BY E. E. CUMMINGS
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
whistles far and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
when the world is puddle-wonderful
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
Tell me about the Guillotine Project.
Guillotine is an ongoing series of handbound chapbooks with letterpress-printed covers, and each chapbook is a single essay. I’ve been making zines for years, and had wanted to take the leap and publish other people’s work for a while, but wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to be doing. And then last year I sort of stumbled into the opportunity to publish the full version of Vanessa Veselka and Lidia Yuknavitch’s conversation about violence at the Believer blog, which I had loved and found completely brilliant, as well as my friend Bojan Louis’s talk about genocide and book-banning in Arizona.
Hi, this post was in my drafts. For some reason I was too shy to post it. So it’s old news as of like February 20. So sue me.
Naturally Dennis Johnson has some dreadful things to say about the Penguin Random House merger, calling it “one of the most important publishing and cultural stories of our lifetime.” He points to the lack of coverage in the news as a big downplay, and the scandalous lack of government oversight as something that’s hard not to see as a conspiracy.
The first page of André Schiffrin’s The Business of Books discusses how, when Random House acquired AA Knopf in 1960, the DOJ started looking into the merger—until they realized that the combined companies would be worth only $15 million. Why’d they take an interest? Because it was front page news, which isn’t the case anymore (though the combined value of Penguin Random is $3 billion). Why is this Times article, about the US regulator’s approval of the merger, so short? READ MORE >
Monkeybicycle: What does “indie” or “small press” mean to you? What do you think of such classifications and distinctions?
Spencer Madsen: I immediately think of Roxane Gay. I think of complaints about not enough people reading or not enough people buying books or too many books being published. I think about the word ‘writerly’ and the distinction of being ‘serious’ literature. I think these classifications serve to make reading books more insular and less exciting for people. The word ‘indie’ always evokes for me a kind of club that you have to join to engage with. I’d like to bypass that by avoiding adjectives or the temptation to define the press in a verbal way. I don’t want Sorry House to be At The Forefront of Independent Literature or The Home Of Avant-Garde Poetry. I want it to be a thing like any other thing. A glass of water doesn’t need an about page. It holds water.
2012 was a great year for reading, the best in recent memory and lot of the great books I read came from small presses. Eleven stood out, even among a great group of books. I won’t say these are the best because that is an arbitrary, fleeting designation. These books are my favorites–ones I keep going back to because of a story or a poem or a turn of phrase that has lingered. These books are examples of beautiful writing that does more than appear on the page.
The Sovereignties of Invention by Matthew Battles
+ 6×6 #27 + FREE shipping:
Corina Copp, Pro Magenta / Be Met
The Debate Society, 15 Second Plays
Jeffrey Joe Nelson, Road of a Thousand Wonders
Jacqueline Waters, One Sleeps the Other Doesn’t
Sara Wintz, Walking Across a Field We Are Focused on at This Time Now
If you want to know how much I love these books, call me: (740) 501-3147 (if you forget it’s printed in Mall Witch)
Hint: they are somehow even as good as the books on Corina Copp’s (& Dana Ward’s & Tyrone Williams’ & Stacy Szymaszek’s & Blake Butler’s) SPD mixtape which are 35% off at SPD through January 15
I can’t post this yet because no amount of books can displace Jenny Zhang’s “The Last Five Centuries Were Uneventful”
The Parrot series, published by Insert Blanc Press, was much like its imprint started in a mess of pleasant confusion—my understanding is Insert was at first largely a fake press, that slowly became real—in that prior to the actual writing of each Parrot chapbook, they were simply descriptions of (fake) books by (real) authors to include in the entire fiction that is Insert Blanc; however, after a time, the authors of the (fake) descriptions of the Parrot books were asked to actually write them. What the real story is exactly I’m not particularly concerned. I received seven of the Parrot chapbooks—8-14—and for the past few weeks I’ve carried them around in my backpack, taking one out at random when a moment presented itself for a brief dose of whimsy and entertainment, and what follows will be my perceptions of each of them commingled with anything else I have inside my head upon reading.
