NA: I love your description of BlazeVOX: “We are an independent publisher of weird little books.” Would you elaborate on the weird little books you publish?
GA: Hurray, I am glad you like our description. It started out as a descriptive joke but then developed into the best abstract of our mission statement.
BlazeVOX [books] Mission Statement
BlazeVOX [books] presents innovative fictions and wide ranging fields of contemporary poetry. Our books push at the frontiers of what is possible with our innovative poetry, fiction and select non-fiction and literary criticism. Our fundamental mission is to disseminate poetry, through print and digital media, both within academic spheres and to society at large.
We seek to publish the innovative works of the greatest minds writing poetry today, from the most respected senior poets to extraordinarily promising young writers. We select for publication only the highest quality of writing on all levels regardless of commercial viability. Our outlets of publication strive to enrich cultural and intellectual life, and foster regional pride and accomplishments.
BlazeVOX [books] consciously acquires a collection of titles providing focus, continuity, and a basis for the development of future publications. Through the publication of works of significance, BlazeVOX [books] is committed to the dissemination of knowledge.
NA: How long has BlazeVOX been in existence? How has it evolved over time?
GG: BlazeVOX started off as a college project while I was at Daemen College, Amherst, NY in 1998. The school is near Buffalo so our contacts with poets and poetry are vibrant. I wanted to start a creative writing journal but we only had a budget of $100. I took that, bought a copy of Dreamweaver and learned how to design web pages. I used this format for the college journal and it was a great success. In 2000 I started BlazeVOX as the online journal was gaining momentum. The goal of the journal is to present innovative fictions and wide ranging fields of contemporary poetry. Our main goal is to provide good quality poetry. The technology allows for a very low overhead in our operation. We moved into book production, as there was a real market for us to expand our horizons, and once the Print on Demand systems began, we hopped right on board. The technology had been awful up until 2004 but now is fantastic. We have published 280 books and over 1000 writers in our online journal and other outlets. Our family of fine writers includes Kent Johnson, Bill Berkson, Anne Waldman, Clayton Eshleman, Lee Ann Brown, Tom Clark, Ray Federman and Gloria Frym and many, many more. I do think that I have succeeded in our aims. Through publishing hundreds of books and poems online we have been able to make a huge impact on the poetry world.
NA: Have you always been the editor?
GG: Yes I have, but I have had a lot of help along the way. We have a few volunteer staff members that help in the choosing of books, ebooks and pieces for the online journal. Most of the actual editing of the books is a collaborative process between the author and the press. We work together to make the best book we can and I am very happy with the way that I am able to engage on each book. I am more of an open spirit when it comes my editorial style. I hesitate to put myself into the poet’s poems, or a fiction writer’s realm. I have a trusting intuition in our authors and I believe in them and their work. We have a very small operation so in many cases I am also the overall book designer, photographer for many of the book covers, web manager of online content, blogger, manage the accounting and any other job that needs doing. It is a wonderful life and I am thrilled to be a publisher.
NA: How does one become a BlazeVOX author?
GG: It’s a very simple process; one sends his or her work to us by email. If the work fits in with the audience we have cultivated then we look to see how viable that work would best project. We have many outlets of publication, an online journal, ebooks, kindle books and printed books. So there are many ways in which we can promote poets and writers. We do have one guiding philosophy; the work must not suck. We are open to established writers as well as emerging voices and for one to feel that one’s work is of quality is an important step in being a writer and we want to support that. But we also get work that just does not fit into our scope of publishing and in many cases I forward those writers on to presses that concentrate on their specialty. As of right now we have over nine hundred good quality manuscripts on hand and we continue to receive more. It is very exciting that there is so much great writing going on right now.
NA: You publish authors from around the world. Can you talk about the International aspect of press?
GG: We have published poetry and fiction books from many countries including Japan, Scotland, Ireland, England, Greece, France and Canada. We now have distribution to many of these countries through their local Amazon.com; which will help increase our exposure to these countries. So the press, through the wonders of the internet, has made leaps and bounds across the English speaking world. It is exciting to reach such a vast audience of readers and writers and I am looking forward to what can happen in the future. It has been a wonderful experience to work with writers from so many countries and I have learned a great deal. But one aspect is the same, writers have the similar concerns regardless of country; they all want a well designed book that reflects who they are as a writer and that their writing conveys in print what they envisioned in their mind.
