‘Whale Sound’ hiatus

It’s been a terrific year at Whale Sound but it’s time to take a break. Going forward, we may occasionally solicit a poem for reading, but we will not be accepting submissions for the foreseeable future. Activity on this blog and on Facebook/Twitter activity will slow down as well.

A few highlights from the Whale Sound year:

- Whale Sound started up a year and one month ago in August 2010
- Published readings of poems by 212 poets
- Published 7 audio chapbooks in multiple formats – website, e-book, PDF and print – most of them free
- Coordinated and participated in 8 group readings
- Established Voice Alpha, a group blog focusing on the art of reading poetry aloud for an audience (I will continue to post here occasionally and hope my fellow contributors will do the same)
- Collaborated on two videopoem tryptich projects with film-maker Swoon – Night Vision and Propolis (the latter also with Kathy MacTavish)
- Established videpoetry channels on You Tube and Vimeo (videpoetry is an area that continues to fascinate us and we will continue to post at these channels)

Meanwhile, these are the 20 Whale Sound posts receiving the most listener clicks – check them out!

  1. If You Were A Bird‘ by Aditi Machado
  2. Infinity‘ by Tess Kincaid
  3. [a group of jellyfish is called a ‘smack.’ a group of lapwings is called a ‘deceit.’] by Chella Courington
  4. Something Brighter Than Pity‘ by Carolina Ebeid
  5. A Different Leaving‘ by Terresa Wellborn
  6. A Week Before You Die, You Are Singing’ by Erin Elizabeth Smith
  7. Sometimes I Still Dream About Their Pink Bodies‘ by Kelli Russell Agodon
  8. Lament‘ by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  9. The Trains‘ by Adele Kenny
  10. A Bigfoot Poem‘ by Dave Bonta
  11. Group reading: ‘The Slender Scent’ by James Robison
  12. Ode to Drunkenness and Other Criminal Activities‘ by Rebecca Loudon
  13. At Ruby’s Diner‘ by Sherry O’Keefe
  14. Sink or Float [quick fix witch]‘ by Juliet Cook
  15. How To Fall In Love‘ by Susan Elbe
  16. The Way Back‘ by Kathleen Kirk
  17. In Which Christina Imagines That Different Types Of Alcohol Are Men And She Is Seeing Them All‘ by Christina Olson
  18. For The Woman On The Boulevard‘ by Emma Trelles
  19. Group reading: ‘Acceptance is to her a phenomenon’ by Ann Bogle
  20. About a Fish‘ by Ana Božičević

New audio chapbook: ‘Abrupt Hybrids’ by Felino A. Soriano

Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks is delighted to announce the publication of Abrupt Hybrids by Felino Soriano. This is Whale Sound’s seventh audio chapbook and one that, like all those before it, was selected because it represented an opportunity to explore an aspect of reading cool poetry that was new and/or challenging to me.

As readers of this blog know, one of the reasons I started Whale Sound was to push my own boundaries and feel what it’s like to read all kinds of poetry. The first time I went way out of my comfort zone was with a poem submitted by Dave Tomaloff, who writes in the experimental vein. (I had a long conversation with David about poem-as-page and poem-as-voice here.) David then pointed me towards Felino Soriano’s work, and I solicited this poem of Felino’s for Whale Sound. Later on still, we featured one of Ann Bogle’s pieces as a group reading.

I don’t know how to technically characterize my experience of such poems as these – what I feel is an absence of that concrete (dare I say ‘emotionally guttural’..?) image-ruled poetry universe in which I was raised. In that universe, abstractions and ‘Latinate’ words are to be approached warily, if at all. In this, very different, universe it’s all about abstractions and Latinate words and it feels different – like language talking to itself but pulling all sorts of conceptions unsettlingly after it. The experience is more in one’s brain than in one’s senses but, paradoxically, reading these poems aloud, I feel much closer to words as words in themselves, than I do reading what are more ‘usual’ poems for me. Usually the connection with what the words represent is as strong, or stronger.

Anyhow, I don’t think I really can explain myself properly, so I’ll stop. I’d like to offer my warmest thanks to Felino, both for entrusting his work to me and for giving me the opportunity to feel and begin to think my way through experiencing poems such as those he writes – it’s been wonderful and eye-opening in many ways.

