NA: I love your description of BlazeVOX: “We are an independent publisher of weird little books.” Would you elaborate on the weird little books you publish?
GA: Hurray, I am glad you like our description. It started out as a descriptive joke but then developed into the best abstract of our mission statement.
BlazeVOX [books] Mission Statement
BlazeVOX [books] presents innovative fictions and wide ranging fields of contemporary poetry. Our books push at the frontiers of what is possible with our innovative poetry, fiction and select non-fiction and literary criticism. Our fundamental mission is to disseminate poetry, through print and digital media, both within academic spheres and to society at large.
We seek to publish the innovative works of the greatest minds writing poetry today, from the most respected senior poets to extraordinarily promising young writers. We select for publication only the highest quality of writing on all levels regardless of commercial viability. Our outlets of publication strive to enrich cultural and intellectual life, and foster regional pride and accomplishments.
BlazeVOX [books] consciously acquires a collection of titles providing focus, continuity, and a basis for the development of future publications. Through the publication of works of significance, BlazeVOX [books] is committed to the dissemination of knowledge.
NA: How long has BlazeVOX been in existence? How has it evolved over time?
GG: BlazeVOX started off as a college project while I was at Daemen College, Amherst, NY in 1998. The school is near Buffalo so our contacts with poets and poetry are vibrant. I wanted to start a creative writing journal but we only had a budget of $100. I took that, bought a copy of Dreamweaver and learned how to design web pages. I used this format for the college journal and it was a great success. In 2000 I started BlazeVOX as the online journal was gaining momentum. The goal of the journal is to present innovative fictions and wide ranging fields of contemporary poetry. Our main goal is to provide good quality poetry. The technology allows for a very low overhead in our operation. We moved into book production, as there was a real market for us to expand our horizons, and once the Print on Demand systems began, we hopped right on board. The technology had been awful up until 2004 but now is fantastic. We have published 280 books and over 1000 writers in our online journal and other outlets. Our family of fine writers includes Kent Johnson, Bill Berkson, Anne Waldman, Clayton Eshleman, Lee Ann Brown, Tom Clark, Ray Federman and Gloria Frym and many, many more. I do think that I have succeeded in our aims. Through publishing hundreds of books and poems online we have been able to make a huge impact on the poetry world.
NA: Have you always been the editor?
GG: Yes I have, but I have had a lot of help along the way. We have a few volunteer staff members that help in the choosing of books, ebooks and pieces for the online journal. Most of the actual editing of the books is a collaborative process between the author and the press. We work together to make the best book we can and I am very happy with the way that I am able to engage on each book. I am more of an open spirit when it comes my editorial style. I hesitate to put myself into the poet’s poems, or a fiction writer’s realm. I have a trusting intuition in our authors and I believe in them and their work. We have a very small operation so in many cases I am also the overall book designer, photographer for many of the book covers, web manager of online content, blogger, manage the accounting and any other job that needs doing. It is a wonderful life and I am thrilled to be a publisher.
NA: How does one become a BlazeVOX author?
GG: It’s a very simple process; one sends his or her work to us by email. If the work fits in with the audience we have cultivated then we look to see how viable that work would best project. We have many outlets of publication, an online journal, ebooks, kindle books and printed books. So there are many ways in which we can promote poets and writers. We do have one guiding philosophy; the work must not suck. We are open to established writers as well as emerging voices and for one to feel that one’s work is of quality is an important step in being a writer and we want to support that. But we also get work that just does not fit into our scope of publishing and in many cases I forward those writers on to presses that concentrate on their specialty. As of right now we have over nine hundred good quality manuscripts on hand and we continue to receive more. It is very exciting that there is so much great writing going on right now.
NA: You publish authors from around the world. Can you talk about the International aspect of press?
GG: We have published poetry and fiction books from many countries including Japan, Scotland, Ireland, England, Greece, France and Canada. We now have distribution to many of these countries through their local Amazon.com; which will help increase our exposure to these countries. So the press, through the wonders of the internet, has made leaps and bounds across the English speaking world. It is exciting to reach such a vast audience of readers and writers and I am looking forward to what can happen in the future. It has been a wonderful experience to work with writers from so many countries and I have learned a great deal. But one aspect is the same, writers have the similar concerns regardless of country; they all want a well designed book that reflects who they are as a writer and that their writing conveys in print what they envisioned in their mind.
NA: I am a huge fan of one of your authors, Tom Clark. How many books of Tom’s have you published? I was wondering if you could say a few words about him.
GG: Tom is awesome. We have just finished up on his fourth BlazeVOX book, Distance. We have also all available, the Tom Clark Set which includes all four of his titles, including At the Fair, Canyonesque and Feeling for the Ground. I am fond of all Tom’s books of poetry, novels, essays and biographies. He has embodied the literary life and it was a real honor to publish his new works, poems that seem to get stronger and stronger. He is on an incline right now and it might be time for a major retrospective of his life’s work. This is the reason I so enjoy being a poet and publishing poets, one can get old, is allowed to age with dignity in their field. One gets wiser, more refined in one’s talents and how one is able to achieve in a poem the lessons learned over a lifetime. It makes me look forward to what the future holds in store for us all.
NA: I am also a fan of Tom’s blogs, both his personal blog and the BlazeVOX blog. He does such a beautiful job of linking poetry and art and photography. How helpful is it for the press to have these blogs?
GG: I too enjoy Tom’s blog. Just today he has mixed wonderful black and white photos of downward facing staircases with a poem by one of our new authors, Beth Copland. There is a considerable readership of Tom’s blog, 2000 page views on a normal day. It is an excellent, non-traditional form of advertising, announcing, and directing to those who are interested in this kind of writing. Our blog is also the best form of announcing new publications and other bits of BlazeVOX information. Social media is in its heyday now and blogs are very much in the public eye. Our recent imbroglio, you can read about fully here in a recent Huffington Post interview. The whole event erupted and subsided in the blogosphere and on Facebook. It then took on a life in newspapers, essays and more traditional forms of media. Thankfully that has all been resolved favorably. But to actually answer your question about how helpful our blog is, I would have to say that our blog gives us an outlet, the ability to add a face, or rather a personality to the press. We are able to address visitors to the BlazeVOX site and deliver our latest information about new books, new reviews, book-tours and readings of our authors and other tidbits of data that might be of use. This way we have our web presence as a destination, a place to read and be current with all that is going on.
