Sunday, May 08, 2005

Libraries as platforms for Community Publishing

Corrected for typos and missing sentences (9 May 05)

Tonight I sleep a happy man. One of my poem has been published at Poetic Voices in their May 2005 issue (look for the 3rd poem from the bottom up).

In order to save time for the -many thousands ... -hundreds... -handful ... one or two readers who wish to read the poem, I've posted it here:
"What is it that we share?"

Just what is it

That you share with me
From those weeks at sea?

Stomachs, queasy

From rhythmic rolls atop blue waters?

Memories of euphoric music

From our smiles and laughter?

Or perhaps

We are connected,


Because we share a loss

Of strangeness,

Now that we are strangers

No longer.

Inspired by my experiences during SSEAYP 2001 (I might blog about it some day)...

The above poem is my second poem to be accepted by Poetic Voices. The first was published in their July 2004 issue, titled "Photographs" (it's the 17th piece from the top).

Seems I have better luck featuring my poems outside Singapore than in the local web publications. Maybe my style don't fit the local scene. Or maybe people overseas find a submission from Singapore "exotic".

It can't be that Poetic Voices have lower standards (unthinkable! What an insult it would be to them). No, of course not. Because they feature poets who've been published in print too (means they got standard one lah). Anyway, I've been rejected by other non-Singapore web publications too, as well as Poetic Voices.

So it means this book really helped:
Poetry for Dummies (2001).
NLB Call No.: 808.1 POE
Click here for item availability.

Which finally brings me to the point of this ramble: What if our public libraries served as platforms for Community Publishing?

For instance, people could submit their works to be posted within the library or library website. Our librarians could go out there to solicit works, e.g. trawl the blogs or websites.

The contributors could decide if they want critiques or comments to their work. They could tag them "I wish to receive constructive feedback" or "I'll pass. I'm a newbie" or "This is my first time, please be gentle".

I'm sure lots of budding writers and amateur poets want a chance to let the world read their work. Public libraries should provide that "intellectually-safe" environment, supported by friendly librarians, so as to encourage people to write or express themselves.

It's also a chance for the library to highlight books or materials relevant to what's being posted (like the above examples with the "Dummies" book). Or get the contributors to say which library book they referred to.

"Why should the library be involved when people are already blogging? Isn't that already a form of community publishing?", you ask. "And won't the submissions become a stream of amateur works?"

My response is this: Not everyone blogs. If they do, then the library could act as an aggregator, like

If "Amateur" implies low quality, well the intent is to make people try rather than make judgements about "quality". The intent is to encourage, not judge.

Speaking for myself, I get a kick out of seeing my work published (in my case, the e-zine). But beyond the initial buzz, it's not so big a deal subsequently. The key thing is that it makes me want to improve my poetry, because I see my work up there and it's encouraging.

If I'm serious about improving, I'll read up on recommended books or take up the advise by people in that community. Even if no one critiques my work, I read the other poets featured and it's obvious to me that I've got much to learn from them.

The relevance to libraries in the whole thing is that we play a subtle yet fundamental role in connecting people to ideas and other people.

Tag: ,


  1. I like the sentiment in the poem. :D

    I wonder if sifting through all the submissions for publication on the NLB website would be a strain on the library staff ... NLB being _the_ library institution of Singapore ... it's going to get thousands of entries from all over Singapore, with standards of writing ranging from primary school to the mature writer...

  2. Thanks for reading. If we really do get thousands of entries, we'd have a "good" problem. Will worry when we come to that. Anyway, there are creative ways to resolve it. I'm sure there are volunteers willing to help sift through.

  3. starry0074:05 am

    Interesting timing. I was just chatting with a friend some days ago about what she wants to be. She writes fan-fiction and wants to be a writer someday. It was only then it came to my realisation that Chinese papers has a page for submitting literary works, but there do not seem to be any in English papers, not even magazines. Library is a good place to start, why not? Good Luck! I'll help if I can!
    = )

  4. maybe a book review blog/metablog as a start?

  5. I think you have a great idea Ivan. Not only would it allow amateur (for lack of a better term) writers have their work published, but it could become great online publicity for the libraries involved.



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