TN: Trio House Press is an independent publisher of American poets. The poets we publish are from around the country, as are our editors. Dorinda Wegener is in New York; Terry Lucas is in San Francisco; Sara Lefsyk and I are in Colorado; and Issa Lewis is in Michigan. We are a collective, so some of the poets we publish serve as editors as well. We published Matt Mauch's book, If You're Lucky Is a Theory of Mine, in 2012, and he's been on board with us for some time now. Typically, a poet is published and then serves on the THP collective for two years post-publication. We've just been fortunate Matt is still helping with the whole editing process.
I mention all of our editors because they are the ones who work so closely with our poets in order to make those gorgeous books happen. It's no small undertaking to walk with a poet through publication, and our editors do it out of a deep belief in the poet's work. We want their work out there just as much as the poet. It's actually pretty amazing, really, given our geographical distance, that we're able to work with one another. It's the miracle of email, Skype, and telephone. Even our online submissions system streamlines the whole process of poets getting their work into our hands.
KS: Five editors in four geographic locations (coast to coast!) sounds challenging. Did you set out to be that far apart, or is that something that happened along the way?
TL: We were living on all points of the compass when we met during our MFA years. All of the original editors met in the New England College MFA program founded by Gerald Stern and Maxine Kumin. After we graduated, we kept up with one another through monthly exchanges of poems and critiques, as well as reviews of what we were reading, giving one another the same kind of workshop experience we had shared for the previous two years. We were all madly trying to get our own manuscripts published, and became aware of how many excellent poets are passed over because of how few publishers of poetry there were, as well as how few books poetry presses can afford to publish. All of us were working poets first, editors/publishers second. That was what united us across the miles—and still does.
TN: When Dorinda and I first began brainstorming about THP, I was in Florida and she was in New York. So, yes, from the get-go it's always been a distance sort of affair. The distance is challenging only in that when we are in process working with one another; it would be nice at the end of the day to prop up our feet together and get a drink, or something. But, again, technology really allows us to feel as if we're working in the same room with each other and the poet. When I work with a poet who lives in an entirely different state, I do my best to be accessible by phone and email. It's a volley of sorts. First, after working with a supporting editor, since two editors thoroughly read the work and make editing notes, I send the feedback to the poet who then reviews the notes and makes edits. From there, I comb through the work again and work closely with the poet until their vision of the manuscript is as closely aligned as possible with the final draft of the book that goes to print. All the THP editors work like this with our poets. We aren't just a print-em up press. We want our poets' books to be as strong as possible, so we edit.
KS: Does the press support any full-time staff members?
TN: Now, we're all part-timers at THP. Our first two years of establishing the press, Dorinda and I put in full-time hours. There was so much to do outside of the editing on the business side, and establishing a non-profit is a whole other animal. Everything is weighed, measured, and accounted for. Federal and state filings are time consuming. But, if you want it badly enough, what seems daunting and unscalable, it's just hoops. There are a lot of hoops. So, we jump through them because the poetry is important enough to put in this effort. I think the effort it takes isn't ever fully understood until you do it, sort of like being a parent. You can never fully understand how utterly intense parenting is until those children are in your arms. It was the same with Trio House. Once we'd incorporated, something was born than needed constant feeding. What we did anticipate was that we'd eventually share the workload. This was the whole idea behind the collective. Folks come on to the press and take on tasks, anything from Marketing to Editing. Now that we've been at this for a number of years and so many of us share the tasks of press, part-time hours are feasible, which is important since we're all working poets as well. All of the editors write, submit, and work hard at their own craft. And, so many of us have other day-jobs, too.
TL: And I would add that THP is a non-profit press. It doesn’t “support” anyone in the traditional sense—although we’ve received tremendous support from our advisory board, which was initially comprised of our former MFA mentors and other colleagues—like Joan Houlihan, Ilya Kaminsky, Issa Lewis, and Michael Waters. In addition, poets like Peter Campion and Terry Ehret joined our advisory board later. Without this larger community, THP could not have become what it is in the three and one-half short years of its existence. And, hopefully, we support our poets in the ways we want to be supported as poets—not just during the production process, but in the post-production marketing and distribution of their work, including awards nominations and the continued building of community among our collective. We, as writers, need one another. We believe that’s doubly so for poets, and that we, as a press, have a responsibility to foster genuine community among our poets and their readers.