NA: Could you say a few words about your newest authors? Is there any one thing that might categorize them as BlazeVOX writers?
GG: Here is a brief list of ten new and forthcoming titles that give a good idea of what we enjoy publishing. You can read a preview of these books in the new section of the BlazeVOX Journal – Book Preview. They are all available on Amazon.com, SPD and in our own online shop.
A N A N A T O M Y O F T H E N I G H T by Clayton Eshleman (Poetry)
Comma Fork / Moving Parts by Ted Greenwald (Poetry)
“now, 1/3” and thepoem by Demosthenes Agrafiotis
Translated by John Sakkis and Angelos Sakkis (Poetry in translation)
Distance by Tom Clark (Poetry)
Transcendental Telemarketer by Beth Copeland (Poetry)
Mylar by Eric Wertheimer (Poetry)
Circles Matter by Brian Lucas (Poetry)
to go without blinking by Aimee Herman (Poetry)
Continental Drifts by Cheryl Pallant (Poetry)
Selected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins
Edited by Barbara Henning (Fiction and interviews)
One aspect that binds these books together might be that they all push the bounds of what one thinks of as a poem and prose. That frayed area of what is possible is still an open frontier, one which we enjoy exploring. In picking books for publication we try to choose the best manuscripts available at the time. We try to not choose a school, or movement or any one aesthetic that would categorize the authors. That is a bit unfair to them and their work, as they write as individuals and their work stands independent of any one book. But there is overlap; communications between books and authors tend to develop in both positive and negative ways, this is unavoidable and we try to incorporate that as a form of serendipity. It is an unusual moment for poetry and it's production, but it is a glorious time as well and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
NA: Can you talk to me about the fiction you publish?
GG: We have an exciting list of great fiction titles from some of the best experimental voices writing today. You can see the list here, but some authors are Mark Wallace, Dennis Barone, Tom Carey, Christine Hamm, Norma Kassirer and coming out in the fall is a collected edition of fiction and interviews with Bobbie Louise Hawkins.
NA: A lot of presses are funded by universities and/or contests, but I believe BlazeVOX is an entirely independent press. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent press?
GG: We are an independent press and it is wonderful. Right now we are working on getting our not-for-profit status and we will be ready to meet the future with a bit more certainty and foundation. There are many advantages not being associated with a university. We have the absolute authority to publish any book we want while avoiding committee think. We have the ability to publish the ill-advised as easily as work from promising writers. We navigate blithely through political and artistic/theoretical differences so that the many voices of the innovative poet can have a safe refuge. There are as many disadvantages to being on our own that revolve around the instability of life. It is a precarious situation with no real salary, university grade health insurance, a form of tenure, and so on. But I wouldn’t trade this situation for anything.
NA: Could you describe some of the happiest or proudest moments for the press? Feel free to provide links to reviews, events, readings, etc.
GG: The happiest moments of the press have been quite recent. Our survival through rousing support of writers, reader and scholars may be categorized as one or two of the saddest, bewildering, discouraging, resounding, glorious, hope-filled moments in my life. I am thrilled by the quality of work we publish and are able to live up to the standards we have set for ourselves in our mission statement. We have had over 50,000 books sold through several outlets and that is fine number of objects to place into the world, considering we are Print on Demand, there is a big demand for poetry and alternative forms of literature. I also base our success in how well respected and beloved BlazeVOX has become. It is a wonderful feeling to work with such talented writers, and I have been able to work with my literary heroes.
NA: I was thinking it would be nice to end the interview with a quote or excerpt from one of your books to give us a taste of what BlazeVOX has to offer.
GG: You can read a preview of ten new and forthcoming books in the new section of the BlazeVOX Journal – Book Preview. And here are two poems from two new books by Tom Clark and by Aimee Herman.
From: Distance by Tom Clark (Poetry)
Again, and again
to the rock
of the mute
long, then? And
From: to go without blinking by Aimee Herman (Poetry)
go get yourself loved
Ninety milligrams of side effects will not remove his lisp. On a Friday, he slathers Federico García Lorca over vocal chords like controlled cologne that reeks of Granada. Calls his tongue a Communist, as it slurs war into his teeth. Beside him, a girl grabs his knee and squeezes an erection off his taste buds. The swelling distracts his s’s; suddenly he is cured. She took off her socks and climbed her way through stinging nettle and curious ivy. It was the histamine that took notice of her triangular bones jutting, the pull of skin, the color of cockleshells or plaster. Twenty-minutes later, she brought peeled fingernails toward ankles and itched the irritant away. She was not ready for a relationship at this time. What happened is this. She closed her eyes, which she pretended were moss—not the color but the plant—knees bent in the only way they could and found Braille between her legs. Upon further examination, she attempted amputation. Pink wigged man intrigues red haired lady at basement bathhouse. She drips oiled wax along the seam of his arm, which is veined like skirt steak and dotted with drops of hair. It is his birthday and buttercream-covered penguins decorate his cake. Her pale pink fingers press into his bleached and blotted forearm, his wrist, above his elbow. She nods when he asks her, “Do you like men who dress as women?” She shakes her head when he offers to tie her up like Christmas or roast beef.
Geoffrey Gatza has received awards for his poetry from the Fund for Poetry and a Boomerang Award. He is the author House of Forgetting, Secrets of my Prison House (BlazeVOX) Kenmore: Poem Unlimited (Casa Menendez 2009) and Not So Fast Robespierre (Menendez Publishing 2008) and HouseCat Kung Fu: Strange Poems for Wild Children (Meritage Press 2008), He is also the author of the yearly Thanksgiving Menu-Poem Series, a book length poetic tribute for prominent poets, now entering it's eleventh year. His visual art poems have been displayed in gallery showing. Recently, OCCUPY THE WALLS: A Poster Show, AC Gallery (NYC) 2011 occupy wall street N15 For Ernst Jandl - Minimal Poems with photography from the fall of Liberty Square. And in, LANGUAGE TO COVER A WALL: Visual Poetry through its changing media, UB ART GALLERY (Buffalo, NY) 2011/12 Language for the Birds. He lives in Buffalo, NY with his girlfriend and two cats. Find out more about Geoffrey here.
