NA. My first question is about the name, CavanKerry. A nice Irish name. Can you tell me how you came up with this name? What it means to you? Is there anything Irish about the press besides the name?
JCH People often ask about the origin of the CavanKerry Press name. It originated with my mother. Her cancer erupted during my earliest days planning for the press, and she seemed energized discussing our progress. Her interest in my writing, which had until then been lukewarm at best, also increased; until then, her pride had focused on my education and my long time career as a psychologist in clinical practice. But when she got sick, she wanted to know about my writing and wanted me to read to her, so during our daily visits, I often read to her from my memoir about the early days of our family. That was a great joy for both of us.
In a conversation about possible names for the press, a friend suggested I name the press for her—Mary’s Press or O’Connor Press or some variation. I liked the idea of honoring her, but I didn’t want to exclude m father, nor did I want to name the press after any one person. Our goals included creating a community, so I wanted a more inclusive name. The combination of Cavan and Kerry, the two counties in Ireland where my parents were born and raised, seemed the most natural way to honor both of them and the two lands that spawned my own writing. Though the name came quickly. I researched the logo endlessly. I wanted a Celtic symbol that would define CavanKerry, so I studied the Book of Kells and settled on the linked circles which represent our core value, equality—separate identities and relatedness, equality of voices—diverse and distinct, equality of artist and audience—speaker and listener.
So, though I never conceived of CavanKerry as an ‘Irish’ press, its name. logo, and sensibilities are: fine writing, individuality, community, and generosity.
NA. You started CKP eleven years ago. What inspired you to start a press? What are the best and worst aspects of being a publisher?
JCH The story of CavanKerry Press begins with my own writing story and is grounded in my study of human behavior and my life as a clinical psychologist. People fascinate me. As do their stories. Each and every one—diverse and unique, public and private. But that doesn’t really explain my need to publish books.
Ever since I started writing, which was in my early 40s, I was acutely aware of the lack of opportunities for new writers, for older writers (youth is venerated in all of the arts—particularly in our culture), for a preference for more intellectual over emotional/psychological poetry which I preferred, wrote and considered most vital. The fact that I am a psychologist as well as a writer and publisher clearly informed this preference--I believe we write to communicate and that the deepest connection between people is emotional. It follows then that it is the work that speaks to/from that intimacy/vulnerability that I would find most gratifying and nourishing. It would certainly be the work I’d most likely turn to if awake in the middle of the night. It was the poetry that I read, loved and wrote. It’s what I longed to publish.