An Open Letter to Readers and Writers on the Internet Regarding the Founding of El Aleph Press


Dear Internet Readers,

You know that boringly recurrent conversation in which someone laments the end of print and someone else talks about how craftsmanship, design, and embracing new media can actually make small presses more viable and exciting than ever? In that conversation you are the second (more optimistic) person. Or at least you like to hold out hope that that person’s correct. And because of that you really should know about El Aleph Press.

In the interest full disclosure and as proof that I know what I’m talking about, I should say that I’ve known and been friends with El Aleph’s founder/editor, Michael Bagwell, for several years. I like him, I trust his aesthetic. So naturally I was excited to hear that he’d started a press. Then I actually got my hands on the things he was doing and got even more excited. El Aleph makes books, broadsides, t-shirts, and now an anthology. Their website features writing, of course, but also short films and, soon, a whole host of other multimedia work. They’re getting involved in a lot of projects across a range of media, and everything they touch is beautiful and careful and medium-specific.

Let me give two examples of the work El Aleph is putting out. Their first broadside features a short Sampson Starkweather poem with a color illustration printed gorgeously onto solid wood. Their first book, Or Else They are Trees, is a collaboration between Bagwell and the artist Rebecca Miller. It’s similarly gorgeous, a mix of poems and full-color artwork. If there’s an early hallmark of El Aleph’s work it’s that language and design are equally meticulous.

I should also mention that El Aleph is currently looking for submissions for their forthcoming anthology. From what they’ve published and what I know of Bagwell’s aesthetic, you’d be well served to send in formally adventurous works, lyrical weirdness, and texts that are equally surreal and sincere. You should also send reviews, comics and more traditional stories/poems.

All of the information on El Aleph, their projects, and submissions guidelines are available at their website. So check out/submit/support, etc.

Very Best,


Behind the Scenes & Presses / Comments Off on An Open Letter to Readers and Writers on the Internet Regarding the Founding of El Aleph Press
September 24th, 2013 / 11:00 am

Reading what’s extraneous


Last week at Big Other, Paul Kincaid put up a brief but intriguing post in which he asks to what extent various factors surrounding a text influence the way we think about it or its author. He gives the following example:

The program I use for databasing my library pulls down information from a wide variety of sources ranging from the British Library and the Library of Congress to Amazon. More often than not, this can produce some very strange results. I have, for instance, seen novels by Iain Banks categorized as ‘Food and Health’, and novels by Ursula K. Le Guin categorized as ‘Business’. In all probability, these are just slips by somebody bored, though you do wonder what it was about the books per se that led to such curious mistakes.

Paul’s musings raise many interesting questions. For one thing, we might wonder whether the factors he’s describing are indeed extraneous or external to texts. Because I can imagine a good post-structuralist immediately objecting that texts more porous than that, and that it’s all just a sea of endless texts slipping fluidly into one another.

Me, I don’t have a problem with treating texts as discrete and coherent entities, but I admit the situation is complicated.


Behind the Scenes & Presses / 15 Comments
August 13th, 2013 / 4:10 pm

Subito Press is Open for Submissions…

Subito Press, publisher of Mathias Svalina’s The Explosions, and Sandra Doller’s Man Years, is having an open reading period. Subito is “a non-profit publisher of literary works. It is based in the Creative Writing Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder.” You can submit work, here.

Presses / 66 Comments
July 9th, 2013 / 9:20 pm

JA Tyler and MLP made some beauty. Thank you.

[in Just-]


in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




balloonMan whistles

Presses / 1 Comment
April 22nd, 2013 / 7:27 pm

Talking with Sarah McCarry about The Guillotine Project


Vanessa Veselka & Lidia Yuknavitch’s Violence, Bojan Luois’s Troubleshooting Silence in Arizon,
Kate Zambreno’s Toilet Bowl: Some Notes on Why I Write


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.


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April 8th, 2013 / 1:01 pm

Hahaha, “Ask a Mid-List Author,” good one J. Robert Lennon. AND the new Graywolf site is nice.

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Quick Thoughts on the Penguin Random House Merger


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 >

Behind the Scenes & Presses / 3 Comments
March 25th, 2013 / 11:14 am

Spencer Madsen on “Indie” and “Small Press”

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.

Spencer Madsen, from Monkeybicycle interview re his new press, Sorry House

Presses & Web Hype / 11 Comments
February 13th, 2013 / 1:38 pm

Help Letter Machine Editions

Help Letter Machine Editions
bring beautiful objects into the world
by subscribing to their next two titles
Aaron Kunin’s Grace Period & Edmund Berrigan’s Can It!
at a deep discount!!!

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February 2nd, 2013 / 12:19 pm