Nin Andrews received her BA from Hamilton College and her MFA from Vermont College. The recipient of two Ohio Arts Council grants, she is the author of several books including The Book of Orgasms, Spontaneous Breasts, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, and Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum. She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name, a book of translations of the French poet, Henri Michaux. Her book, Southern Comfort was published by CavanKerry Press in 2010. Follow Nin's blog here.
Tom Clark, on his estimable blog today, posts Nin Andrews's must-read "Learning to Write the MFA Poem." (Click here.) We printed the poem in its entirety on February 22, 2010, as you'll see if you use this link, but I can't resist offering this excerpt:
there is a certain kind of poem I was taught to write
when I was earning what my husband calls my mail-order degree
from a low-res program in the Northeast. And I guess
I would call this kind of poem an MFA poem,
though the truth is, I never learned to write one very well
(though this is one of them, or is trying to be),
but I do see them everywhere now, these MFA poems,
which I despise, not because the poems are bad
but because I was taught how to write them
by this asshole professor (he was such a creep)
who was abusive to women, mostly,
fucked with their heads if not their bodies,
you know the type. Back then
the women took whatever he dished out
because he was famous I guess.
I hated that, and how he would write poems
about being an asshole, which he was and is,
and about everything and anything else
because, he would explain, everything is happening at once,
so everything is happening in his poems, and happening so fast,
that the past, present, and future are all there in the poems
though nothing is ever really happening
because the poems are usually in some static place
The next stanza takes the poem to that particular place and does amazing things with the set-up. It's a tour de force -- the truth, the poetry, and the parody are one. Mega kludos, Nin.
I remember writing a poem called "The Guggenheim Poem," aping the kind of poems people used to write on their fellowship year funded by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The poems uusally took place in Italy -- in Venice, often, but sometimes Florence or Rome, with side trips to Siena, and maybe Arezzo, and certainly Rapollo, and once in a while Naples. The poet had gone to a museum in a flimsy skirt in the fierce heat and the eyes of the men were upon her as she walked on the hot brick or cobblestone streets and she wore sunglasses and imagined she was Audrey Hepburn but all pretense and fantasy fell away when she came face to face with the Titian of Venus and Adonis or the David of Donatello in Florence or Piero's madonna and child in Urbino or a Giorgione self-portrait in Venice, which she saw as a vision of her father or her husband, she's not sure which, though she has spent many hours analyzing the possibilities, but this she knows this: it was a sudden flash, an epiphany even, like seeing a broken statue and realizing you had to change your life. -- DL
NA: Kore Press was founded in 1993. What specific event, or series of events, inspired you to start a press
LB: I had worked with another small press (Chax Press) for five years since my internship with them my senior year at the University of Arizona, learning letterpress printing, binding, typography, and literary organizing. Anything I could do, really---I loved it all and was inspired. I was ready to do my own thing at that point and wanted it to be just about women's writing. There were so much talent in Tucson at that time (still is) and such a paucity of women in the canon. My friend Karen Falkenstrom (poet, organizer) and I talked at length about the need for such a press, and over coffee at a cafe in downtown Tucson in 1992, the seeds of Kore Press were sewn.
NA: Why a women’s press?
LB: When I was going through the University, I was exposed to fewer women writers than male writers. I was hungry for what women had to say about just about anything. We did some research and found very few women's presses, and none in Arizona. We both knew a lot of female poets and writers and started publishing those writers whose work we knew and admired.
NA: Have we come a long way as women authors? And do we still have a long way to go?
LB: Check out vida.com for the most current and up to date statistics on how women are fairing compared to men when it comes to being published or being reviewed. Which isn't to say women are writing, or going into MFA programs. We figured at one point a few years ago that, if you accept that an MFA program is one indicator for how many folks are becoming writers out there at any given time, that there are an equal number of men as there are women taking up the craft, if not a smidge more women. The numbers start getting disparate along the gender lines when things like money and who is making editorial decisions come into play. We see a helluva lot fewer women having by-lines in the most prestigious journals and newspapers, as we see fewer women in the best-of lists each year, and in the major publishing house lists.
NA: How has the press evolved?
LB: I used to set moveable type by hand, mix inks, and print each page by hand on 19th c printing equipment in an old warehouse house that leaked when it rained. The interns and I worked regular jobs at night so we could be in the studio during the day. I crawled on top of the old metal roof to fix a squeaky swamp cooler, and fixed the presses when they didn't work. It took over a year to bring our first book out, and I used to run to poetry readings with the ink still drying on broadsides that we pretty much just hot off the press.
We asked friends to empty their pockets to help us buy paper and get things going the first year while we formed an organization that could apply for grants. 19 years later there are still marks of being a small press, which are primarily about resources, but we are staffed by a few part-time employees, interns from the University, and a volunteer Board.
We have garnered national recognition in the past year with awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Book Foundation. We were picked by the local arts agency for excellence in the category of established arts organization. Judges of our Poetry and Fiction Awards are world class, and we produced and toured a play based on writings by women in the US military--a first ever book of its kind (published by Kore). Our after school writing as social activism workshop for girls and transgender youth is being studied by a research collaborative at the University of Arizona as part of a project funded by the Ford Foundation. We are currently in the midst of our first major donor campaign, and we are about to undergo intensive planning and strategizing conversations to explore national expansion.
NA: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a feminist press?
LB: You are always forced to make a case for yourself as a feminist press (aren't identity politics so 90s??) and forced to explain what it means to be feminist, which is a variable, changing thing. For Kore, it is about making a contribution toward closing the gender gap in a very particular field (literary writing and girls education), which happens to be connected, I think, to just about everything else.
NA: How many books do you publish each year? How does one become a Kore author?
LB: We currently publish about 6 titles/year, including broadsides and chapbooks. A writer can submit to Kore through one of our annual contests (First Book Award for Poetry and the Short Fiction Award) as well as through our annual open submissions period where our team of reader-writers comments on/responds to each manuscript if it is not recommended for publication. We sometimes receive manuscripts from previous authors and editors who are championing another author or manuscript. Even more rare, do we solicit work from a particular writer.
NA: How do you promote your authors?
