? Wouldn’t I be more excited about writing for it? You go to the New York Small Press Book Fair and see endless publications, books & magazines in full glossy grandeur, nice commercial high-production values.
You say Wow, don’t these books look pretty! Pick one up & sniff the nice new cover—but don’t look inside—pure dreck…. But I like these shiny books: they look commercial, real, they look American. If only the stupid publishers and the brilliant poets could get together. Mimeo skirts all that so the publisher is the poet’s best friend or even the poet and that’s that. Your family won’t believe it’s a book but so what. They also are unable to read your poems. So I have only set my hand once to mimeo publishing but it was an act of revenge in my heart—we did an anthology of poems ourselves in response to another slicker inferior one. Mimeo was effective in this case—fast & cheap. It wasn’t like killing someone, it was like throwing a beer in their face.
— Eileen Myles, The Poetry Project Newsletter (March 1982)
[Neither issue of dodgems was produced via the mimeo machine.]