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Bards Not Bombs

Editor Todd Swift wanted to use words to prevent the war. Now he simply wants American readers to know those words exist.

100 Poets Against the War, an anthology published in the United Kingdom by Salt Publishing on March 5, 2003, is the offshoot of a popular chapbook that has been available on www.Nthposition.com since Feb. 28. The book features antiwar poems specifically about the war in Iraq by poets from America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia and the Middle East—shattering, poignant, well-crafted, sometimes experimental poems by such well-known poets as James Cervantes, Minnie Bruce Pratt and Ken Waldman. The work is a far cry from mere radical rantings.

“During the time leading up to the war, we hoped we could do something to help stop it by somehow overwhelming Tony Blair with conscience, and we hoped the poems might do that,” explained Swift in a telephone interview from his office in Paris. “If Blair had pulled out, Bush might have had to.”

Needless to say, 100 Poets Against the War did not stop the war. And more than a month after the release of the book, Swift and Christopher Hamilton-Emery of Salt Publishing are noticing a strange and inexplicable phenomenon, particularly in light of the fact that the war on Iraq began on March 19 and the American antiwar movement is running hot and heavy: Although 10,000 U.S. bookstores—from tiny independents to large chains—were contacted about the availability of the book, not a single one had ordered it. This is despite the fact that Salt Publishing enlisted two major U.S. wholesale book distributors—Ingrams and Baker & Taylor—to handle distribution to U.S. bookstores.

“For example, every American poet who was published in the book, when they went to a store in America to try and get the book, they ran into glitches,” Swift relates. “Either the stores said it wasn’t available or it was out of print or they didn’t stock it at all.”

Hamilton-Emery shared with Metroland an e-mail he sent on March 8 to LightningSource, an online subsidiary of Ingrams whose U.K. branch does list the book as available: “This book is a curse at times. . . . We’re getting calls every day from U.S. bookstores saying the title is out of print or is out of stock. I can’t understand it.”

Stanley Hadsell, who oversees the poetry section of the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, had never heard of 100 Poets Against the War until Metroland contacted him. “I’m surprised I haven’t heard of it,” he said. “I just did a window display for poetry month and would have loved to include it.”

While on the phone with Metroland, Hadsell pulled up the Ingrams online data base (available only to booksellers and other subscribers), which indicated that no copies of the book were available or in stock, although 14 copies had been ordered from their warehouse.

“We would definitely carry the book if we could get it,” noted Hadsell. (In a side note, Hadsell related that LightningSource is a print-on-demand distributor, meaning that booksellers who ordered from this site would not receive a standard discount and the book would be non-returnable, which would discourage bookstores from ordering through it.)

At press time, Ingrams had not responded to our phone messages inquiring whether or not the company did indeed have copies of 100 Poets Against the War available for distribution. Metroland did speak with a representative from the other supposed supplier, Baker & Taylor. “We have Salt Publishing in our database, but we do not carry the book and have never carried it,” the representative told us.

That comes as news to Swift and Hamilton-Emery.

We were unable to obtain explanations for the mysterious malady that plagues 100 Poets Against the War where U.S. bookstores are concerned. Is this a strange, U.S.-driven computer glitch, or something more dark and complicated . . . and political?

Despite the impossibility of finding the book in U.S. bookstores, it is available on Amazon.com (and a version, in chapbook form, is still available online at www.Nthposition.com). “Just when the book could have been the most provocative and effective, before the war started, people couldn’t get it,” lamented Swift. “But I would say that people who are interested in getting the book should insist that their local bookstore order it. Even though they may say it’s not available, it is.”

—Marsha Barber


Behind The Screen

There are a few no table changes coming to local movie theaters.

Spectrum 7 Theatres, Albany’s best-known independent cinema multiplex, is expanding again. A new, 72-seat theater will make its debut tomorrow (Friday, April 11). Equipped with digital sound and all the latest exhibition bells and whistles, the owners intend that this additional screen will expand their programming options.

“We’ve been working on it for the last two months,” explains co-owner Keith Pickard. The new theater has been built in a small courtyard behind the adjacent storefronts on Delaware Avenue, and next to the newest of their screens. The eighth screen was not originally planned for in the Spectrum’s most recent, million-dollar expansion, Pickard says, but “we knew there was room to do something.”

The Spectrum 7, which offers a mix of independent, foreign and mainstream films, will inaugurate the new screen with a special documentary film series starting Friday, April 18. While the documentary series may not specifically run in the new theater, Pickard explains, the additional theater makes the series possible: “It gives us the flexibility” to showcase films that it would not otherwise be viable to offer.

The series will include Standing in the Shadows of Motown (4/18-4/24), A Closer Walk (4/25-51), The Trials of Henry Kissinger (5/2-5/8) and Amandla! (5/9-5/16). Pickard is especially excited to present Robert Bilheimer’s A Closer Walk. This film, which chronicles the current worldwide response to the AIDS crisis, will have one of its first commercial engagements in Albany.

It’s also worth noting that ownership of the largest chain of megaplexes in the Capital Region has changed. The local Hoyt’s Cinemas—Crossgates 12 and 18, Latham, East Greenbush, Clifton Park, Wilton Mall and Aviation Mall—are now operated by Tennessee-based Regal Entertainment Group. Same theaters, new names—just in case you were curious, Crossgates Cinema 18 is now Crossgates Stadium 18.

—Shawn Stone


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