LB: We work collaboratively with all our authors to promote and market the books through a big web presence by getting reviews on blogs and in print, by helping authors set up websites, facebook pages, or even blogs. We go through our mailing lists, media contacts, bookstore lists, alumni mags, etc---anyone who will help spread the word of the book or help sell it. Our distributor is IPG. We sell to individuals on-line; we attend the AWP, and sometimes host authors and generally try to be creative.
NA: I was wondering if you might say a few words about your current and forthcoming books. Maybe provide links to any interviews, reviews, or events?
LB: We have three great new titles coming out this month: Jennifer Barber (editor of the journal Salamander) second book of poems, Given Away, is due out in a few weeks; Michelle Chan Brown's Double Agent, 2011First Book winner selected by Bhanu Kapil, is forthcoming soon as well; and Patricia Grace King's short story "The Death of Carrrie Bradshaw"---winner of the Kore Press Short Fiction Award, selected by Antonya Nelson in 2011. We also are issuing a limited edition broadside of a poem by Niki Herd with a photo by Mamta Popat.
NA: Would you describe some of the worst and some of the happiest or proudest moments for the press?
LB: I am very proud of what the work of the Press has done toward making other's lives better: the writer's whose careers the Press helped launch; the healing for the writers in and the readers of "Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq" (and the subsequent play based on the same work). Happy moment: receiving the Innovations in Reading Prize from the National Book Foundation last November at the Ford Foundation in NY, and the gala NBF Awards ceremony where it was announced that Nikky Finney, who is judging Kore's First Book Award contest this year, won for "Head Off and Split" for best poetry. Happy moment: feeding 40 people at an early Kore fundraiser with a meal created from 200 pounds of tuna I caught with my father in Baja and drove across the desert, on ice, in a little read pick up truck.
Worst: there are as many of these as there are good times, over 19 years, but the sting seems to fade in the telling: over-glued spines/manufacturer's defect in a box of books that arrived from printer days before a national book launch; computer crash the day of an NEA grant deadline; grant writer crying on the post office floor when she realized she'd missed the last postmark (in the days when grant were snail mailed); lost files; lost friends; lost funding; lost sleep; lost love; having to stop printing by hand; selling the presses. . . the passing of heros: Allen Ginsberg, Ed Dorn, Adrienne Rich, Akilah Oliver.
Lisa Bowden, Publisher and co-founder of Kore Press, is the editor of Autumnal: An Audio Collection of Contemporary Elegies, and co-editor of Powder: Writing by Women in Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq. Recently Lisa co-adapted, directed, and produced Coming in Hot (a play based on Powder). An award-winning graphic designer and a poet who works improvisationally with dancers and musicians, Bowden's poems have appeared online in Spiral Orb and Backroom Live!, and have been read outloud in the subway systems of Washington, DC. She is the recipient of the 2011 Maryanne Campau Fellowship for Poetry from the University of Arizona Poetry Center and a 2011 Women on the Move Award from the YWCA. Bowden serves on the advisory board of Girls Write Now, NY, and is a graduate of the University of Arizona. Lisa has lived in New Jersey, London, Barcelona and is a long-time resident of Tucson, where she resides with her partner Eve and daughter Djuna.
Nin Andrews received her BA from Hamilton College and her MFA from Vermont College. The recipient of two Ohio Arts Council grants, she is the author of several books including The Book of Orgasms, Spontaneous Breasts, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, and Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum. She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name, a book of translations of the French poet, Henri Michaux. Her book, Southern Comfort was published by CavanKerry Press in 2010. Follow Nin's blog here. Follow her on Twitter: @NinAndrew.
NA: You decided to start a press called Two Sylvias Press, right? Will you talk a little about the process of creating your press?
KRA/ASC: The idea for our press’s first project, Fire On Her Tongue: An eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry, came about on a ferry ride to meet a friend in Seattle for brunch. We were intrigued by eBooks and we noticed that very few poetry collections were available on electronic platforms. In talking about the anthology, we realized that if we began our own press, we could publish the eBook exactly how we envisioned it, without having to compromise and wrangle with other editors.
What’s interesting is that neither of us had ever said, “You know, I’d like to start my own press.” We are both editors at Crab Creek Review and we know how much work goes into putting together a literary journal. We are also poets ourselves, so we appreciate time for our own work. Our press organically evolved from the realization that we could publish our projects ourselves without asking permission from anyone and that we could determine our own subject matter, style, and deadlines. Once we decided to create the Fire On Her Tongue anthology, the logical next step for us was to publish it ourselves, and that’s how Two Sylvias Press came into being.
NA: How did you come up with the name, Two Sylvias Press?
KRA: We wanted to combine the editorial business savvy of Sylvia Beach (who began Shakespeare & Co. in Paris) and the literary brilliance of Sylvia Plath. We feel that these two women represent the two sides of our press and parts of ourselves. Although the two Sylvias were not contemporaries, our logo (painted by Nancy Lou Canyon) depicts them sitting at a table, editor and poet, discussing a book.
NA: Will you only publish e-books?
KRA: We plan to continue publishing eBooks and several upcoming projects will involve print books. Because we publish Crab Creek Review twice a year, we are familiar with the production of printed books and have learned the details of the process. We recently read an interesting article predicting that “bundling” eBooks with a printed copy will become popular among publishers, so we are intrigued by that possibility. We are still a new press and we are definitely open to new ideas in the publishing arena.
NA: How does your partnership work? Have you worked on other projects together?
ASC: Kelli and I have been friends for over ten years. We have co-edited Crab Creek Review for four years and have worked as co-founders of Two Sylvias Press for nearly two years, and we’re still friends! I think the success of our partnership is best illustrated by cupcakes and hard-boiled eggs: Kelli likes the frosting and I like the cake. Kelli likes the white and I like the yolk. As we began to co-edit Crab Creek Review, we soon realized that the very task one of us despised turned out to be the task that the other one enjoyed doing.
Another aspect that makes for our successful partnership is that we share a common vision in terms of the importance of poetry and art in society, a common drive to give women artists a voice, and a similar philosophy of how important it is to balance our personal lives when it comes to family, writing, editing, and alone time. We also make our work meetings fun by discussing Crab Creek Review and Two Sylvias Press over coffee at a funky café or a plastic cup of wine in the ferry galley. And, importantly, we’re both willing to take creative risks and we both have a sense of humor about everything.
