Lummox Press/Journal
Raindog Interview

"There is a great proliferation of poetry sites on the Internet...but have you noticed that the bulk of these sites publish just about anything you send, and a lot of what they get is crap!"

Raindog wonders what's next...

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Eskimo Pie Girl         Poetess Fabuloso

 

Interview with Raindog by Eskimo Pie Girl on May 6, 2002, at Eskimo’s igloo frio. (Originally published online at SPAM)

 

EPG: How long have you been doing web pages?

RD: I guess I’ve been doing the web pages since at least 1995.

EPG: And you do several publications along with that?

RD: O.K. "The Lummox Journal," started in 1995, October, monthly, except I did one double issue in 2001, September-October. And then there’s the book series that I publish, "The Little Red Books," which I started publishing in 1999 and there’s 42 titles thus far. I’ve kind of slowed down this year. I’ve only put out two books so far in that series. Then there’s the "Little Red Book Master" series, of which I’ve put out one title and I have another title pending. I’m hoping to get to it this year which will be a compilation of eight poets from New Mexico and West Texas which will probably be "The New Texicans." And then there’s the LSW newsletter, which stands for the "Lummox Society of Writers" which is like "Poet’s Market," but on a very small, sort of finite level. It’s basically magazines and presses that I personally know of or have some copies of that I recommend. I usually include their guidelines, address, and email address, and possibly the name of the editor, some comment on the magazine, like what they're interested in. And that goes out to subscribers. "Lummox Journal" has about 170 subscribers in the United States and the world. The "Little Red Books" are basically sold on a cash in/cash out basis. I also publish some of my own books.

EPG: So how did you first get into publishing?

RD: I started writing poetry again seriously in about 1993. I got a computer in 1994, my first computer. And I had sort of this renaissance of writing. I wrote 150 poems that year. And somewhere in there . . . somebody brought it to my attention that there were all these magazines out in the world that accepted poetry.  The first magazine I submitted poetry to was called, "Report To Hell." It was a little stapled digest-sized thing that was kind of thrown together. It didn’t really look that great. And the editor insisted I use my real name as opposed to my writing name, which pissed me off. I thought, there’s gotta be a better way to do this. After successively trying to get published in other magazines and getting rejected; or having things published but then having the magazine look like garbage, I decided, well, I’ll publish my own magazine. And that’s pretty much how it came into being . . . a good friend of mine, he’s also a writer, lives in Albuquerque, named Todd Moore, he once told me . . . I asked him, I said, "What do you think is better? Sending your stuff out or doing it yourself?" And he said, "Well, if you don’t care what it looks like, send it out. If you care what it looks like, do it yourself." So that’s how I got started.  I didn’t like having my poems edited by editors who probably didn’t have my best interests at heart anyway. And I didn’t like having my poems published in something that would look like it was thrown together at the last minute. So I’ve always tried to present the poetry in the best light possible with the least amount of obstacles for the reader.

EPG: And so that’s probably why you have 1,000 people a year sending you poems? It sounds pretty amazing to me.

RD: Well, I don’t know if I have a thousand people a year sending me poems, but I take in about a thousand poems a year. So you figure it probably boils down to about 250, 300 submissions a year. Although last year, I think I had more than that. I get submissions in email, I get submissions in regular mail. But I’m listed in "Poet’s Market" and also I trade without about 20 different other small press magazines, so they sometimes write something about "Lummox Journal," or about "Lummox Press." So people read that magazine and then they think, "Ah, well I’ll send some work in," because they respect the editor of that particular magazine, whatever that means, you know, because it’s a pretty diverse group. I get a pretty broad spectrum of submissions.

EPG: What do you look for when you’re selecting a poem?

