KS (above, left). Who, and where, is Kattywompus Press?
SG (above, right): Kattywompus Press is an independent literary small press which was born on the north coast in August, 2010, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
KS. All editors know or learn the story of the conception, to follow the birth metaphor, of their press, but since KP is less than a year old, perhaps that story is still in the making.
SG: Since I don’t believe at bottom in the notion of anything static in the world, I’d have to say that, yes, KP is certainly still evolving as a press. I expect we will be evolving as long as the press exists. To be more concrete, I initially conceived the press in the mold of Pudding House, a thirty-year-old independent literary small press in Columbus Ohio where my first book was published. In fact, KP was founded on the core of Poets’ Greatest Hits, a chapbook line invented by Jen Bosveld at Pudding House and published there for its first decade. Kattywompus Press has taken over and is continuing this unique, invitation-only line, which is modeled after the recording industry’s greatest hits albums, and features nearly 300 poets (and counting). My original intent was to publish other poetry chapbooks alongside this line, which we are indeed doing. Straightforward, manageable, no complicated logistics. But I found myself rapidly expanding the scope of what we produce, in response to two compelling factors. First, the publishing industry is in rapid flux, and seems to demand some degree of innovation for small presses to persist. In particular, we lean in to the growing interest in book as artifact, which is a natural outgrowth of our commitment to publish books with not only excellent content, but high standards of physical production—well-crafted books which are esthetically appealing and will in every respect withstand the test of time. Second, I found myself personally attracted to a broad range of projects. So leap we did. This press is all about the passion of art through the book. We address this with elegantly produced chapbooks, with one of a kind artist’s books, with perfect bound books, and limited editions of a variety of special constructions, papers, and bindings. In other words, if it’s a book, and we are crazy about it, we publish it. I started with this same intention of diversity in authors and subject matter, and wound up incorporating those notions for the physical containers of writing, as well.
KS. Who are the people behind the press? Your bio on the Kattywompus website notes that you have been many things, including a physician. How is publishing different for you, after these incarnations, compared to someone whose trajectory might be English major, writer, press?
SG: I’ll take your second question first and segue into the first. I can’t speak very much to how this would be different if I had a more conventional entry path to small press publishing--my perspective, like my vocational trajectory, is necessarily kattywompus. No doubt my radically different past jobs have helped mold me. It’s probably important that I have worked as a crap-for-wages waitress who walked out on a boss who had me, literally, down on hands and knees with a whisk broom and a flashlight; and later worked as the attending physician in charge of the graveyard shift of a major pediatric trauma center ER. These are wholly different roles entangled with grossly disparate sectors of our class system and culture, and of course the map between those poles was, to be polite, interesting. But beyond that, do these previous jobs inflect my editorial or publishing work? Not in specific ways.
Philosophically, I am a radical anti-segregationist. My door as a publisher is not just wide open, it’s off the hinges, for any and all comers. I want strong work, and I intend to represent many viewpoints in the press. I mean this both in an author- and subject-demographic sense, and also artistically. I publish traditional rural voices, cutting edge experimental writers, every ethnic and racial perspective that I can pull in, multiple genders and gender-orientations; without genre boundary or restriction. The cherry on top, for me, is that I get to weave this artistic inclusivity in with my passion for social justice--there are some potent political voices among the Kattywompus Press writers. These are the things I have cared about my whole life, and small press work offers the avenue for their expression.
As to who we are, in a more prosaic sense, Kattywompus Press is a sole proprietorship. So, on paper, it’s me. I have an exquisitely wonderful associate editor, Bonné de Blas, head of Art Books Cleveland. I have the ear and good counsel of friends in the arts, and I’d not have leapt when I did without Jen Bosveld’s ridiculous generosity and imagination. I’m also blessed with the support of people who don’t know me, but know the work and volunteer to support it (thank you!)