HB: YesYes Books publishes poetry, prose, & visual art that make us excited for the day. We publish in print & innovative electronic formats. We have full-length titles, chapbooks, e-books, music, and graphic poetry, and we’re always looking for what’s emerging and how best to show it to the world.
NA: How did the press come about?
HB: The press was founded by KMA Sullivan, a visionary dynamo of a woman--a storm, really--who raised a family of five and then went to graduate school, studied poetry, and decided she needed to start a press that would create art that makes life better. I joined two years ago as a volunteer and have become better acquainted with the press as its Publicist. We work with an amazing team of people all across the country who are writers and artists themselves, all very talented and tuned in to so many exciting new voices. Stevie Edwards, our Acquisitions Editor, is also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Muzzle Magazine. She has a real talent for spotting work we should be paying attention to. Jill Kolongowski, our Managing Editor, is working on a many aspects of our distribution and internal organization. She is a nonfiction writer herself and is currently helping us usher our first nonfiction title into the world as we publish Ross Robbins’ Mental Hospital: A Memoir this fall.
We turn five next year! Watch for the celebration at AWP.
NA: How many books do you publish per year?
HB: So far it has varied from year to year. Last year we published three (The Bones of Us by J. Bradley and Adam Scott Mazer, American Barricade by Danniel Schoonebeek, and [insert] boy by Danez Smith). This year we’ve already published five full-length books, and we have two more full-lengths (including our first nonfiction title) and three chapbooks coming up this fall. We are hoping to get into a standard pattern of four full-lengths, three print chaps (Vinyl 45s), The Pamet River Prize (a full-length), and one experimental project per year. We’ll see how close we come to sticking to that pattern. It’s hard to say no to new work that we fall in love with!
NA: If you could describe a YesYes book, what makes it unique, what would you say?
HB: Our aesthetic as a press is constantly evolving and expanding. Each book is its own work of art; they’re designed independently with artwork chosen specifically to be in conversation with the collection, so the books are distinct from one another, yet all of them speak intensely from the heart of each writer. We look for working where everything is at stake. We often publish first collections by authors who are just emerging and whose voices are just beginning to take the world by storm. YesYes Books titles are stealthy that way. I think they have a bit of a tendency to sneak into the world and then all of a sudden people say, wow, what’s this? It’s amazing!
NA: You also publish a magazine -- Vinyl? And chapbooks?
HB: Yes, Vinyl is our online lit magazine that publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and original artwork. It’s going through a redesign at the moment, so watch for it to arrive with Issue 12 in the very near future. Phillip B. Williams is our Poetry Editor, and has been leading the poetry curation since Vinyl’s third issue. Mark Derks works on the fiction side. He has an impeccable eye. We’re also interested in nonfiction and original art. We have both a digital and print chapbook series. We publish anywhere from three to six chapbooks per year, depending on what we see that we like. There’s our Vinyl 45s contest, of course, that usually yields at least two manuscripts. And then we follow the eyes and ears of all our editors year-round.
NA: When is your reading period? Do you run any contests?
HB: We read for two contests and one open reading period each year. Our Pamet River Prize series, for first or second full-length books (poetry or prose) by any female or gender-queer writer, is open for submissions November 1-December 15. The Vinyl 45s chapbook contest is open January 1-February 15, and our annual Open Reading Period for full-length poetry manuscripts runs from April 1-May 15. We also accept submissions for Vinyl on a rolling basis (the month following an issue’s release).
NA: I recently ran across the poet, Emily O’Neill, whom you’ve published. I’d love to see a poem by her here, and maybe a few words about her work.
HB: She’s our inaugural Pamet River Prize winner! I love her book. Her poems are smart and razor-sharp and also heartbreakingly vulnerable. They’re brave about their fear, and they’re very finely crafted. Emily has a background in slam poetry, and her work makes a deft transition to the page. That’s another thing we love to do at YYB; we love to cross boundaries--or bust through them. Here’s an excerpt:
from Questing Beast
I’m scrubbing milk from my silver boots when I see it
winging from the corner of my eye—
willful (they say)
bored with stillness,
a breaking wave
& before I can find a reason not to
I’m running full tilt on my bad right knee,
knotting a gray-lunged decade into a snare
here’s your net, my butterfly here’s your daughter, Pelican
come & bleed now, quiet
while I fish in your throat for it
NA: I see you’ve published a graphic poetry collection, The Bones of Us. Could you say a few words about that?
HB: Right. It was our 2014 experimental title. It’s a collaboration between J. Bradley and artist Adam Scott Mazer and offers a poignant and darkly humorous look at the end of a marriage. The images are bold and intense. It’s a visceral poetic experience that’s completely augmented by its visual appeal. It was recently reviewed here. I think people really respond to how unrelentingly sad and wounded and disturbed it is, while at the same time finding redemption and transformation in its blatant honesty.
NA: Could you tell me about one or more your forthcoming or recently published poetry collections? Maybe provide a poem from one of them?
HB: We’re very excited about Love the Stranger, forthcoming this fall, by Jay Deshpande. It’s a lyric exploration of desire, loss, and kinship. The voice in it is hungry for wisdom and is searching for it by pushing into the body and its memories. Unceasingly in search of beauty, the poems strike at the intersection of eros and the unfamiliar. I think it’s going to be a stunner. Very different from much of what we’ve done so far, which is very exciting. Here’s a short poem from the collection:
The way someone loves me in the dictionary
is as good as any other. I keep looking
for the proper sun to lace my tongue with.
To burn on me for days.
There’s an arrogance when the solo hits:
it’s the paginated clamor of car crashes
I keep beside me in the bed.
But I always knew I would be lucky.
I have that thing about my heart.
NA: What are some of the happiest moments for the press? Feel free to provide one or two links.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk with you about YesYes Books!