RD: I have, and it sounds really cheesy, but I have two criteria by which I edit; and the first criterion is "Aha," which is kind of like, it kind of grabs you, whatever you’re reading; and other one is "goosebumps." So if I read something and I get a rush, or I sort of have an identification with whatever that person is saying, or what they’re talking about, that’s usually an indicator that I wanna publish that poem. But I have to say that, you know, it’s like anything else . . . it’s like when you go to a buffet, your eyes tend to take in more than your stomach can handle. And I often find that I take on more poetry than I can really deal with. So I started publishing an all poetry issue. And even that’s not big enough to take in all the poetry that I would like to publish. So I ended up putting stuff up on the web [DUFUS]. I wish I had the facilities to publish a lot more stuff. You know, like if I won the lottery, I’d publish books, instead of chapbooks.

EPG: So this is kind of a regular business for you where you try to make some money to support publishing more things?

RD: Yeah, it’s always been a break-even operation because I’m not financially secure enough to do this as an expensive hobby, which is what  some of the people I trade with do. You know, the magazines that they produce come out quarterly, and sometimes they come out sporadically, not just quarterly, because they don’t have enough money saved up to get the next issue out, or you know, something happens. People get sick and they can’t make it or their resources go elsewhere. But Lummox has always paid for itself, in fact, Lummox now generates a small profit which allows me to, not only to put the money back into the system so that I can do other things, but it also allows me to cover part of my phone bill because I spend a lot of time on-line, or my rent,  because  it takes up half my apartment. But it is really an avocation for me because there’s no way I could pay myself any kind of a decent salary according to the amount of hours that I’ve put into it. Putting out a monthly magazine pretty much involves about 35 hours to get each issue together. Which means I’m working at nights. And I work my day job, and then I come home and I watch a little T.V. which is kind of like the sherbet between meals, it cleanses my palate before.  I work in construction all day, and then I’m online for 3 or 4 hours or whatever, getting articles together for the next issue.

EPG: How does publishing all of this stuff, and reading all these other people’s poems all the time, how does this affect your own writing, your creativity?

RD: It affects it in a very profound and generally a very negative way because I . . . well, I actually wrote a poem two years ago that starts out, "I’m typing the best poetry of my life, unfortunately, 75 percent of it’s not mine," because at that point I was transcribing poetry myself. Now I have a scanner so I usually don’t have to type it out. Yeah, it really impacts what I do a lot. I hardly have time for my own writing, and when I do write, I really have to pick a time when I’m not thinking about other things that I’ve read, or processing what’s gonna happen in the next issue, because that kind of sneaks in the back door. But it seems like I write in spurts, or I’ll write like three or four poems in a sitting, and then I go back to the business of typing, calendars, or lead essays, or whatever.  I just finished writing an epic poem [RoadKill]. It took me about six months to write, and it was really tricky because I had to try and keep the fire burning at the same level so that when I would go back to writing or working on this poem, it would be a continuation of where I was at when I stopped writing it, you know, two weeks previously. And it was a good exercise in focus, because it was about something that had happened within the last six months, and I had kind of a guideline, a road diary that I kept on the trip that I took, so I had that information. But trying to keep up the emotional state was a little tricky. So that’s why it took me so long to write it. When I was finished with it, it was pretty massive, and the feedback I’ve gotten is that it’s consistent, not going up and down a lot, it’s not erratic.

EPG: So are you going to publish that in a book or something?

RD: Well, I was thinking . . . I’ve already got it formatted for publication in case I can’t find somebody else to publish it. But I actually think I’ve found a publisher, 12 Gauge Press, to publish the manuscript. I wanted it done in perfect bound but I knew that was kind of a shot in the dark, because I don’t really have the [publishing] credits. Although I’ve published a lot of books, I’ve published a lot of my own books; but because I publish my own books, I don’t think I have the credibility that a person whose only been published by other presses has. Plus I haven’t been doing this that long, so you know, I’m kind of a neophyte in some respects; but I’m really popular as a publisher. Just not really popular as a poet. It’s kind of an interesting dichotomy. I didn’t start out with that in mind. I thought I was gonna be able to publish the magazine, and you know, if I sold enough subscriptions, I’d be able to publish the magazine and then I’d be able to send out poems and cover the costs of mailing out manuscripts. Somehow, the mailing out of the manuscripts got lost in the shuffle.

