NA: Silverfish Review Press has been a press since 1978. Have you always been the editor? How has the press evolved since then?
RM: I’m the founding editor. Silverfish began as a literary magazine publishing three issues a year. One of the issues was a poetry chapbook. The magazine published, poetry, prose poetry, short fiction, translations, and interviews. The last issue was released in 1997. Around 1996 Silverfish began to shift its focus to full-length poetry titles.
NA: What inspired you to become an editor of a press?
RM: When I was a graduate student at the University of Oregon (1976 - 1978) I had a work-study job at Northwest Review. My job was to pick up the daily mail, log in the submissions and distribute them to the poetry and fiction staff. I had the opportunity to eavesdrop on staff meetings and conversations between the editors. When I was about to graduate it occurred to me that starting a literary magazine would be a way to keep in touch with the writing community. I thoroughly enjoyed graduate school and was concerned about being swallowed whole by working just to pay the rent. What I really wanted to do was to learn the ins and outs of book publishing.
NA: How many books do you publish each year? How does one become a Silverfish poet?
RM: The press releases two titles a year, three if the financial support is available. Silverfish sponsors the annual Gerald Cable Book Award for a poet who has yet to publish a full-length collection and there is a second series which is generally by invitation only though Silverfish will read unsolicited manuscripts.
NA: You began as a chapbook press and then began doing full-length books. Do you still publish chapbooks?
RM: Silverfish no longer published chapbooks. I love everything about the chapbook format. I’ve hand sewn a few which is a fun learning experience. I’ve also had a few printed with spines. Selecting endpapers is challenging, and fun. But because the format is physically small, bookstore owners are reluctant to stock chapbooks. They simply get lost on the shelves. I’m also enamored of the pamphlet format.
NA: A lot of presses are funded by universities, but Silverfish is an independent press. How do you stay afloat, especially in economic times like these?
RM: Over the years I’ve learned how to network with our distributor --Small Press Distribution in Berkeley. Silverfish is a nonprofit c 3 501 tax exempt literary organization. And though fund-raising is more difficult than I had anticipated, Silverfish has been fortunate to have had generous patrons and a few donors who give small, annual donations, some year after year. Author readings and reviews help get the word out about new and backlist titles. It also helps that Garrison Keillor has read several poems by Silverfish poets on The Writer’s Almanac and that reviews have appeared in publications such as Library Journal, Booklist, and The New York Times Book Review. And the press has been fortunate to consistently receive grant support.