NA: Your first book is a wonderful anthology called Fire on Her Tongue. Could you talk a little about Fire on Her Tongue? (Please feel free to provide links to any reviews, readings, or Amazon.)
KRA/ASC: Fire On Her Tongue: An eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry is the first electronic collection of poems by women writing today. It features over 70 extraordinary poets from a variety of backgrounds and whose ages span from thirteen to ninety-one. We showcase some of our favorite poets and their well-crafted poems, which explore the contemporary woman’s experience.
A great review of the anthology just appeared on Rattle.
We currently have the anthology available for many eReaders, but it can also be read on your laptop or personal computer. Here are some links if anyone is interested in purchasing a copy:
And coming soon to IndieBound.org
NA: Was it a huge undertaking, putting the anthology, Fire on Her Tongue together?
ASC: I’ll begin to answer this question by quoting two lines from our Editors’ Note for Fire On Her Tongue:
Could we, editors of a print journal, publish the first eBook of contemporary women’s poetry? We were innocent in our questioning, humorous in the belief that “anything is possible if you don’t know what you are doing.”
It was indeed a huge undertaking that took a year to complete from our initial call for poems to the moment we downloaded it for the first time on our Kindle and Nook. We contacted our favorite women poets and received a tremendous response and because we loved so many of the poems, we ended up publishing two to four poems for each poet—over four hundred pages in the first proof.
The technology for publishing eBooks is rapidly changing, so we researched and learned all we could about the difficult task of formatting poetry for electronic platforms. Part of the appeal of eReaders is the flexibility and choice the reader has as far as display and font size, but in terms of formatting poetry, this is a nightmare, as line breaks and spacing suddenly become fluid. This is one reason why some poets, such as Billy Collins, have been so vocal against the distribution of poetry on eReaders. We were determined to tackle this problem and part of our solution is simply to instruct our readers on the first page of the eBook as to what size font maintains the poem’s integrity. We also approached a company called Publish Green to help us in the final stages of formatting and to assist us with the distribution of the anthology so that it would be available not just on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but on the websites of independent bookstores. It was important to us to create the anthology with as little stress on the environment as possible, so we handled all submissions, correspondence, contracts, etc… electronically without the use of paper.
By far, the most time consuming part of the production process was proofing four hundred pages of poetry and maintaining our sanity as we measured each space between words and stanzas, noted every period and comma, each italic and ampersand. At times, one correction would undo a line that had previously been fine. We persisted and cried, but in the end, we are absolutely thrilled with Fire On Her Tongue and how it turned out. I’m not ready to do another four hundred page eBook of poetry in the near future, but like having a baby, I’m sure I’ll forget the pain when the next fantastic idea comes along!
NA: How did you go about finding the poems and poets you wanted to include in the anthology?
KRA: Annette and I made a huge list of women poets whose work we loved. Then one-by-one we worked on finding these poets and emailing them to see if they’d be interested in submitting to our anthology. In our email, we asked them to send their most favorite poems that they held the copyright to (this was to help us avoid reprint fees).
If you've been following this blog, you've read Nin Andrews' Meet the Press feature for which she interviews the unsung editors of small pressses. But if that's all you know of Nin, you are in for a major treat: she's one of the funniest, most original poets around and she is also attracting a large following for her hilarious parodies and cartoons, many of which can be found on her blog here. Click on the cover image above or here to buy her book.
On Saturday, April 28th at 7 PM, join Nin Andrews, Robert Miltner, Karen Schubert, and Eric Anderson from Kattywompus Press for an evening of poetry, books, and footsteps overhead at Mac’s Backs, 1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland, OH 44106. More information here.
NA: Tell me a little about the press. Who started it, how long has it been in existence?
JP: I founded Brooklyn Arts Press (BAP) in 2007, partly in response to watching modern dancer friends, artists, and filmmakers successfully establish their own companies, and partly out of frustration of having my own book get short-listed for a few prizes while continuing to shell out contest entry fees unsustainable on a copyeditor’s budget. So I started BAP with my own book, with hopes of publishing 4 or 5 new poetry books a year. I’d published some of the poems in my collection in lit journals and had the rest generously picked apart by peers and professors at Iowa, so I felt like I’d paid my dues in terms of editorial scrutiny; plus, starting with my own book, I was free to make the mistakes I couldn’t afford to make with the works of other writers. I picked up book design pretty quickly, having worked for ad agencies, and blindly inched my way through the troubling, shifting terrain of printing, distribution, and marketing. It was great to have total control over my words and the final product, and the responses I received from writers I admired, to whom I sent copies, were well-worth the time, effort, and money. That winter, after recouping the initial investment with sales, BAP opened its doors to poetry submissions. About that time I took a gig as a Co-Director of an art gallery, and while making studio visits around New York, stumbled upon some amazing artists, which is how BAP began publishing art monographs. In 2009 we halted publishing because the stuttering economy killed sales. Since then we’ve bounced back. In 2010 the sheer number and quality of submissions jumped dramatically. In 2011 we started a poetry chapbook series and began generating revenue, gaining recognition in the community for the quality of the books we publish, both in terms of writing and overall aesthetic. Several of our books eventually found their way to “Best of the Year” lists. And 2012 is looking to expand upon that awesomeness. We attended AWP for the first time, and will be at conferences and book festivals here in New York.
NA: What makes your press unique?
JP: In terms of small presses, not much. We’ve had years with income and years without, like most independents, though Small Press Distribution, whom we signed with last year, has done spectacular work in getting our books noticed. Our first chapbook, Joe Fletcher’s Already It Is Dusk, hit their bestseller list, as did Carol Guess’ Darling Endangered (our first foray into lyrical fiction). Sales overall have spiked. As a distributor SPD connections are as varied as they are valuable. They have access to libraries and universities and secondary buyer channels.
A few things that differentiate us from other presses might be that we don’t hold contests or charge for submissions. If you charge a contest fee, you’re beholden to choose a winner. We never want to put ourselves in that position. BAP is less a business venture than a love affair. If I’m going to spend 6-8 months reading, editing, designing, publishing, and marketing a book, it’s because I believe in the author and the work. By the end, I feel as if the book is partly my book, too, and can’t imagine engaging in a process, in a relationship, that from the outset I suspect will lead to a hapless marriage.