My favorite piece in this collection is most definitely Booker’s Garden. The title is the name of a track on the album Rabo de Nube by Charles Lloyd (you can hear a short clip here). Knowing Felino is a big jazz aficionado, I downloaded the album when I first started working with his poems and saw the reference to Charles Lloyd. I would have loved to have recorded the reading of the poem using the album as quiet aural backdrop, but copyright issues made that impossible. Instead, I recorded two MP3 versions of the whole chapbook – one without soundtrack and one using a lovely jazz piano improvisation by Serge Robinson, who has an amazing amount of work up at Jamendo. A big thank you to poet, painter and photographer Duane Locke for letting us use his work as cover art.

So do go take a look/listen at Abrupt Hybrids. As usual, it’s available as free downloadable web-based text & audio; as free downloadable ePUB version and in print version for sale at cost-price at Lulu’s.

‘Handmade Boats’ now in e-book and print


The very first Whale Sound Audio Chapbook was Heather Hummel’s Handmade Boats, published way back in November 2010 (you can read Heather’s and my process notes here).

At that time, I was focused setting up a publication as a website-with-text-and-audio. Adding free PDF download and free audio download seemed to make perfect sense and was easy to do. But it wasn’t until a couple of chapbooks later that I was comfortable enough with Lulu’s POD site to offer a print version and a CD version. We also offered a Lulu e-book version, but that was really just a fancy PDF download. It wasn’t until the 5th and 6th chapbooks that I was comfortable enough with Smashwords e-book publishing to offer an honest-to-God genuine ePUB download. (The Kindle – aka MOBI – version at Smashwords is still sub-par, unfortunately – it’s those hanging indents you can’t do, Kindle!)

We’ve come all that way since Handmade Boats was first published as website-text-audio-PDF-download, and, what with one thing and another, it’s only now that Heather and I have focused on packaging Handmade Boats as an as ePUB file and as a print edition. As usual, the e-version is free, and the print edition available at cost-price from Lulu ($4.98 plus shipping in this instance).

We had to look for new artwork for the e-book and print versions, since the website cover art had limited permission on it. We were thrilled when U.K. photographer Paul Hurst gave us permission to use his lovely work as cover art.

Oh, and don’t forget to check out this awesomely eerie video by Swoon. It’s made from ‘On Edward Hopper’s Automat‘, one of the Handmade Boats poems.

another advantage of multi-format publishing

Here’s yet another advantage of multi-format publishing, people. As readers of this blog know, I’m a huge fan of multi-format publishing, since it increases potential readership by allowing readers/listeners to choose their preferred method of poetry delivery (including whether to pay for it or not). For me, the backbone of each multi-format publication is a website containing the full text of the published book or chapbook, while additional options include audio, e-book and print book versions.

While I was away on vacation, and to my great delight, five video poems were made and two reviews written about/from either work published by Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks, or my own work. Once stated it is immediately obvious, but I confess I hadn’t articulated to myself the fact that while the e-book, audio and print versions of these different collections are static/one-off publications, the website is not, and may constantly morph to include reactions of readers and listeners and so gain in texture. It seems to me there are advantages to publishing any given work in *both* static and flexible formats.

So, while I am listing these items together below, I have also added them as links to the respective websites of the different publications, where they provide an additional dimension for readers of the websites. Yay for the book-as-website model!

Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks

From Handmade Boats by H.K. Hummel:
video based on the poem On Edward Hopper’s ‘Automat‘, by Marc Swoon Bildos Ney

From Threatening Weather by Howie Good:
video based on the poem An Armed Man Lurks In Ambush, by Marc Swoon Bildos Ney
video based on the poem The Stockholm Syndrome, by Marc Swoon Bildos Ney

Nic’s work

From Dark And Like A Web:
review of the chapbook by Nancy Devine, blogging at Nancy Devine.
review of the chapbook by Rachel Barenblat, blogging at Velveteen Rabbi. (For all reviews of Dark and Like A Web, click here.)
video based on the poem ‘On Being Constantly Civil Towards Death’, by Dave Bonta
video by Swoon on the poem ‘There are howling wolves’

From Forever Will End On Thursday:
video based on the poem homesteader, by Dave Bonta
video based on the poem the wanderers’ blessing, by Dave Bonta

e-publishing awesomeness!

I actually read the Smashwords style guide to the end and discovered you can de-activate any dud e-book versions you don’t want your book downloaded in at Smashwords. So I’ve disabled everything except EPUB, MOBI and PDF at the baobab girl Smashwords page. MOBI still needs a small format fix, but I think I now understand why the first-line indent happened.

