NA: How did Bloof Books begin, and how long has it been in existence?
SC: We published our first books in 2007. I had been working as the Poetry Editor & Associate Publisher for Soft Skull Press in Brooklyn, but they were being merged with another press and were not going to continue publishing poetry. Two of the poets I'd worked with at SSP—Jennifer L. Knox and Danielle Pafunda—had second books ready to come out, but suddenly no home for them. The press that published my first book had also folded in 2006, so I was in the same situation. Small presses come and go, alas, and publishing a second book is something of a hump sometimes, because so many poetry publishers focus on debut books, contests, or writers under a certain age. Rather than start over trying to find new homes for these three books, I convinced Jen and Danielle to try this experiment with me, and founded Bloof. We rereleased Jen's first book (which was about to go out of print), A Gringo Like Me, simultaneously with her second, Drunk by Noon. Then Danielle's My Zorba and my For Girls & Others.
NA: Are you the sole editor?
SC: Bloof has evolved into a collective, meaning all of the poets are invited to participate in the workings of the press, to whatever degree they are interested and able. I select the books and chapbooks for publication, but with the input of the other collective members, who are invited to read manuscripts and share their thoughts. Once something is chosen, I do most of the editorial work in collaboration with the author, but each book also has an editorial board, which usually includes other poets from within the collective, who offer feedback on the manuscript, are consulted about possible cover designs, suggest appropriate review outlets, and help with proofreading. (That's not so different from how most poets prepare their books, getting feedback from trusted peers, but we are built on this idea of collaboration.) The poet is always the person most responsible for the development of the book toward its final form, and has final approval over editorial changes and design.
NA: How did you become interested in editing poetry books and chapbooks?
SC: I published my first poem when I was ten, in a saddle-stapled anthology created by my class at school. The language arts teacher selected one poem from each student, some kids contributed drawings, and we all got copies to share with our families. It was called Poems from the Unicorn's Kingdom. I loved the whole process and was especially delighted by the little golden-yellow book. I still have it. So it started there and I never really stopped: Our high school had a literary magazine, and I was the poetry editor, and our creative writing class also printed hardcover books at the end of the year. In college, I didn't work on the school magazine because I had a full-time job, but I started my own literary zine, called DAMN (sort of in imitation of BLAST) for which I took submissions of prose, poetry, and art. My boyfriend at the time worked at Kinko's, which gave me access to desktop publishing and printing. After I moved to New York, I worked for a division of Random House, and though I got to work with Hal Sirowitz and several great novelists, I also had to work on a lot of things I wasn't particularly interested in, and on a scale that felt pretty impersonal. I learned a lot, but primarily that I found smaller scale publishing, and poetry specifically, to be a happier fit for me. And all along I made chapbooks of my own work, and that of friends, or I created anthologies of things plucked from elsewhere that I just liked, one-offs, to give as gifts. For instance, a little book of poems that all contained the word moon. After grad school, I had a little press called Half Empty/Half Full, which released a bunch of things, including a chapbook anthology of poems inspired by David Lynch (edited by Ivy Alvarez), a series of broadsides for bookfairs or art galleries (here is one for CAConrad, a copy of which I hear hangs in the bathroom at SPD), and collaborative books I wrote with others, as well as an early selection of what eventually became my first book, Down Spooky.
SC: Sure. The 2012-2013 season was the first time we did the chapbooks for Bloof, and we did six of them. Each one has a unique design concept that grew out of the poems. Packing, by Hailey Higdon, was written as she prepared for a long-distance move, so we used recycled materials and packed it as if for a move. Some of the covers were shirt boxes, envelope boxes, or reclaimed Priority Mail envelopes. She wanted to keep that one unfussy, affordable, simply stapled. Jared White's chapbook This Is What It Is Like to Be Loved by Me is a single poem, a loose haibun, so he had been thinking of a Japanese-influenced design. The physical format of the poem and the length of the first line (repeated throughout) suggested a tall, narrow shape too. The illustration is based on a line from the poem. Windowboxing, by Kirsten Kaschock, is square, a visual motif that comes not just from the title but also the poems, some of which are arranged in blocks and borders, or with boxed elements within them. Instead of a printed cover, we decided to punch three windows and put translucent paper behind them, to the icon she had created for the title page show through. There's no type on the cover, so the catalog shows the title page and not the windows, but you can see what that looks like here. When we do printed covers, they are usually made on an old Epson ink-jet printer, using archival ink and papers. The interiors are usually on cream text-weight paper, laser-printed. The bindings are usually hand-sewn, but for Jennifer Tamayo's Poems Are the Only Real Bodies I did a zigzag machine stitch, in two colors of thread. You can see that here.
NA: Who thought of the name, Bloof? I love it!
SC: I think my spouse gets credit for that. We'd been making lists, and I liked Bloof Books for a few reasons: the two Bs, the double Os, that both words have five letters. Bloof is both a nonsense word (which I've since heard in some pretty funny contexts) that we can fill and a sound effect from a comic book.
