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.