Our motto is Pay It Forward. The profits from each book, minus shipping costs, royalties, and promotion, get put into producing the next new author’s book or a subsequent print run of the original book. I don’t pay myself anything. Our editors do it for the same reason I do, and many of our readers and designers are former BAP authors and artists giving back. We compensate them with copies of the books they work on. Most of our authors and artists get an honorarium plus copies, and we split the eBook proceeds with them 50-50. For future print runs, we work on a sliding scale, so if a book sells out and we enter a subsequent run, the author receives another batch of author copies and an equal or larger paycheck than the first. If we’re lucky, one big seller pays for the publication of two or more new books. It’s usually the costlier art monographs that contribute the bulk of this service.
NA: How many books do you publish each year?
JP: Last year we published 4 books. We have 3 lined up for summer 2012 but our submission period just ended a few weeks ago and the batch of full-length manuscripts we’re reading now is promising. We receive between 100 to 250 manuscripts per reading period, January and June, and choose 0 to 4 for publication.
NA: How do you promote your books?
JP: The best form of promotion is self-promotion. One of the tragic ironies of MFA programs is the lack of classes devoted to the business aspects of managing your art. When I’m writing, I’m not thinking sales. When I’m sitting across a café table with my agent, I’m thinking sales, I’m thinking marketing. If I’m not, I run the risk of publishers taking advantage of me. Remember, not so long ago big house publishers were offering writers 5% royalties on eBooks being sold for $9.99 per unit. I’ve recently read a blog post that suggests 35-45% should be the rate, if the publisher and writer are meant to split costs and profit equally. We settled on a 50-50 split because the math is easier, and because writers deserve more for their efforts.
So we encourage self-promotion, be it on a blog or with Twitter account or Facebook or by a shouting maniac on a street corner. We bring to the table print availability via our website, SPD, and Amazon, and eBook availability through our website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Sony, the iBookstore, and anywhere else we can place them. We email-blast a newsletter and update our Facebook profile. We send out review copies, asking our authors to provide 10 to 20 places that might be amenable to reviewing their work, so that authors can sort through the aesthetic camps themselves. We distribute to ocal bookstores and to any bookstore where the author is doing a reading. Readings sell books. As do book parties and book launches. When we launched Jonathan Allen’s art book Superstructure at the Lu Magnus gallery in Manhattan, the lovely owners let us hang his work for a night. I brought a keg of beer and we invited everyone we knew and we sold books. But the biggest asset we have is the writer. Even an agoraphobic germaphobe has access to the internet, and some days I’m not too far off that description myself. In the end, word-of-mouth is our best resource.
Ed note: During AWP, Dancing Girl Press will participate in an open studio event with book signings on Saturday, March 3, from 1pm-8pm at our studio space just up Michigan Avenue in The Fine Arts Building, 410 S Michigan, studio #921, Chicago.
NA: Tell me about Dancing Girl Press.
KB: The dancing girl press chapbook series publishes a yearly schedule of handmade chaps devoted to work by emerging women authors. We are also particular interested in the intersection writing and visual arts, so the studio as a whole produces a number of book, paper, and ephemera related arts. We have been housed in the historic Fine Arts Building in Chicago for the last 5 years.
NA: What inspired you to start a press?
KB: In 2001, I had started an online poetry journal, wicked alice, so the press was a product of both a desire to put something a little more tangible than html out into the world, as well as a personal interest in art and book design. Once I had given it a trial run with producing a chapbook of my own, it was no time before I had lined up our first author (the late and fabulous Adrianne Marcus) and secured a saddle stapler, some cardstock, and a decent printer. There were a lot of great micropresses proliferating around that time (Effing Press, Big Game Books, also lots of journals entering the physical book realm Diagram/New Michigan Press, Tarpaulin Sky), so I decided to throw my hat in.
NA: Why do you only publish women-poets?
KB: My background as a reader, writer, and scholar has always been women’s writing, so when I founded wicked alice, it was my intent to focus my publishing efforts there, mostly just as a way to define the endeavor. Over time, it became more of a political act, as again and again, statistics showed the dearth of writing by women in the poetry world and in the general poetry conversation, and not just historically. I feel like my role, as an editor and publisher, is to get those books out there, to increase the number of women poets taking part in that conversation, particularly emerging writers at the point where their work is taking off.
NA: How many books do you publish each year?
KB: Over the years we’ve grown from publishing around 5 books to around 30 each year. Our publication list is usually a mix of submissions and solicitations. We’re pretty lucky in that we’re pretty much self-sufficient, each book funding the next and so on. I sell artwork and accessories to maintain our studio space, but the books are pretty much keeping each other rolling. I hope to continue to grow as large as finances and time constraints allow, since I feel like the more we get books out there into the world, the more people there are reading them, talking about them, sending us amazing work.
NA: How do you attract and promote writers? How do readers find out about your books?
KB: Mostly, it’s all word of mouth. A lot of our poets wind up sharing news about their books, or touting other books we’ve published, which leads to more people taking an interest and sending us work. Social networking is increasingly a big part of it. As with most poetry publishing, the author does the bulk of the work in promoting and we’re lucky that so many of our poets do it so well. We’ve also built up a good following of steady readers who purchase our titles quite regularly.
NA: What kinds of work are you particularly interested in publishing?
KB: I have a pretty open mind when it comes to styles of poetry, ranging from more innovative and conceptual work to traditional lyric and all things in between. The only requirement is that it interest me in some way, be it subject matter, style, format, use of language. As I mentioned, I also love books that engage with the visual arts in some way, so we occasionally publish manuscripts that include drawings, photography, diagrams, charts, etc. (either by the writer or in collaboration with a visual artist.) Also, books that engage socially and historically or with other texts. I also like surrealism, dreams, logical illogic.
NA: I would love to see a poem or two from one of the books you have published that somehow exemplifies your aesthetic.
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.
My mother was born at home in south-central North Carolina in 1920. Her father was a farmer. Her mother, Jennie, was mostly a farmer’s wife, but was also a seamstress, taking jobs sewing things for neighbors far and near. She kept up on fashionable patterns. As a teenager, my grandmother painted a very respectable picture of a mother and child, which was hanging in my mother’s room at her death. She and Fred, my grandfather, often enjoyed discussing bible stories and texts in quiet, thoughtful tones. For rural folk in the depression, this was the light of culture.