Also, I’d like to note as an aside the mere pleasure of a well-made chapbook brought along with your other essentials day-to-day. These Parrots are very well-made, pleasing to look at, to hold, to flip through or to sit down mulling over as seriously as your favorite paperbacks. They call to mind not the muddled shelf of desperate/overwhelmingly-similar zines at any record store on the planet, but a sturdy, comfortable nook in a café where people actually give a shit about reading and are curious about the potentialities of language. Anyway, I digress, but really, I like these books a whole lot.
PARROT 8 ‘I Fell in Love With a Monster Truck by Amanda Ackerman’
As I was reading this, I began seeing a hunched decrepit figure in the periphery of my right eye, and it was terrifying so I stuck to the narrative at hand and by the time I was done the figure was gone, so that was good. I don’t want to use the phrase “prose poem” for as long as I live—quotations aside, I guess—so I’m not going to do that here but that’s kind of what this one is. These are chapbooks of poetry, in so many words, but this one reads like a brief Beckettian memoir of a young person who’s constantly being given workout advice at very inopportune moments and cannot fit through doors and constantly refers—as a Bartleby, of sorts—back to the phrase ‘I WILL NOT PROFIT FROM THE SUFFERING OF OTHERS’—and as a person on a couch reading this I realized that the title mattered in an indirect way but the guts and the language of the thing were compelling and confusing and intriguing and I kept reading—I like to think at the pace of the author while writing it, altogether manic and piling atop itself in fits of hilarity—and by the time it was done I knew I’d read a portrait of some life somewhere and that was good, too. Also, the Keith Haring-esque drawings throughout complimented the work better than most drawings throughout poems/stories tend to do; which is to say, they often don’t (do not) and perhaps only work 23% of the time…
December 17th, 2012 / 12:00 pm
Is there anything journalists love writing about more than the death of the publishing industry? Every few weeks there is a new surge of articles and essays pointing at the sky, suggesting said sky is falling, even though nothing ever seems to reach the ground. Magazines are going all digital, they say! Print is dying! Print must be dying so we cannot look for fallibility anywhere else. In recent weeks, there has been a lot of talk about the merger between Penguin and Random House. Two massive publishers will become even more massive.
Today, The New York Times, published yet another article, predicated on the assumption that publishing is declining. As I’ve asked here before, has any industry functioned in decline as long as publishing? Medical doctors should be studying publishing because, clearly, the key to immortality therein lies.
Perhaps it isn’t that publishing is dying but, instead, publishing is being killed. At the popular Brain Pickings, Maria Popova wrote a footnote to a post about Jane Mount, an artist who creates portraits of writers based on their ideal bookshelves. The Ideal Bookshelf featuring Mount’s art and essays by each featured writer, was released today from Little Brown. It’s an interesting idea, beautiful art, and offers us the insight we seem to crave into how the minds of great writers work.
A couple of days ago, the latest installment of Action, Yes made its debut.
For those of you who aren’t already aware, Action, Yes is the online journal wing of Action Books, a pugnacious press operated by Johannes Göransson and Joyelle McSweeney, who happens to be the reigning brunette bombshell of 21st-century poetry.
Also, Action Books has published one of the most outrageous collections of poetry ever — a collection that manipulates language to enchanting extremes. This bold book is entitled Maxium Gaga. Its author is Lara Glenum.
Back to this edition of Action, Yes… it has many notable participants. I’m going to supply some of them with outfits.
First, I’ll dress the editors, Carina Finn and Jiyoon Lee.
I’ve been thinking a lot over the last year about how to nurture innovative writing communities and build structures to support those communities in places where they don’t exist, or where the existing structures are rickety or shoddy. About ways to create horizontal networks of writers interested in dialogue and exchange about art and writing outside of a university context. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent too many hours at readings with authors aiming for the NYC big leagues and elbowing each other for position. Too many evenings listening to the same “good story” or “good poem” lectures. Disappointed and often frustrated by the lack of innovative lit/art endeavors outside of a handful of big cities (and smaller centers), I’ve been looking for models for building innovative / small press / interdisciplinary writing communities in all the places we live.
