October 29, 2009

Modernist poetry and copyright maximalism

Paul Zukofsky, heir to poet Louis Zukofsky and his copyrights, thinks he gets to decide what “fair use” is — and it doesn’t include quoting his father, even for an academic dissertation, without Paul’s permission and, in many cases, a fee. He says he generally waives the fee for dissertations, but you are then forbidden to publish the dissertation.

A few things strike me about this copyright notice, in addition to the overreaching.

  1. I’m a poet myself. A poet’s son should realize there’s little money in poetry. Maybe a bit in greeting card verse, but that hardly describes the works of Louis Zukofsky. (But according to Paul, his father didn’t realize this economic truth, either. A triumph of hope over experience? Or did he, as Paul implies, actually transmute enough verse into cash to leave a comfortable inheritance to his wife and son?)
  2. If Paul Zukofsky really wants to profit from his father’s work, he’s going out of his way to eliminate free publicity and destroy goodwill in the literary community. “I urge you to not work on Louis Zukofsky, and prefer that you do not.” That’s one of the milder statements, with no mention of lawyers or courts or lifelong enmity.
  3. This might be a case of imprecise wording, but Paul seems to think he can collect a toll even on references to his father: “I hardly give a damn what is said about my father (I am far more protective of my mother) as long as the name is spelled properly, and the fees are paid.”
  4. I get the impression that Paul Zukofsky doesn’t think highly of the arts. He refers to interest in music and literature as “misguided,” and to a career in the arts as a “so-called profession.” I won’t speculate on possible biographical reasons for this distaste; I only note that he’s happy to profit from somebody else’s work in the literary field.

(Climbs on soapbox)

My father was a TV repairman. I’m not getting paid for work he did. I’m not even getting paid for work I did thirty years ago. Since the stated purpose of copyright (in the USA) is to promote the useful arts and sciences — in other words, to encourage creation — copyrights should be neither hereditary, nor too long-lasting. I propose a compromise: let copyrights be inherited, but give them an expiration date of 20 years. That’s 20 years from creation, not from the death of the author. If he lives longer than that — well, he won’t be the first parent ever to outlive his wealth. I’m not guaranteed an income from my own labor, much less somebody else’s.

And by the way, I usually publish my poetry under a Creative Commons license.

(Off soapbox)

Credit where it’s due

I originally found this story on Harriet the Blog, which notes that — perhaps in response to Paul’s copyright notice — an unauthorized electronic edition of Louis Zukofsky’s most famous work, “A,” has appeared online. I don’t condone this act of piracy, but I understand the provocation.

External links


October 24, 2009

It’s the Journey, Not the Destination

Filed under: Litlets,Prose — crcb @ 9:18 am
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The ship arrived from a city called Sin, and it was going back. I’d never experienced surge or spray or new scenery, so I signed up.

They put me in charge of flogging the rowers. Difficult at first, but I soon smothered my squeamishness and developed my arm muscles. After a while, I started taking pride in my technique.

October 20, 2009

“Living on Lunesta” Journal, 10-19-2009: Milk

Filed under: General,Litlets,Oneirica,Prose — crcb @ 7:22 pm
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(Some nights when I need to take Lunesta, I swallow the pill, pluck a random word from a handy book, grab my pen, and start writing as the drug takes effect.)

Milk does not make an impression. You probably don’t remember the best glass of milk you ever had, though you may remember the worst, especially if it got stuck between your teeth. People might brag about Mom’s cooking, but nobody says “My mother gave the best milk!” Nobody you’d want to know, anyway.

Humanity has been defined as “the animal that makes boxes.” Equally characteristic is our relationship with milk. All mammals drink milk when young. I don’t know of any species besides humans (and those domesticated by us, like cats) that drink it as adults, or that regularly drink the milk of other species. We turn milk into various solid and semi-solid forms, with or without flavoring: butter, cheese, yogurt, ice cream. We consume it cold or hot. We use it in coffee and in cocktails. Human: the animal that refuses to be weaned.

But there’s something innocent in this, something Edenic, even if the factory farms that result are evil. In the Bible, Canaan is described as a land flowing with milk and honey. My father, who was a preacher, concluded that these were the healthiest foods you could eat. My doctor, who is a doctor, disagrees.

Milk and honey are the foods of nature’s abundance. No creature is killed to gather them, and they are renewed. Milk is the fruit beneath the fur.

I’ve gone from whole milk to 2%, and I’m learning to tolerate skim. I get egg-beaters at IHOP, too, which are indistinguishable from synthetic eggs. On weekends or special occasions I treat myself to half-and-half in my coffee or some pizza.

It might be interesting to wean myself by way of experiment, to give up dairy altogether including substitutes. If I do I should keep a dairy diary. (Bet nobody’s come up with that one before!)

My thoughts are getting confused with dreams now. I wonder if this is a way to do differently, in class or watching numbers. any way as I tried to [two illegible words] the politics wasn’t really greed it was’t [illegible] a [illegible]

[drawing of a half-shadowed face]
The silent partner is angry & has much to say
time to listen to
the men? who stole the fairy nector
royal jelly to those with names

[drawing of a humanoid head, furry, with pointy ears]
he was not as smooth nor as stylish as he thought, but he gave freely of his mate’s milk

Did we say to quit looking or was that you? the last ollie-ollie-sfree. Put a quarter in milk wont get bigger yo [illegible] a operators ver[illegible] t[illegible]one.

October 5, 2009

Bad loglines

This contest will probably be closed by the time you read this post, but you can have fun reading the entries: The (Second) “Worst Storyline Ever” Contest. I just this evening stumbled across it and slammed out a couple of entries.


If you live in the KCMO area, don’t miss my poetry reading this Friday! Also featured is St. Louis writer Pamela Garvey.

When: Friday, Oct. 9th 2009, 8:00 p.m.

Where: The Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvania, KCMO

How much: Suggested donation is $5, $4 for Writers Place members, $2 for students; however, nobody will be turned away for lack of funds.

Hope to see you there!

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