My mother had two brothers and a sister, who did a number of remarkable things. Both brothers, James and Fred, worked playing minor league baseball for a while. Both brothers published well regarded novels. Her sister Jean married poet Donald Justice and published a volume of stories.
In 1943 my mother married my father, Peter Taylor, who went on to write stories and plays and won the Pulitzer Prize for one of his novels. He was from the city – or several, as his family moved a few times. I should de-emphasize him in a piece about my mother, but he was very sociable and introduced mom to many people she came to love.
My mother was a teetotaler. At the many parties she attended with my father, mom would stand happily conversing with her arms folded, not even disguising her abstinence with a glass of soda. Some partiers admitted feeling intimidated by this.
Many readers note, rightly, the unflinching determination to face truth in my mother’s poems. I think the flip side is that she had courage in the face of real fear. She was physically small, and, having recently watched her go through the diminutions of old age, her second childhood, I have become more aware of the country girl child in her. She was inquiring (she saved stacks of clippings about astronomy, the brain, physics, paleontology) and she knew the world was a great and terrible place.
She also loved watching cloud formations. Most of her poems tell stories about people, but around the edges is an awareness of the creeks and mountains. I feel her interest in gardening, birdwatching, even in people’s cats and dogs was a conventional expression of her love of the natural world.
Perhaps a well known quote by Flaubert helps to explain her conventional life: “Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” As a mother, she was lovably predictable. As writer, all bets were off.
NA: The first question I have: who comes up with your cover art? I think everyone should click onto your website to see the beautiful covers.
AR & JR: About 90% of the time, the cover art is sourced from the existing work of an artist, and so it comes from all sorts of different places. For the issues of the journal, the decision is ours and we basically go on a wild search through artist portfolios on the web until we find something that seems to make some intuitive sense to us. For the single-author titles, we always try to consult the author first—many of them have some loose idea of what they’re interested in, and we go from there. In a couple of cases—Claire Hero’s afterpastures and Elizabeth Skurnick’s Check-In, for example—the author actually selected the cover art themselves; other times—like Ryan Call’s The Weather Stations and Kim Parko’s Cure All—we tried out a number of different options before landing on the one we wanted; and very occasionally—as in the case of Ben Mirov’s Ghost Machine and Matt Bell’s The Collectors—we’ve actually designed the cover illustration ourselves.
Perhaps the best story of a cover coming together, though, was in the case of Bird Any Damn Kind. We went through mock-up after mock-up, always ending up either unable to find the rights holder or unsatisfied with the results, and it got to the point where the deadline was fast approaching, the layout was done, and we still needed a cover. And then Lucas Farrell, the author, finally let slip that his wife, Louisa Conrad, is an accomplished visual artist. A quick scan of her portfolio and we knew we were on our way; there’s a real conversation going on between his writing and her visuals which made her the perfect choice.
NA: How would you best describe your press? How many books do you publish each year? Are all of your books contest-winners?
AR & JR: Caketrain is an independent journal and press imprint run by two people out of their apartment in Pittsburgh. We champion the broadening of literary horizons and reward literature which demonstrates daring and a willingness to experiment. We publish four books each year: the winner and runner-up of our annual competition, a single-author title acquired by us outside of the competition, and an issue of our annual journal.
NA: You are located in Pittsburgh. Do you do a reading series in Pittsburgh? Do you have a local presence?
AR & JR: Our efforts to date have been concentrated entirely on the books themselves. We haven’t really done much in the way of readings, not only because we lack the time and energy for a reading series, but because there are plenty of groups in the city—The New Yinzer and Open Thread, for example, not to mention the many universities—who already build literary community through local events more effectively than we ever could. While we’re not very prominent in that community, we do feel it’s important to give attention in venues like this to the fact that one could scarcely imagine a better place to make books than here in Pittsburgh. From the very beginnings of Caketrain, we’ve experienced an outpouring of support and a feeling of shared concerns on a local level that has been instrumental to keeping us in the mindset of sustaining this project.
NA: I first heard about your press from Tom Whalen, whose book, Dolls, was selected by Denise Duhamel as the winner of the 2006 Caketrain Chapbook Competition. Have you published other collections of prose poetry and flash fiction?
AR & JR: There’s a lot of flash fiction and prose poetry in the journals, but as far as the collections go, a lot of our books blur lines in this respect. All the Day’s Sad Stories and The Collectors are novellas told in what is essentially flash fiction; Ghost Machine and Cure All both have elements of prose poetry and flash fiction in them; our next book, due in early 2012, is a memoir told in paragraphic blocks that are something like poetic flash fictions. We don’t really concern ourselves an awful lot with where these things belong in terms of genre.
NA: It looks as if you have chosen not to sell many of your books on Amazon. Am I correct?
AR & JR: Caketrain paperbacks are available exclusively through Powell’s Books and www.caketrain.org. Our growing catalogue of ebooks is available through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as directly through www.caketrain.org.
NA: Tell me about some of highlights of the press. Feel free to provide links to interviews, events, or reviews.
AR & JR: The past year has been incredibly exciting for us. Ghost Machine was selected as one of the top 20 poetry books of 2010 in The Believer’s annual reader survey; after several reprints, it now holds the distinction of being our best-selling title to date. Sarah Rose Etter’s Tongue Party was released last May and is presently giving Ghost Machine a run for its money. Perhaps most incredibly, just last month, Ryan Call—whose debut collection, The Weather Stations, was published by us this past March—received a Whiting Writers Award. All of this leaves us exhilarated, proud, thankful, and hopeful for the year to come.
Amanda Raczkowski and Joseph Reed are co-editors of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Caketrain Journal and Press. Their work consists of editing and publishing an eponymous literary journal, nine issues to date; and a press imprint, which has issued chapbooks and full-length titles from Elizabeth Skurnick, Tom Whalen, Claire Hero, Matt Bell, Tina May Hall, Kim Parko, Ben Mirov, Lucas Farrell, Ryan Call, Sarah Rose Etter, and Sara Levine.
Nin Andrews received her BA from Hamilton College and her MFA from Vermont College. The recipient of two Ohio Arts Council grants, she is the author of several books including The Book of Orgasms, Spontaneous Breasts, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, and Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum. She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name, a book of translations of the French poet, Henri Michaux. Her book, Southern Comfort was published by CavanKerry Press in 2010. Follow Nin's blog here.