NA: I am a huge fan of one of your authors, Tom Clark. How many books of Tom’s have you published? I was wondering if you could say a few words about him.
GG: Tom is awesome. We have just finished up on his fourth BlazeVOX book, Distance. We have also all available, the Tom Clark Set which includes all four of his titles, including At the Fair, Canyonesque and Feeling for the Ground. I am fond of all Tom’s books of poetry, novels, essays and biographies. He has embodied the literary life and it was a real honor to publish his new works, poems that seem to get stronger and stronger. He is on an incline right now and it might be time for a major retrospective of his life’s work. This is the reason I so enjoy being a poet and publishing poets, one can get old, is allowed to age with dignity in their field. One gets wiser, more refined in one’s talents and how one is able to achieve in a poem the lessons learned over a lifetime. It makes me look forward to what the future holds in store for us all.
NA: I am also a fan of Tom’s blogs, both his personal blog and the BlazeVOX blog. He does such a beautiful job of linking poetry and art and photography. How helpful is it for the press to have these blogs?
GG: I too enjoy Tom’s blog. Just today he has mixed wonderful black and white photos of downward facing staircases with a poem by one of our new authors, Beth Copland. There is a considerable readership of Tom’s blog, 2000 page views on a normal day. It is an excellent, non-traditional form of advertising, announcing, and directing to those who are interested in this kind of writing. Our blog is also the best form of announcing new publications and other bits of BlazeVOX information. Social media is in its heyday now and blogs are very much in the public eye. Our recent imbroglio, you can read about fully here in a recent Huffington Post interview. The whole event erupted and subsided in the blogosphere and on Facebook. It then took on a life in newspapers, essays and more traditional forms of media. Thankfully that has all been resolved favorably. But to actually answer your question about how helpful our blog is, I would have to say that our blog gives us an outlet, the ability to add a face, or rather a personality to the press. We are able to address visitors to the BlazeVOX site and deliver our latest information about new books, new reviews, book-tours and readings of our authors and other tidbits of data that might be of use. This way we have our web presence as a destination, a place to read and be current with all that is going on.
NA: Could you say a few words about your newest authors? Is there any one thing that might categorize them as BlazeVOX writers?
GG: Here is a brief list of ten new and forthcoming titles that give a good idea of what we enjoy publishing. You can read a preview of these books in the new section of the BlazeVOX Journal – Book Preview. They are all available on Amazon.com, SPD and in our own online shop.
A N A N A T O M Y O F T H E N I G H T by Clayton Eshleman (Poetry)
Comma Fork / Moving Parts by Ted Greenwald (Poetry)
“now, 1/3” and thepoem by Demosthenes Agrafiotis
Translated by John Sakkis and Angelos Sakkis (Poetry in translation)
Distance by Tom Clark (Poetry)
Transcendental Telemarketer by Beth Copeland (Poetry)
Mylar by Eric Wertheimer (Poetry)
Circles Matter by Brian Lucas (Poetry)
to go without blinking by Aimee Herman (Poetry)
Continental Drifts by Cheryl Pallant (Poetry)
Selected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins
Edited by Barbara Henning (Fiction and interviews)
One aspect that binds these books together might be that they all push the bounds of what one thinks of as a poem and prose. That frayed area of what is possible is still an open frontier, one which we enjoy exploring. In picking books for publication we try to choose the best manuscripts available at the time. We try to not choose a school, or movement or any one aesthetic that would categorize the authors. That is a bit unfair to them and their work, as they write as individuals and their work stands independent of any one book. But there is overlap; communications between books and authors tend to develop in both positive and negative ways, this is unavoidable and we try to incorporate that as a form of serendipity. It is an unusual moment for poetry and it's production, but it is a glorious time as well and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
NA: Can you talk to me about the fiction you publish?
GG: We have an exciting list of great fiction titles from some of the best experimental voices writing today. You can see the list here, but some authors are Mark Wallace, Dennis Barone, Tom Carey, Christine Hamm, Norma Kassirer and coming out in the fall is a collected edition of fiction and interviews with Bobbie Louise Hawkins.