EPG: So it seems like you take a lot of road trips, like you’re up here right now on a road trip, and do you do some of that to quote, stoke your creative fires?

RD: Definitely. There’s a great line in a book that I read just recently, a fictitious jazz biography, a kind of an interesting concept, I wish I could remember the name of the book, and it’s a conversation between Duke Ellington and I think, Lester Young, and they talk about how the road is sort of the parlor, and the car, or the dashboard of the car is like the mantle on the fireplace from which they got their inspiration. And that’s kind of how it seems to be for me, like the only time I really can escape from my responsibilities as a publisher is to go on a trip. And I can only go on a trip in a certain finite time, because, the first two weeks of each month are sort of free, and the last two weeks are spent putting the next issue together. So I have a small window by which I can go out and do stuff, and it’s just nice to get away from all that. Meet new people. Surf new sofas.

EPG: So what are some of your webmaster or publishing highlights over the years, or milestones, things that happened?

RD: Well, I don’t know if I have any web milestones. I mean I know this lady who got a hundred and twenty hits in one day, and I just checked my statistics from  the website on Earthlink and it got 60 hits in a week, so you know, I don’t think I’m actualizing my potential there. I guess getting the entire collection of "The Little Red Books" into Brown University, the Rockefeller Library, that was kind of a milestone. I also have a complete back issue, almost, a near complete back issue collection of the Lummox Journal at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, in their library. Plus I’ve gotten some of my own poetry published in some anthologies. I got a poem published in a book that was put out by Thunder’s Mouth Press called, "Drinking with Bukowski"; that was one of my personal milestones. It’s kind of sporadic. I mean basically, I’m really operating at kind of the bottom of the ladder in the small press, and I sort of feel like down in L.A., I’m the best kept secret in town.

EPG: So you just did a special all poetry issue, and then you also did a special issue for John Thomas. Have you done other special issues in the past on certain topics?

RD: Yeah, I used to put out every August, a Bukowski Remembered      issue because Charles Bukowski’s work is very influential on my life and my work. But I stopped doing that in 2000 because he had always said that he wanted to live to be 80, and he would’ve been 80 in the year 2000.  I figured it was time to put that issue to bed. But I think what I’m gonna do now, in August, is I’m gonna do a special microfiction issue dedicated to him because I think he’s a very good short story writer. And then I do the all poetry issue in April, because it’s National Poetry Month, and you know, I’m not stupid, I know you have to take advantage of the fact that people’s awareness is focused on poetry to some degree better in April than in any other time of the year, but I don’t think I’ll be doing a huge issue like I did this last time. It was really too big, too much work, and the reward of doing it was way too little. It’s almost like it’s not worth it, which is kind of sad because I get a lot of really good poetry sent to me, but I only publish two or three poems a month in the regular issue, so I see all this poetry and I think, God, I wish I could showcase this. That’s why I started doing that issue. But now, it’s, "You didn’t publish my poem. I hate you. You’re just trying to get even for some terrible thing that you think I did to you." And all this crap, and I think, get over yourself. Jesus Christ! And I’m just getting tired of it. One of my acquaintances in this business told me that, he said, "You’ll find out who your real friends are when you stop publishing." And I think that I’ll probably be happier when I find out who my real friends are when the time comes for me to stop publishing. It’ll be a smaller circle of friends, and that’ll be fine with me.

EPG: So you could talk about the Southern California poetry scene a little bit. You’ve traveled around; have you seen any differences in poetry in different geographical areas?