KS: I’m not asking you to choose a favorite child, I promise; but you can give us a few examples of Trio House books and tell us what is the kind of work you’re seeking?
TN: We're seeking strong poetry. Bottom-line. Our editors' tastes are so diverse and they're also the people who forward manuscripts to our judges. Regarding the Trio Award and the Louise Bogan Award, the judges who come on board with us for that year's reading period are the ones who significantly shape our press. We admire our judges and their work, so entrusting them with two of our three books keeps our press from becoming stagnated or leaning in one direction only with regard to aesthetic.
For instance, if you look at the work of Iris Dunkle in her book, Gold Passage, you'll see that she's quite the lyrical poet. Her work is compressed, precise, mysterious, and clearly rhythmic. Each word is chiseled and hewn. It's gorgeous in its own right. Her work is so very different from Steven Riel's Fellow Odd Fellow, which is just as gorgeous and so very spacious. There is effortlessness to his long lines, his cheeky-tone that appears so suddenly after lines of such somber imagery. These two collections are so very different, yet each is so amazingly crafted. In our books, attentiveness to crafting is unmistakable no matter the leaning. In essence, our poets have a clarity surrounding their own relationship to their craft, whatever crafting approach they take when getting that poem down onto the page.
TL: Tayve is right. And I think that diversity of tastes has resulted in the only common denominator in all of THP’s books: quality. All three of those first books published in 2012 immediately received excellent reviews. And if sales and awards are any indication, then the readers and critics of those books agree with that assessment—all three went into reprint their first year, and one book, Clay by David Groff, was a Lambda Literary Award finalist.
KS: What is Trio House’s connection to Louise Bogan or her work that led to naming an award after her?
TN: I adore Bogan. While I was working on my MFA I was able to really delve into her work and the more I read, the more surprised I was at just how marginalized she was, at least in comparison to so many other poets of her same generation. She was hardly mentioned, and her body of work— gorgeous. Not only is her work powerful in its lyricism, and its carefully crafted sound, but also she was a fine critic. It's no small feat to have had a career as she did for so many years with The New Yorker. It just made no sense to me that her work was sidestepped. But, much about the poetry world often eludes me and it's difficult for me to make sense of it. In actuality, I get it—the whole sales-driven, supply and demand thing, but the small press isn’t necessarily about supply and demand. The larger publishing houses—yes. Trio House Press? No. That 's one of the driving forces as to why we founded Trio House—to assist those whose work is marginalized but needs to be published and read. Since Bogan had no award named after her, it was an honor to be able to do so. She was a quiet giant.
KS: What is your publication schedule?
TL: We publish at least three books per year—two as a result of contests judged by well-known poets. The submission period for both of these is November 1 through April 31. Then in July we have an open reading period from which the editors make a selection. All three books are published in time for the next year’s AWP. Depending upon the press’s workload and the number of quality manuscripts available, the press may, from time to time, solicit additional manuscripts for publication. The release date of these books varies.
KS: Will we see you at AWP?
TL: Yes—all of us—every THP editor, collective member, and poet. Every year we have an offsite reading where our new poets read, as well as the judges for that year. This year’s reading is Thursday, April 9, 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Wesley Center of Minneapolis. Poets Sandy Longhorn and Bradford Tice will be reading from their new books, as well as judges Peter Campion and Carol Frost. In addition, all of our poets have book signings scheduled in the book fair (table # 240), which can be found in the AWP Catalogue. We love meeting our readers, as much as we love introducing our poets to the world, so please stop by and say “Hi.”
Tayve Neese's work has appeared in literary journals including Fourteen Hills, The Paris Review (daily online edition), MiPOesias, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and others. She is the Executive Editor of Trio House Press, an independent press publishing distinct and innovative voices of emerging and established American poets. Her book, Blood to Fruit, is available from David Robert Books, an imprint of WordTech Communications. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Concord Poetry Center in Concord, Massachusetts, and currently resides in Colorado.
Terry Lucas’s most recent poetry chapbook, If They Have Ears to Hear, won the Copperdome Chapbook Award from Southeast Missouri State University Press, and his full-length collection, In This Room,is forthcoming in 2016 from CW Books. He was the 2014 Crab Orchard Review Special Issue Featured Poet, and his work has appeared in Best New Poets 2012, Great River Review, Green Mountains Review, and many other publications. Terry grew up in New Mexico and lives in Mill Valley, California, where he is a full-time poet, editor, and free-lance writing consultant. www.terrylucas.com