As I set out to look for different examples, one kept coming up: Tim Roberts and Julie Carr’s work to build Counterpath in Denver, Colorado. Counterpath combines so many things: a press, a bookstore, a gallery, a performance space; their focus on the work of writers and artists who are driven to make “linguistic and visual interventions in contemporary global culture” seems spot-on. I am particularly drawn to Counterpath because their definition of what is “new” seems broad and because they are explicitly interested in work from groups often under-recognized in the experimental literary universe: people of color, women, queers. And their list of readings and events made me oh-so-excited: CA Conrad, Rodrigo Toscano, giovanni singleton, Lisa Robertson, Eleni Sikelianos. They’ve collaborated on events with Ugly Duckling Presse and Coffee House Press. I wondered how they did it all, how it all started and wanted to see if there was something I could learn from their experiences. Of course, being in the experimental hotbed of the Denver/Boulder area makes their job a bit easier, but I still wondered how they’d done it. There’s a great interview by Noah Eli Gordon with Julie Carr on the Volta that addresses some of these questions, but I still had more questions when I finished reading it.
So I sent Tim Roberts at Counterpath an email to see if he could give more details about the kind of work they’re doing. This interview is the result. Enjoy.
JP: How did you and Julie Carr begin Counterpath? Why and when? Was it originally a press or a space or a bookstore? Which came first? How did the other pieces develop over time?
TR: We were living in Oakland, CA, when we started the press, in January of 2006. Julie was finishing a Ph.D. in English at UC Berkeley and I was working in book production at Stanford University Press. Both of us were doing a lot of writing, and then at that point I thought I could deal with most of what was necessary in terms of making the books, including design. The press project itself kind of just came to us and seemed like a natural progression of what we were already doing. We thought it might be useful in two distinct ways, in that it was a project grounded in a broad concept of writing itself, picking up from writers like Blanchot—not necessarily connected to a book, or ink on paper—and that responded to a sense of I guess political hopelessness when the US actually re-elected George W. Bush in 2004.
Better get this now; they always sell out fast and this will be no exception. One of the few magazines I still read cover to cover, maybe the only one. This issue is special-edited by Luke Goebel.
PAULA BOMER, HOB BROUN, CARRIE COOPERIDER, PUEHLE DIEBSONOVICH, CATHERINE FOULKROD, SUSAN FRODERBERG, RACHEL B. GLASER, BRANDON HOBSON, NOY HOLLAND, MARK LEIDNER, TAO LIN, GORDON LISH, ROBERT LOPEZ, GARY LUTZ, DAVID McLENDON, PADGETT POWELL, COOPER RENNER, PAMELA RYDER, AMBER SPARKS, JOSIAH SUMMERVILLE, J.A. TYLER, SAM VIRZI, ZACK WENTZ, COREY ZELLER.
It’s always sad when a press goes out of business. Why’d it happen? What will happen to the books? Are they falling short of an implicit promise? Dark Sky just went belly up. Though I don’t think a formal announcement has been made, Gabe Durham (DSM editor) redirected all the content for the new issue over to Barrelhouse. You can read it here.
Barrelhouse, meanwhile, seems alive and well. They’ve just announced a new version of their “Conversations & Connections Conference” (always a good time) in Philadelphia. This time the event, which has loads of panels about writing and publishing, features a keynote with Stewart O’Nan. I caught the one in DC earlier this year. Sam Lipsyte gave a funny keynote about Zachary German giving him shit in a crowded bar for not writing better books. Barrelhouse is also starting a new reading series in DC, something that features actors performing stories from the latest issue of their magazine.
