DD: Robert Frost said, “My definition of literature would be just this: words that have become deeds.” Cooper Dillon Books is building an impressive catalogue of authors ranging from the re-issue of William Matthews first book, Ruining the New Road, to Jill Alexander Essbaum’s chapbook length poem, “The Devastation.” When you look at the books that Cooper Dillon has published, what definition of literature comes to your mind?
AD: I probably default to the Robert Lowell idea of the poem as an event, which is to say that we’re pulled into a place where we stay, even if only for a moment. The books we’ve published each bring the reader into a place that (I hope) we want to return to over and over again. There are lots of great pieces of writing, but a poetry we come to call “literature” is a work that is always resonating, and for different reasons at different times.
CBC: Our hope as a press, however nano-sized of a small poetry press we are, is to bring timeless poetry into our cultural conversation. Timelessness is a very lofty goal for a book or a press, but that resonance in rereading that Adam mentions is what I mean, too. The Devastation is timeless to me because Jill's lines ring in my head, as do Rick Pierce's poems in The Book of Mankey. I suppose that literary publishing could be thought of, in a literal sense, as words becoming deeds, if Frost meant words becoming an entity that can affect us. Cooper Dillon aims to publish poetry that affects us, that we want to be affected by over a span of time.
DD: How did Cooper Dillon Books come into being?
AD: Colleen Ryor, after founding and operating Black Lawrence and Adirondack Review, wanted to create an entity that was dedicated to poetry. She took me on to help with a couple of projects at Black Lawrence, but then she ran the idea by me, and we ran with it. She had/has young children, and I took it over promising I wouldn’t change the mission we’d created. The resolve to regard the values that make poems timeless has always been at the center of our being.
CBC: Adam invited me on as assistant editor in spring 2014, so the press has existed without me for a long time. But as for me, I love being part of poetry publishing again. The core of Cooper Dillon is those books of poems that keep us coming back, and I’m delighted to have a hand in shepherding those poems into our cultural conversation.
DD: Cooper Dillon Books has published six chapbooks and four full length collections, with two more full-length collections coming soon. How many books do you publish in an average year? Do you have plans to expand?
AD: We only do one or two books per year, and it’s a really pleasant pace. It means that we’re never spread thin, and we can give the attention that our readers and writers need. Max, our art-man, asks about expansion also, so it’s on the mind. As much as I’d love to put out more books per year, I think that would demand resources that aren’t realistically there. On the other hand, as long as we’re keeping it small, we get to maintain a quality and integrity that’s really key to running a solid small press.
I worked in beer for a few years, and I live in San Diego (where there are over 110 breweries) and I see a small press somewhat like a small brewery. When it’s small, everything putts along smoothly—the customers know they really matter when they know they can relax and enjoy without feeling pressure or rushed. When a brewery starts to grow too much, a layer of the personal tends to get scrapped. Things get more “businessy,” and the labor of love just starts to feel much more like work. If a press is the same way, I’d prefer to keep the love. That being said, if we sell more books, and we find more manuscripts to love, we’ll do everything we can to give those poems a home.
DD: The Dead in Daylight by Melody S. Gee and Shore by Clay Matthews are forthcoming in 2016? Can you tell us about these books?
AD: These books are awesome. When The Dead in Daylight came in, I lost my mind, and felt like we needed it. As Eduardo Coral wrote for the back, it’s “beautifully strange and intimate,” and that’s clear from the first poem, which has the title “I Cannot Make a Torch of Green Branches,” (which appeared in Town Creek Poetry). Before we even start, we’re presented with a voice in conflict with the natural world, and the living branches resisting their own destruction by fire. The tension that comes with that carries and builds in the manuscript, and I hope everyone loves it when it comes out!
Shore is a book-length poem in parts, built from a lengthy bibliography of flood stories, swirled together in this way that Clay Matthews just nails. Clay’s earlier book Pretty, Rooster is one of our most popular titles, and I think it’s because the poems have all the wonderful qualities of the writer: a raw humility, and a vernacular we seem to connect with (especially after tiring work in the sun, at the moment of a first sip of beer). Shannon Tharp says that he “thinks through and sounds out the stories that need telling,” and that intimate urgency is there.
CBC: It’s worth mentioning that Shore is in print and shipping right now, and it is excellent and will suck you into its world of floods and water and bodies and love:
The end of the story
is that everything drowned
together. The shadow sang
is quiet as water.
As for The Dead in Daylight, I can verify that Adam read the manuscript and lost his mind. He called me immediately, which is how it starts with each book we’ve published together. I read it and had no doubts. It’s very exciting to have Melody Gee’s collection with our press’s name attached, because I feel certain that her book will be read for a long, long time. I’m so pleased we grabbed it first.
DD: Cooper Dillon Books accepts submissions of chapbooks and full-length collections year round. This must make for a mountain of submissions. How many submissions do you receive a year? Also, can you talk about the Cooper Dillon’s rationale for keeping the submissions doorway always so hospitably ajar?