NA: How does one become a Bloof author?
SC: We have an open reading period for chapbooks, and plan to keep doing that annually. In 2013, for the 2014 series, it was in July. The longer books are by solicitation only, because we don't have many slots, just two or three per year. The collective members suggest things sometimes, and we remain open to members who have published with us before, and have done (or will be doing) multiple books with Peter Davis, Danielle Pafunda, Jennifer L. Knox, Sandra Simonds. But the chapbooks allow us to work with more poets than we could otherwise manage. I'm really excited to work with all these new folks this year.
NA: I heard one of your authors, Jennifer L. Knox, read at AWP a few years ago, and I fell in love with her work. I was hoping you would post one of her poems and maybe say a few words about her.
SC: Yeah, Knox is the best! We've done all three of her books, including the rerelease of the Soft Skull debut. I first heard her read in NYC in 2002 or 2003, and we became great friends working on her first book together. It came out at the same time as my first book in 2005, and we planned a massive tour, not knowing each other all that well yet. A few weeks in a rental car sealed the deal, and really the idea for Bloof probably started then. And we're doing a fourth book with Jen in 2015: Days of Shame and Failure. I think she just gets better and better, and nobody else can pull off what she manages. People who know her as a performer often talk about how hilarious she is, and that's true, but she's more complex than that. For example, here's a poem from her most recent book, The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway:
All year, crawling home from bars—through snow, rain and sweat-stinging summer nights. But in August peonies began to beckon me from the kept yards of houses we’d never own because we couldn’t keep money in our pockets, because we were always going to bars, because we never cared for the quiet work of caring. We stuffed ourselves fat on clutter and glitter—on meat and beer and Mardi Gras beads—taking in and in but never taking care. How did such blowzy flowers manage to come back after nine months of bitter winter? Tough blood. I’d steal them whether in full fluffy bloom, or still in budlike fists. The bright fibrous stems were a bitch to sever, even with my teeth. Many times trying to boost a bouquet, I yanked a whole bush out by the roots. He’d stand on the sidewalk with a dark smudge for a face and say, “You know what’s gonna happen.” And I did. I’d carry home the flowers I’d risked getting busted for, not trim the stems at an angle, fill a vase with water and a pinch of sugar to keep them fresh, and arrange them high to low like children in a class photograph. Instead I’d dump the lot in a heap on the kitchen table, pass out in my clothes, and snore all night like a pig. The next morning, we would wake to a million ants pouring from the flowers, down the rusty table legs, and onto the winespotted rug. Ants are the fingers combing the Filofax pages that are the petals of the peony. I could’ve left them to live, to thrive beside a house—maybe with a little girl inside who made up stories for the flowers about princesses in feathery skirts, but I didn’t. I killed them, then stuffed the seething, gorgeous things into the trash. I could’ve planted my own outside our rented house, heavy with dead Christmas lights, but I didn’t know how to grow things then. I still don’t really, but it’s rare I get drunk enough to tear up someone else’s garden.
NA: You are an accomplished poet yourself. How do you balance your editing and writing interests?
SC: Ha, this is a good question. Sometimes one thing takes over, and sometimes the other. I'm not sure I've found the right rhythm yet, but as long as I am working on somebody's poems, I'm pretty content.
NA: What are some of your happiest moments as editor of Bloof?
SC: I can't explain how excited I get when I open a new shipment of books from our printer, Bookmobile. I feel so lucky to get to work so closely with poets whose work I love. The readings we do together, like this recent party at Berl's Brooklyn Poetry Shop, are a ton of fun.
NA: Could you talk about the Bloof books coming out in 2014?
SC: I linked them above, but to list, we've got six chapbooks scheduled, from Amanda Montei, Ben Fama, Dawn Sueoka, Jackie Clark, Natalie Eilbert, and Daniel Borzutzky. And three longer books: Elisabeth Workman's first book, Ultramegaprairieland; Sandra Simonds's House of Ions: Sonnets; and supposedly my book-length poem, The Seam.
NA: I’d like to close with a poem from one of Bloof’s books.
SC: Here's one from Elisabeth Workman's forthcoming Ultramegaprairieland:
LANDSCAPE WITH PORN STARS
It's not easy to get to leisure
without multinational backing
into each other, which is always
first an accident and the
according to a recent study guide.
I saw you in the food court
You had a sort-of pretty
megachurch I wanted to help you
out of. Was I imagining things?
A treeline of classifieds
can-cans across Indiana,
and there in Arizona
a sexual affair with sasquatch
blooms on blighted terrain.
Researchers have tried
to do this before. Not being
able to do so and consequently
not being able to suck it up was
difficult. Giving up space
after marriage was difficult.
Making up for the lost ghost
and then trying to be a country—
also difficult. The sun is brutal
we never see it. The sun is brutal
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.