RD: It seems like wherever I go, the locals tell me that they get no respect in their home town. It seems to be a common thread. The Southern California poetry scene, well in L.A. and Orange County, I can’t really speak for all of Southern California. It seems what’s really happening right now is coffee house poetry and slam poetry. People who write poetry for publication tend to be academic-oriented poets, you know, people that are older, that have been in the university system for a while, or that have established presses, so they’re at another level, they’re like two or three rungs up the ladder from where I am. Some of these people are subscribers to my magazine, and that’s how I know about this stuff, because they send me little announcements which I always run in my mag. It doesn’t seem like there’s a great deal of interest in being published among the coffee poets (I think part of that is because it isn’t the immediate gratification that you get from standing up in front of a bunch of people who are your friends, or in a group where you know the people that are there and they know you, and you get up and read a poem, and everybody goes, "Oh yeah! That’s so cool. Yeah!").

EPG: Well maybe it’s because of the Internet. And so it’s much easier to publish your poetry these days, and so maybe just regular publishing isn’t such a big deal anymore?

RD: Yeah, I think that’s true too. There is a great proliferation of poetry sites on the Internet. But I don’t know about you, but have you noticed that the bulk of the poetry sites on the Internet publish just anything you send, and a lot of what they get is crap.

EPG: Yeah, well I haven’t really checked out the "competition" that much. I mean, I did a few years ago, I went, and it just seems like it was a lot of young computer nerds that knew a lot of stuff about doing web sites, and not a lot about poetry.

RD: There are a lot of web sites that publish poetry, and some of the poetry is good, but most of it seems to be bad. And it could be that the people that are doing stand-up poetry and slam poetry are publishing their stuff on the Internet because they’re more savvy that way, computer-wise and they don’t find it so intimidating as people that are  older (and perhaps less savvy about using a computer). So that’s what available . . . and I say this because I get email from people who surf around and stumble across one of my web sites, or come across a poem by me, and they email me, and say things like, "I’ve seen a lot of really bad poetry, and it was really great to come across the stuff that you wrote because it seems really good, really well written."


EPG: So it must be true.

RD: It must be true. Yeah. So I’m not the only asshole on the Internet, you know.

EPG: So why do you call yourself, "Raindog"?

RD: Well, before I got into poetry, I was doing music. For a long time, I did the coffee house music scene, which is why I know about the gratification of getting up on stage and doing your shit in front of a bunch of friends. I was there myself. So while I was doing that, I was a big fan of Tom Waits, and Tom Waits put out an album called, "Raindogs ," back in the early 80’s.   I heard Tom on the radio one time. The interviewer asked him, "Where does this name, 'Raindog,' come from?" And Tom went into an explanation that  a raindog is a dog that travels around the city, and he’s been out on his own for a while, and  because the city gets a lot of rain, and the streetsweepers come by what happens is they lose track of their scent. He said, "They lose their scents." And I thought he said, s – e – n – s – e, as in “they lose their sense.”  I thought, "Well hell, that’s me. I’ve lost my sense. I lost my sense long ago." So I started calling myself Raindog and I sort of built up a whole little persona around that: "Raindogma," with flyers and in my performances and what-not. "Raindog" just stuck, and after a while most of the people that knew me, only knew me as "Raindog." So when I began to write poetry, I began to write poetry as Raindog. Eventually, I changed to RD, Raindog, R – D. And I did that because I noticed a lot of people just didn’t feel comfortable saying Raindog, thought it was too Native American or something. After a reading, I remember one time in Venice, a guy asked me, "So. How does one become a chief?" And I thought he was being sarcastic, so I said, "Well, you should start in the parts department, and work your way up, Chief Auto, you know." And then he goes, "So. O.K. Fine. I see. So it’s some kind of secret thing you can’t tell white people about." I was always being confused with being a Native American which is more of a slight to Native Americans. I’ve been accused of a lot of things, you know, over the course of the years . . . but that’s where "Raindog" comes from.

 

NOTE: RoadKill was subsequently published in Sept. 2002 by 12 Gauge Press.  The first edition sold out in 6 months and a second edition was published in Dec. 2003.  It’s available through http://www.12GaugePress.com or from Raindog ($12 to Lummox c/o POB 5301, San Pedro, CA 90733-5301).

 
   
 
 
 

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