1. How We Came to Be
Voices from the American Land was founded in 2008 by a group of writers, editors, and graphic designers who had worked together for some years on a quite successful series of local poetry readings in Placitas, New Mexico, taking place every Winter Solstice. Admission to the readings, which featured environmental concerns, was free, although a donation (unspecified) was requested to defray expenses. At the end of the reading, those attending were each given a chapbook containing the poems read. As it turned out, the donations were sufficient to cover the cost of the readings and printing the chapbooks.
Given this experience, the organizers met with poets and editors from New York, Virginia, Colorado, California, and other parts of the country to discuss whether the idea of a national program of chapbook publication, and readings, could make its way. The idea of single-author chapbooks was the key feature of the program, since they could be inexpensive to produce, and could concentrate on a single landscape or locale needful of conservation.
To kick off this literary experiment, all the editors and advisors were asked to contribute a “Rolodex” list to whom we would send an announcement of the program, in the form of a four-page, full-color newsletter. And in September, 2008, off it went. Four days later, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 777 points, a near-record, setting off what is now called “The Great Recession.”
The upshot was that instead of maybe a five or even ten percent response to our mailing, the results were three to four percent. More than respectable from a commercial standpoint, but not anywhere near what we had hoped for. And so our volunteer editors dug deep to augment the meager income from the mailing, putting the program on a “pay as you go” basis. But the economic downturn persisted. Still, we managed to get our four chapbooks out for the first volume year, and in the end to double our readership. We were tapped out, then a major foundation showed up, offering a challenge grant. Details on the grant may be found in the Program Updates section of this website.
For the 2010 volume year, only two chapbooks are planned. In December, 2009, we declared a hiatus to give us the time to raise the money needed to meet the terms of the challenge grant. The hiatus has also permitted us to do a bit of tweaking of the program, which we hope will speed the day that we become fully self-supporting.
2. The Current Program
Voices from the American Land is supported, primarily, by its membership—“Voices Associates”—who contribute between $50 and $500 annually. Voices Associates receive, as a benefit of membership, a complimentary subscription—four issues. Membership donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
To support the program as a member of Voices Associates please see Join Us on this website.
Beginning with our second volume year, we will be emphasizing to a much greater degree than before, co-sponsored readings in the locales treated with by our authors. Voices Associates will, of course, be advised of the readings so that they may attend if within a convenient distance. At these readings, the chapbooks containing the author's work will be distributed either free of charge or for a very low price. It is our hope that some of those receiving the chapbooks at readings will be inspired to join the Associates program and become supporters. In addition, we will make bulk quantities of the chapbooks available to those organizations that sponsor readings, so that we may spread the word beyond those attending.
To fully realize a more ambitious local effort, we have decided to add “regional editors” to our roster—those who would choose lands and landscapes and the poets to write of them, and to organize readings and educational activities with co-sponsoring organizations and help raise funds locally to support such efforts. Already in prospect are regional editors for the Great Lakes, New England, Alaska, and the Gulf Coast. Those interested in such work should please contact us through this website.
3. The Group
Since our founding in early 2008, several of our volunteer editors have moved on and new ones have taken their place. We shall miss James Burbank, Anthony Hunt, E.A. Mares, and Jane Sprague, but we welcome Dorothy B. Bowen—and potentially several more as our regional-editor idea takes hold. Actually, E. A. (“Tony”) Mares is not really lost, since he is the author, as noted elsewhere on this website of an upcoming chapbook on the Rio Grande. And Anthony Hunt has taken but a temporary leave to concentrate on completing his novel.
Following are the current editors and advisors: