NA: First, how did you come up with the name, Dream Horse Press?
JPDB: The long story short is that my first author had a dream about a white horse carrying his first book. If it hadn’t been for my commitments to that author, I would never have started a press.
NA: What inspired you to start a press? And what advice would you offer to anyone else who might want to own or start a press?
JPDB: I never would have thought to start a press if it hadn’t been for my prior commitment to the author while working as the Managing Editor at a different press which dropped the author’s book after it had been accepted and work begun on production. I felt so bad about it that I resigned from that press and started Dream Horse Press to complete the project.
For anyone wanting to start a press, my advice is to first ask other presses for their advice. Most of us made a lot of mistakes at the beginning and can really help new presses avoid some of the pitfalls. Second, don’t start with an author who has never published a book before--not for the first project. It’s easier for everyone if your first author has some experience. Third, begin with a dialog with an author, not an offer to publish; if it’s a good fit, everyone will know where this is going before a formal offer to publish has been made.
NA: If you were to publish famous poets from the past, poets who might represent the Dream Horse Press aesthetic, who would you publish?
JPDB: I will start by saying, unlike a lot of poetry presses, I really could not care less about poetry ‘schools’ and their politics. If you look at the authors DHP has published, you see that fact first and foremost. To clarify further: I would pick famous books, NOT authors to publish: This Branch Will Not Break by James Wright, Tremble by C.D. Wright, Twice Removed by Ralph Angel, Tamarit Poems by Federico García Lorca, Ariel by Sylvia Plath, The Most of It by Mary Ruefle; Dream Songs by John Berryman—and those are just a few that come to me off the top of my head.
NA: You have many projects including editing The American Poetry Journal, running the Dream Horse Press, and hosting a radio show. How did these projects begin and evolve?
JPDB: The American Poetry Journal came about because I was feeling dissatisfied with a lot of publications I was reading, usually because they were focused on a particular school. To me, schools are NOT what make poetry important or enjoyable; they should not be a main focus. I focus on two major poetic devices in poetry: sound (a poem is meant to be read aloud to enjoy it fully), and image (paint a scene within the mind of the reader/listener). Partly this goes back to something Robert Pinsky has said about the body of the reader being the instrument and the poem being the sheet music; and partly it is the experience of having words build complete images or scenes within the reader’s mind. In the APJ, I enjoy the freedom to present, for example, a surrealist free verse piece next to a lyrical formal piece.
I took over the Out of Our Minds radio program on KKUP when the previous host, Jim Standish, had to move. I’d been a guest on the show several times and Jim knew I had a good network of authors around the country, and that in college I had interned at radio and tv stations and had a communications background. So he asked me several times to take over the show. I refused, because it was a big commitment and I wasn’t sure I wanted to make it. But when he told me that the then 20+ year old program was in danger of being dropped without a solid programmer to host it, I felt compelled to take it on. We are now the second longest, continuous running poetry show on the air and during my eleven years as host have had some of the best contemporary poets grace our airwaves with their work and thoughts. Recently, we began podcasting the show and it is available on iTunes.
NA: What are some recent highlights that feature Dream Horse Press writers? (Feel free to provide links, photos, references, etc.)
JPDB: Lisa Lewis’ poem “Counting Change” from her book Burned House with Swimming Pool was featured on Poetry Daily.
Lisa Lewis’ poem “Coupled” from her book Burned House with Swimming Pool was featured on Verse Daily.
Jason Bredle’s poem “City of Lavender” from his chapbook The Book of Evil was featured on Verse Daily.
Here’s a review of Keith Montesano’s Ghost Lights.
Here’s a review of Kyle McCord’s Galley of the Beloved in Torment.
NA: As a publisher of poetry books, do you ever feel discouraged by our cultural lack of appreciation for poetry? Or are you an optimist, a believer in the future of American poetry?
JPDB: You know, having done the radio show for the past eleven years, I can honestly say that I am an optimist with regards to poetry. Most of my audience are not poets, but have developed a sophisticated palate for poetry of all kinds. From the emails and phone calls I have received over the years, I know poetry has touched people and means something very special to them. As a publisher, I get similar messages about books and poems I’ve published. And as poet, again I have gotten so many letters and emails over the years about how something I’ve written has touched someone’s spirit. How could I not be optimistic about poetry?
J. P. Dancing Bear is the author of nine collections of poetry, most recently, Inner Cities of Gulls (2010, SalmonPoetry). His next two books will be Family of Marsupial Centaurs through Iris Press in 2011, and Fish Singing Foxes through SalmonPoetry in 2012. His poems have been published in Mississippi Review, Third Coast, DIAGRAM, Verse Daily and many other publications. He is editor for the American Poetry Journal and Dream Horse Press. Bear also hosts the weekly hour-long poetry show, Out of Our Minds, on public station, KKUP and available as podcasts.
Nin Andrews received her BA from Hamilton College and her MFA from Vermont College. The recipient of two Ohio Arts Council grants, she is the author of several books including ,The Book of Orgasms, Spontaneous Breasts, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, and Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum. She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name, a book of translations of the French poet, Henri Michaux. Her book, Southern Comfort is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press. Follow Nin's blog here.