by Anthony Nanson
In the scary aftermath of the vote to leave the EU, some of the wiser souls I know have voiced the importance of standing together, of being there for each other. The neoliberal paradigm that dominates our times presses people always to prioritise their own interests; it sanctifies selfishness. The xenophobia that came into the open during the referendum campaign is one manifestation of this. But where the neoliberal is the norm, individual artists, writers, therapists, teachers, say, who at heart are kind and generous can be seduced by the drive to push, push, push their own micro-businesses, to act competitively against their peers, to see acquaintances in their field as rivals. It’s an insidious thing: the assumption that the cake must be limited in size, that only so many can get a share, to feel jealous towards those who secure a bigger share than you. Yet the resources competed for in these microcosms pale into insignificance compared with the fortunes at stake in the transactions of big companies and shareholders, whose grand-scale quest for profit is driving the unsustainable consumption of the earth’s resources.
Another ramification of neoliberalism is that the whole point of publishing is to make money; the corollary being that an author must write in such a way as to maximise potential sales. Let’s remember that there are many other reasons for publishing books. Today I happened to read about Jewish literati who fled the cataclysm of Nazi Europe to North America and there ran literary journals and presses, publishing in Yiddish, whose express purpose was to sustain the cultural life of an immigrant community driven far from their homelands. I’d like to think these publishers and editors made enough money to cover their costs, their time, maybe even turned a profit; but the pursuit of profit was not the main motivation of these enterprises.
So it is for most small presses. And so it is for Awen Publications. We aim to publish writing that is of high literary quality and has at the same time a commitment to the world. We’ve christened our creative vision ‘ecobardic’, by which we mean an evolving approach to the arts which is responsive to the strained relationship between human beings and the global ecosystem and takes inspiration from certain qualities of the bardic tradition (see our manifesto for more about that). The functioning of the press depends on people giving their time, in one way or another, and it seems to make sense to extend this cooperative approach by starting a collective blog: a blog that will not be dominated by, or dependent on, one voice, but will bring contributions from the diverse talents and thoughts of the different authors we’ve published. By our taking common cause in this way, I hope the blog will help to advance a sense of a movement in the kind of literature that we care for and that in some way serves the world’s vital needs; a movement including not merely ourselves, but everyone – writers, readers, publishers – who’s broadly sympathetic to this cause.