All this makes me a very happy poetry publisher!!

new audio chapbook: ‘Dark Refuge’ by Edward Byrne

Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks is very happy to announce the publication of Dark Refuge, a chapbook of lovely lyrical poems discussing various aspects of autism. I have learned so much from working with Edward on these poems and would like to thank him most warmly for giving me the opportunity to work on and voice these poems, and Alex for inspiring them. They have touched me deeply.

As usual with Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks, the question we ask is: How do you like your poetry served? You can get these wonderful poems as online audio, online text; free downloadable MP3, PDF or e-book; or if you are the ‘must have it in my hands’ sort, you can purchase a print edition and/or a CD. Check it all out.

new audio chapbook: ‘Cloud Studies’ by Christine Klocek-Lim

Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks is delighted to announce the publication of its third audio chapbook, Cloud Studies, a sonnet sequence by Christine Klocek-Lim.

This one has been every bit as rewarding and just as much fun to work on as the first two. These are reflective, exploratory poems that serve as test-beds for both technical and intellectual/emotional investigation. They tackle a range of difficult themes – from love, grief and betrayal, to death and existential angst – with a fine sensibility and delicate language, all underpinned by Christine’s considerable technical skill as a poet.

Read Christine’s process notes here.

Read Nic’s process notes here.

Audio Chapbooks Evolution

And there’s so much new with the audio chapbook format!

Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks is offering some new options to the poetry consumer with the publication of Cloud Studies. The central question for the poetry consumer we have been asking as a publisher remains unchanged: How do you like your poetry served?

With this edition we’ve expanded the menu of options. As with previous audio chapbooks, you can:

1. Read each poem online as an individual post
2. Listen to each poem online as an individual unit
3. Download a free PDF of the whole chapbook
4. Download a free MP3 audio file of the whole chapbook

What’s new this time around? You can also:

5. Purchase a print edition of Cloud Studies from Lulu ($4.90 + shipping – this is cost-price, no author/publisher mark-up)
6. Purchase an audio CD of Cloud Studies from Lulu ($5.50 + shipping – again, at cost-price, no author/publisher mark-up)
7. Purchase an e-book edition of Cloud Studies from Lulu ($0.99 – cost-price)

I had some back-and-forth with a friend when I came up with these options. My friend said:  “But if you provide the whole chapbook as a free PDF, who will buy the printed book? If you provide the whole chapbook as a free MP3 file, who will buy the CD?”

I answered with a couple of questions: Wait – what are we trying to do here? Are we trying to sell books, or are we trying to get these poems read? At Whale Sound, we are trying to get the poems read. The number of people who buy the book are not the point. We don’t make money off sales, and we don’t want to. And since Lulu is a print-on-demand publisher, there will not be — cannot be — piles of unsold chapbooks sadly gathering dust in some warehouse.

What matters to us is that the individual poetry consumer who prefers to read poetry from a book or an e-reader in their hands has the option to obtain these poems in those forms.  That the individual consumer who prefers to put a CD in a player to hear these poems can obtain these poems in that form. The question is not: Who will buy the book or the e-book or the CD? The question is: Are we catering to people who prefer their poetry in printed books or e-books or their poetry audio as a CD? In other words, are we delivering poetry in forms that maximize its chances of being read?

Adding these delivery methods is not a whole lot of extra work, believe it or not. I was and remain very surprised at how easy it is. The hardest work lies in producing the basic ‘raw’ material – the edited manuscript, the recorded poems and the cover art. Once that is done, all that remains is to repackage this same raw material in several different ways for different types of consumers. Online text, online audio; downloadable text, downloadable audio; print edition, e-book, CD edition. The technology that makes all these different packaging options easy is available to anyone and is both free and easy to use. Once Christine and I were comfortable with the manuscript and cover art, for example, it took me less than an afternoon on the Lulu website to upload, design and publish the chapbook, of which we both ordered preview copies that same afternoon. The CD was just as easy to put together. As was the e-book. Rocket science, this ain’t.

How do you like your poetry served?

Poetry is like steak, isn’t it? Everyone wants it served in a particular way.

We realized this at Whale Sound only a little bit after realizing that we have suddenly become a poetry-deliverer. Thanks in major part to the conversations at Voice Alpha and backroom exchanges with our, um, backroom consultants for Whale Sound . (You know who you are, guys – thanks!!).

