Publishing Neruda through Crowdfunding

by Laurel Dowswell

Image via Flickr by Dlodoro
Image via Flickr by Diodoro

Copper Canyon Press, the venerable nonprofit poetry publisher, will be releasing two collections of poems from Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda with significant help from a crowdfunding campaign. In a deal with the Pablo Neruda Foundation, the press will publish two volumes— Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda in April 2016, and Crepusculario in 2017. Both works are previously unpublished in English, and the latter has never been translated from Spanish prior to the project.

The deal was announced in July of this year with the impending launch of the campaign. With just a few days left, the goal of $50,000 has exceeded its initial funding request by tens of thousands of dollars reaching upwards of $87,000 for the production, printing, and promotion of the volumes as of this writing. This is a fantastic win for the poetry community, readers and writers alike. But what else does it mean?

Crowdfunding in the literary world is not new, but it is increasing with its successes. Literary magazines such as McSweeney’s have garnered much attention and revenue with this fundraising strategy, and they are not alone. Could this be a sustainable financial venture for the future in this realm of publishing? It is hard to say.  With the millions of projects fighting for attention on multiple crowdfunding platforms, it seems to be an unlikely choice. But in a world of clicktivism—the possibility does tread water as a viable option in a publisher’s financial tool belt.

Perhaps the much anticipated publication of the new Neruda books, and in particular the means used to make them come to fruition, is a great jumping-off point for other independent or nonprofit publishers of books and magazines.  In the least, it should give all of us in the literary community reason to pause and consider the future of the industry and what it means to have a long-term artistic endeavor such as Copper Canyon Press (publishing since 1973), and engender us to think about the possibilities of presentations of other poets and writers.

For now, we must be patient in awaiting the new Pablo Neruda poetry, and thank the contributors for bringing his unpublished pieces to light. While the financial operations of the industry continue to evolve, supporting independent presses and nonprofits by spreading through word of mouth and on social media, getting subscriptions, and just absorbing and loving them goes a long way. It is an important service we can all do for the arts community as a whole, and the cultural sustenance of society in this short-attention span, clickbait world.

Laurel Dowswell walks in the woods every chance she gets. She was raised and educated in Florida, but landed in Santa Fe, NM, as a copy editor for an independent feminist newspaper. She likes porches, wine, and songs with guitar solos, particularly if they come together and sit for a spell. She lives and writes in Atlanta, Georgia, with her son, and is currently working on a novel filled with oil paintings, family drama, and the spectrum of sexuality.

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