NA: A lot of presses are funded by universities and/or contests, but I believe BlazeVOX is an entirely independent press. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent press?
GG: We are an independent press and it is wonderful. Right now we are working on getting our not-for-profit status and we will be ready to meet the future with a bit more certainty and foundation. There are many advantages not being associated with a university. We have the absolute authority to publish any book we want while avoiding committee think. We have the ability to publish the ill-advised as easily as work from promising writers. We navigate blithely through political and artistic/theoretical differences so that the many voices of the innovative poet can have a safe refuge. There are as many disadvantages to being on our own that revolve around the instability of life. It is a precarious situation with no real salary, university grade health insurance, a form of tenure, and so on. But I wouldn’t trade this situation for anything.
NA: Could you describe some of the happiest or proudest moments for the press? Feel free to provide links to reviews, events, readings, etc.
GG: The happiest moments of the press have been quite recent. Our survival through rousing support of writers, reader and scholars may be categorized as one or two of the saddest, bewildering, discouraging, resounding, glorious, hope-filled moments in my life. I am thrilled by the quality of work we publish and are able to live up to the standards we have set for ourselves in our mission statement. We have had over 50,000 books sold through several outlets and that is fine number of objects to place into the world, considering we are Print on Demand, there is a big demand for poetry and alternative forms of literature. I also base our success in how well respected and beloved BlazeVOX has become. It is a wonderful feeling to work with such talented writers, and I have been able to work with my literary heroes.
NA: I was thinking it would be nice to end the interview with a quote or excerpt from one of your books to give us a taste of what BlazeVOX has to offer.
GG: You can read a preview of ten new and forthcoming books in the new section of the BlazeVOX Journal – Book Preview. And here are two poems from two new books by Tom Clark and by Aimee Herman.
From: Distance by Tom Clark (Poetry)
Again, and again
to the rock
of the mute
long, then? And
From: to go without blinking by Aimee Herman (Poetry)
go get yourself loved
Ninety milligrams of side effects will not remove his lisp. On a Friday, he slathers Federico García Lorca over vocal chords like controlled cologne that reeks of Granada. Calls his tongue a Communist, as it slurs war into his teeth. Beside him, a girl grabs his knee and squeezes an erection off his taste buds. The swelling distracts his s’s; suddenly he is cured. She took off her socks and climbed her way through stinging nettle and curious ivy. It was the histamine that took notice of her triangular bones jutting, the pull of skin, the color of cockleshells or plaster. Twenty-minutes later, she brought peeled fingernails toward ankles and itched the irritant away. She was not ready for a relationship at this time. What happened is this. She closed her eyes, which she pretended were moss—not the color but the plant—knees bent in the only way they could and found Braille between her legs. Upon further examination, she attempted amputation. Pink wigged man intrigues red haired lady at basement bathhouse. She drips oiled wax along the seam of his arm, which is veined like skirt steak and dotted with drops of hair. It is his birthday and buttercream-covered penguins decorate his cake. Her pale pink fingers press into his bleached and blotted forearm, his wrist, above his elbow. She nods when he asks her, “Do you like men who dress as women?” She shakes her head when he offers to tie her up like Christmas or roast beef.
Geoffrey Gatza has received awards for his poetry from the Fund for Poetry and a Boomerang Award. He is the author House of Forgetting, Secrets of my Prison House (BlazeVOX) Kenmore: Poem Unlimited (Casa Menendez 2009) and Not So Fast Robespierre (Menendez Publishing 2008) and HouseCat Kung Fu: Strange Poems for Wild Children (Meritage Press 2008), He is also the author of the yearly Thanksgiving Menu-Poem Series, a book length poetic tribute for prominent poets, now entering it's eleventh year. His visual art poems have been displayed in gallery showing. Recently, OCCUPY THE WALLS: A Poster Show, AC Gallery (NYC) 2011 occupy wall street N15 For Ernst Jandl - Minimal Poems with photography from the fall of Liberty Square. And in, LANGUAGE TO COVER A WALL: Visual Poetry through its changing media, UB ART GALLERY (Buffalo, NY) 2011/12 Language for the Birds. He lives in Buffalo, NY with his girlfriend and two cats. Find out more about Geoffrey here.
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 was published by CavanKerry Press in 2010. Follow Nin's blog here.