So some tweaking has occurred at the site of Whale Sound‘s first audio chapbook publication – Heather Hummel’s Handmade Boats.

Some people like to tackle a chapbook slowly and methodically, beginning at the first entry and ending at the last. The main page is for you – it allows you to click your way through the poems, viewing text and hearing audio, one by one.

Some people want the whole text at their disposal all at once, to be able to skim forward, backwards, stop here and avoid there, with audio options when they choose. The ‘all text and audio on one long page‘ is for you.

Some people just want the text, forget the audio. They want text that is printable, physical, holdable. The PDF version is for you.

Some people don’t want any of the above, they just want a chapbook they can listen to on their iPod. The MP3 download is for you.

And some people want some or all of the above at different points in time – the text, the audio, the text and the audio, either, both, any.

Is there anything we haven’t thought of?

Whale Sound audio chapbook: ‘Handmade Boats’ by H. K. Hummel

Whale Sound is very happy to announce the publication of the audio chapbook Handmade Boats by H.K. Hummel. Please go over and have a look-listen!

Here are some process notes from the poet and the editor:

Heather’s experience: I have the habit of tinkering with poems for decades. The poems in Handmade Boats have been in metamorphosis for some time. All that is to say that working back and forth with Nic Sebastian as we did the final shaping of Handmade Boats for Whale Sound was both pleasurable and surprising, because the poems underwent subtle new transformations that I didn’t anticipate.

When I sat down at my desk each morning with a cup of tea, I looked forward to the penetrating questions I’d find in my email inbox. I’d tinker, she’d question, and we’d continue taking turns like that as we fine-tuned the pages. She tucked into the work with such insight it felt as if she was inside the poems with me. At moments, it seemed like we were in one of those plexiglass aquarium tubes where people can walk through and watch hammerhead sharks swimming overhead and on all sides. While I am used to being in the imaginative space of the poem by myself as I watch blue whales and toucans darting past, I don’t know that I’ve ever been in that artistic flow with another person.

As the narrative arc of the chapbook fell into place, the different poems’ narrators began to speak in chorus. I am in love with characters of Handmade Boats–the bagpiper, the bartender and the rubber boot man; I am close to the woman stranded on an island, the girl trapped in the ‘Automat’ and the women bathing in the mineral pools. The characters make up a small town now, a town filled with mythological figures and edged in wilderness.

Listening to the recordings of the poetry is a rare treat for me. The vocal performance reveals the everyday music that exists in our speaking life. Exploring the collection with Nic Sebastian as she gave her skillful voicing to the poems was like participating in a thrilling old-fashioned radio-theater program.

Nic’s experience: I knew as soon as I started reading her chapbook manuscript that Heather’s would be Whale Sound’s first audio chapbook. Knew it with my body rather than my head – with a visceral, physical reaction that I’m sure is familiar to every editor. A reaction based purely and immediately on the words and images presented – before I began to intellectualize about the ideas and themes that ran in her work.

There were basic initial things I knew easily and right away about the manuscript with just eyes & brain: the core work was solid and beautiful, and all that was required to tighten the poems up was the tweaking of a few words or lines here and there, the elimination of a stanza or two.

The deeper story that connected them I did not – could not – know until I had voiced the poems. Very early on, I made draft recordings – nothing good enough to share with Heather, but enough to get me into the skin of the poems (or get the poems into the skin of me). It was making these recordings, and listening to them, that brought me information, not just about the actual sound of the poems and their rhythm, but also about the bigger story – the emotional journey on record, the cross-tracking and cross-hitting themes and memes running through the poems. This in turn gave me very specific ideas about poem order, poem inclusion and poem titling.

It sounds like hocus-pocus, but this really was substantive information voice brought to the process for me. At one point, Heather suggested adding three new poems to the group and asked whether I thought they would work in the group. I said (feeling very lame in my response) that they looked like good additions on the face of it, but I could not really tell until I had voiced the poems. And when I did, I knew quite certainly – and quickly – that two were good additions, while the third was best left to another collection.

I’ve said previously that voice is an organ of investigation – a sense like touch or sight that brings you information – and believe that all the more strongly after this experience.

I’ve loved working with Heather – much enjoyed her maturity and range as an artist, her openness as a human being and the vibrant exchanges we have had as author and editor – and am honored to have had even a small role in bringing these wonderful poems of hers to a wider audience. Thank you, Heather!