The books are (most to least recent): 1. Apart (Catherine Taylor) 2. Transfer Fat (Aase Berg) 3. On the Tracks of Wild Game (Tomaz Salamun) 4. Road of a Thousand Wonders (Jeffrey Joe Nelson) 5. Afterimage (Damon Krukowski) 6. Uselysses (Noel Black) 7. Slot (Jill Magi) 8. One Sleeps the Other Doesn’t (Jacqueline Waters) 9. The Hermit (Laura Solomon) 10. Cursivism (Will Hubbard) 11. neither wit nor gold (Ammiel Alcalay) 12. Applies to Oranges (Maureen Thorson) 13. And if You Don’t Go Crazy I’ll Meet You Here Tomorrow (Filip Marinovich) 14. The Return of the Native (Kate Colby) 15. Fire Wind (Yvan Yauri) 16. Gowanus Atropolis (Julian T. Brolaski) 17. 60 Textos (Sarah Riggs) 18. El Golpe Chileno (Julien Poirier) 19. This Time We Are Both (Clark Coolidge) 20. The History of Violets (Marosa di Giorgio) 21. Greensward (Cole Swensen) 22. Chinese Notebook (Demosthenes Agrafiotis) 23. Look Back, Look Ahead (Srecko Kosovel) 24. Geometries (Guillevic) 25. To Light Out (Karen Weiser) 26. Moving Blanket (Kostas Anagnopoulos) 27. Ten Walks / Two Talks (Jon Cotner & Andy Fitch) 28. G-Point Almanac: Passyunk Lost (Kevin Varrone) 29. Made-up Interviews With Imaginary Authors (Alex Stein) 30. What Do You Want (Marina Temkina) 31. Hello Failure (Kristen Kosmas) 32. Concertos (No Collective) 33. Malilenas (Garrett Kalleberg) 34. Escape From Combray (Rick Snyder) 35. Neighbor (Rachel Levitsky) 36. The Russian Version (Elena Fanailova) 37. A Plate of Chicken (Matthew Rohrer) 38. Notes on Conceptualisms (Vanessa Place & Robert Fitterman) 39. As it Turned Out (Dmitry Golynko) 40. The Life and Opinions of DJ Spinoza (Eugene Ostashevsky) 41. Poker (Tomaz Salamun) 42. Zero Readership (Filip Marinovich) 43. Dreaming Escape (Valentina Saracini) 44. Vertical Elegies (Sam Truitt) 45. Unbecoming Behavior (Kate Colby) 46. One of a Kind (Jack Micheline) 47. Sleep’s Powers (Jacqueline Risset) 48. Red Shifting (Aleksandr Skidan) 49. Complete Minimal Poems (Aram Saroyan) 50. A Different Practice (Fredrik Nyberg) 51. Blue and Red Things (Laura Solomon) 52. Ideals Clearance (Henry Parland) 53. Dear Body (Dan Machlin) 54. The Hot Garment of Love (Elizabeth Reddin) 55. The Drug of Art (Ivan Blatny) 56. Paper Children (Mariana Marin) 57. Carbon (Michael Ford) 58. The Final Nite (Steve Dalachinsky) 59. Best of My Love (Aaron Kiely) 60. After you, dearest language (Marisol Limon Martinez) 61. Iterature (Eugene Ostashevsky) 62. Chinese Sun (Arkadii Dragomoshchenko) 63. Selected Writings (Cedar Sigo) 64. Nets (Jen Bervin) 65. Bending Spoons (Charlie Foos)
That’s 65 trade titles (each of these is at least $10, most are more, at least one is $20…so that’s already a ~ 66.666% discount)
+ “the following five artist books and oversize editions” :
Dog Ear (Erica Baum) $25
Emergency Index 2011 (various) $40
0 to 9: The Complete Magazine (Acconci/Mayer) $40
Classifications of a Spit Stain (Ellie Ga) $25
The Theory of Everything, Abridged (Ben Luzzato) $40
Basically you’re saving ~ $1000
Here you go. (They take checks.)