Yesterday I said I was going to talk about distribution paths for poetry, but mine certainly isn’t any kind of definitive word. We choose how we give and get our poems; we choose which poems we love and hate, both of our own and others. The cultural shift from canonicity to community implies that the notions of “poets anointed” or the “cream of poetry” are merely modes of discourse, rather than something objectively “true.” Editors choose the contents of a journal as forms of self-expression in the voices of like-minded poets from the same poetic community. Best American Poetry is an editor’s expression of a range of voices that sparks conversation about other great poems from the year, and what “best” means for each of us. For me, the most interesting journals and anthologies make loud choices—i.e., are able to recognize the extremes of their chosen aesthetic(s). I count BAP among the best anthologies. I count No Tell Motel, Court Green, LIT, Word For/Word, Jubilat, Jacket, No Posit, Octopus, Columbia Poetry Review, Aufgabe, Denver Quarterly, Anti-, Ping-pong, Tarpaulin Sky, H_NGM_N, 1913, Noo, Glitter Pony, Pank, Lana Turner, RealPoetik, Shampoo, and Weave as just a teeny few of many, many, many awesome journals being published today, in a wide variety of aesthetics (see the forthcoming “links” page on the forthcoming new Coconut for a more extensive listing).
Let’s scare you up some drama. An 18th century peepshow. A typical entertainment of the time period. Take a look. Through this peephole. The dimensions pile on, revealing a poor paint job. There I was, fearless and standing on tables. Now I am something vivid. You are some thing. Seaward. What are whales? Why are whale hunted? In your sleep I start stealing your slow-ish motions. A puddle of pale blue on the floor. The most delicate patch of it. In the city their hands smell of oranges. Soon I will stop. Matching you stroke for stroke. I count the scratches on your back. I name them like ships.
--Lily Ladewig, from “Shadow Boxes,” from the current Word For/Word
The shift from canonicity to community implies that hard-drawn aesthetic “lines in the sand” are outmoded. “Experimental” and “traditional” are meaningless, with form and narrative and epiphanies and visual poetics and Black Mountain influences and lang-po influences all thrown into the same mixing bowl. In a room full of Frank O’Hara disciples one will find 50 radically different poets. Similarly, we need not feel ashamed if our poetic influences include, for instance, John Berryman among a dozen great NY School poets. This isn’t to say that all evaluative categories for poems must be defenestrated; instead, however, I propose that we consider relative value (originality, profundity) within the context of particular, vital poetic communities (or within the context of a single poet’s trajectory) as a more effective measure of greatness.
Once in a while the contents are so varied that one cannot label a drawer. How to categorize the scrap of pulse and ankle length of twine? One begins to fail the crucial moment—pulling out anchors in flight time, wrongfaced watches. When the hinge catches, panic fuels the tug of war; one can only push or pull. The secret stash half exposed, the runner off its track.
--Hanna Andrews, from Slope Move, forthcoming from Coconut Books
The Vida numbers seem particularly devastating for me in this age of community poetics. A vital community should, of course, not only be open to anyone, but should embrace diversity. A vital community doesn’t make assumptions about poetics based on gender or race. A vital community is individuals honoring the poetics and identities of its members through open conversation.
I love hosting a reading series, even if before each event I get nervous that the audience won’t be big enough or that I’ve forgotten the mic. More than anything I want the readers to be happy—to feel like they have a good setting to perform in. I love meeting new poets. I love going to readings. I love giving readings. I love buying and trading books at readings and conferences (avoiding the three-letter conference out of respect for Nin!). I tend to buy books more frequently from poets with whom I’ve had contact. I buy books full of exciting (to me) poems, of course, but I also buy books from poets I like, even if I’m not the perfect audience for their poetics. Poets aren’t poets if we only stand in the corner and don’t join the party, even though, of course, we choose who to talk to and avoid the bullies.
I haven’t met Sawako Nakayasu in person, but we’ve emailed a lot. I love her poems. Her brand new book (Mouth: Eats Color: Sagawa Chika Translations, Anti-Translations, & Originals) just arrived in the mail today. On first glance it seems to question the whole notion of authorship with ("collaborative"? "translated"?) pieces written by or attributed to other poets (Mina Loy, Harry Crosby, Frances Chung). Lines and whole poems in Japanese. A handwritten reproduction. The whole book an intimate conversation, as if everything is translation.
Insects multiplied with the speed of an electric
Lapped up the boils on the earth’s crust.
Turning over its exquisite costume, the urban night
slept like a woman.
Now I hang my shell out to dry.
My scaly skin is cold like metal.
No one knows this secret half-covering my face.
The night makes the bruised woman, freely twirling
her stolen expression, ecstatic.
Tomorrow: more about forthcoming Coconut books.
This week we welcome Nin Andrews and Nicole Santalucia as our guest bloggers.
Nin Andrews’ poems and stories have appeared in many literary journals and anthologies includingPloughshares, The Paris Review, Best American Poetry (1997, 2001, 2003), The Best American Erotic Poems, and Great American Prose Poems. She won an individual artist grant from the Ohio Arts Council in 1997 and again in 2003 and is the author of several books including Spontaneous Breasts, winner of the Pearl Chapbook Contest, Any Kind of Excuse, winner of the Kent State University chapbook contest, The Book of Orgasms published by Cleveland State University Press, Why They Grow Wings published by Silverfish Press and winner of the Gerald Cable Award. Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, published by Web Del Sol,Sleeping with Houdini, published by BOA, Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum, published by Subito, and Southern Comfort, published by CavanKerry Press. She is also the editor of a book of translations of the French poet Henri Michaux entitled Someone Wants to Steal My Name from Cleveland State University Press. She keeps a blog of her daily comics here.
Nicole Santalucia is the poetry editor of Harpur Palate and is pursuing a PhD in English with a concentration in creative writing at Binghamton University. She made the 2011 Convocation Address at Cazenovia College and has recently received an honorable mention grant from the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. In March of 2012 she will read her work at the Poetry Center in Paterson, NJ for the the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award reading event. Nicole also leads the Graduate Student Readers’ Series at Binghamton and assists the director of The Binghamton Center for Writers- two projects she enjoys because they motivate others to read, listen to, and discover poetry.
Welcome, Nin and Nicole.
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.