NA: There are so many independent poetry presses out there. What makes Wave Books different?
MZ: Every press has a different focus, some limits or areas of interest. Wave mostly publishes work by so-called "mid-career" American poets: individual books of poems, translations, etc. So we don't publish a lot of other terrific books that our allies in the small publishing world take on. The small press ecosystem requires and benefits from that sort of variety I think. I do also believe Wave has some unusual and innovative ideas about design. Other presses of course publish gorgeous books, ones that we love, but our focus on type design as a necessary manifestation of the idiosyncratic poetic impulse within each book seems to me to be different from what many other presses are currently doing, and hopefully a contribution to the field of book design.
NA: I read on your website that Wave hopes “to continue to challenge the values and practices of readers.” How do you plan to do that?
MZ: In the way that any representative of artists does, by putting forth work that pushes our ideas about poetry and art and life in heretofore unexplored directions.
NA: How did you become an editor at Wave?
MZ: Brian Henry, my friend and fellow poet, and I founded Verse Press together in 1999. Soon after, I took over as the main editor of the press, because Brian was busy with his work editing Verse Magazine, as well as his teaching and other obligations. When Verse Press became Wave Books in 2005, I continued on as editor, and poet Joshua Beckman was hired as the other editor. I think our editorial work and vision are much stronger for having two editors and a very involved Publisher, Charlie Wright.
NA: I see that Wave publishes translations. I was wondering if you could give us a poem, or an excerpt from a poem, from one of your books of translations, and maybe a short bio of the author and translator.
NA: How many books do you publish each year? How does one become a Wave poet?
MZ: Currently we publish around 8-10 books a year. Obviously that means we have a relatively small regular group of authors we publish. As I wrote above, we focus on mid-career poets. Our editorial board takes very seriously our task of keeping track of what is being written by the poets of the generation we publish. Yet we realize we can't keep track of everything, so periodically we will have a reading period of some kind, usually to fulfill a specific purpose. When we were putting together a book of political poetry in 2008, we had an open submissions period where we read any political poetry people wanted to send: this was very educational and helpful for us as editors, in figuring out what we thought a political poem was or could be, and we took many poems from those submissions. This past summer we had an open reading period for manuscripts, just because we felt it was time to see what was out there that we might be missing. Again, this was incredibly educational (though also an enormous amount of work, to read everything), and we found several books from that group that we hope to publish in the next few years, translations as well as individual volumes of poetry.NA: If you could think of a title of a book you would love to publish, what would that title be?
MZ: The Lost Poems of Robert Desnos.
NA: Is there a poet or two out there that you would like to publish (or to have published) who is not a Wave author?
MZ: We are open to working on specific projects with poets who have great publishing situations, in order to publish something else that they are doing that might not be appropriate for their main publisher. For instance, we have recently published translations by Graham Foust, whose books of poetry are published by our friends and co-conspirators Flood Editions. That seems like a good way to get to work with poets we admire, without in any way disrupting a happily functioning publishing arrangement.
NA: Could you describe some of the happiest or proudest moments for the press? MZ:I would have to say the Poetry Bus tour was an early proud moment, though I'm not sure it was always a happy one, only because Joshua and I and Travis Nichols (who were on the bus for the entire trip) practically had nervous breakdowns from the sheer velocity of it all. But it was a lot of fun, and something that I think brought a lot of pleasure to people all over the country, which was a great feeling. Each year we put on an annual festival in Seattle, to which we invite our authors as well as a lot of other poets. Last year we did a translation festival at the Henry Art Gallery, and I felt immense pride and gratitude that we were able to bring together so many brilliant translators and poets to talk in a way that felt very connected to true poetic practice. This coming year our festival will be focused around poetry and film, the weekend of February 22nd, and I am really looking forward to that. On a personal note, my proudest moments as an editor are when I really feel as if, through my responses and enthusiasm and general presence as a thoughtful and serious reader, I am bringing the poets I work with closer to the very best thing they can accomplish at a particular stage in their artistic life. I am happy and proud when I am in service to the people I feel are some of the finest poets writing today. Recently, when I saw the book of lectures by Mary Ruefle that Joshua so carefully and brilliantly edited, I was very proud on behalf of Wave Books and poetry.
NA: I’d like to close the interview with a poem from one of the Wave authors and a link to your website. Would you be willing to select a poem and provide a link?
MZ: It's hard to choose one poem by one author. But I guess I'd like to post a link to a poem by Joshua, from a book that is forthcoming in Fall 2013, The Inside of an Apple. This selection originally appeared in a gorgeous limited edition chapbook, Porch Light. For more info about Wave Books you can check out our website or our Tumblr or follow us on Twitter.
Matthew Zapruder is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Come On All You Ghosts (Copper Canyon 2010), a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He is an editor for Wave Books, and teaches at UCR-Palm Desert's Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing. He lives in San Francisco.
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. Follow Nin on Twitter here.