Sunday, July 31, 2011

12 or 20 (small press) questions: Rupert Loydell on Smallminded Books

Smallminded Books [photo borrowed by William Michaelian, here] is a fly-by-night publisher who produce books folded from a single sheet of A4 paper. The books are mailed out to friends, acquaintances and the authors as the publisher feels fit. There have been 12 titles in the last 8 weeks.

1 - When did Smallminded Books first start? How have your original goals as a publisher shifted since you started, if at all? And what have you learned through the process? How does this differ from your earlier work through Stride?

About 9 weeks ago. Casting around for workshop ideas to use with my first years in relation to 'writing as visual art' and artists' books, I came across instructions on how to fold/cut a piece of paper and fold a little booklet from it. I loved it. The workshop went well[so well that the next issue of With, our student magazine, is a gathering of 20+ different little booklets in some kind of wrapper] and I got very excited by the possibilities of this simple, quick way of making something.

The only goal has been to have fun and get some work I am interested in out into the world. It's different from Stride because it costs very little, and I make no claims for it. The work is produced in short runs and is usually out of print 4 or 5 days later.

2 - What first brought you to publishing?

Being introduced to the small press poetry world by poet friends, and my mother having mimeographed the church magazine while I was growing up, along with my family's bookworm tendencies.

3 - What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?

I think that is up to the individual publisher.

4 - What do you see the press doing that no one else is?

Having fun.

5 - What do you see as the most effective way to get new books out into the world?

Print and publish them, then give them away.

6 - How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?

An incredibly light touch! I try not to deal with poets who can't edit their own work, or devise a way to work with others before submitting manuscripts.

7 - How do issues get distributed? What are your usual print runs?

200 copies. Stuff them into mail, put them into books, give them to students.

8 - How many other people are involved with editing or production? Do you work with other editors, and if so, how effective do you find it? What are the benefits, drawbacks?

Just me for Smallminded Books. I work with other publishers and editors on other projects, that is my own poetry titles, and when I edit books such as the recent Smartarse anthology for Knives, Forks & Spoons Press.

9- How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?

For me, publishing has always been a way of reading other people's work and sharing enthusiasms.

10- How do you approach the idea of publishing your own writing? Some, such as Gary Geddes when he still ran Cormorant, refused such, yet various Coach House Press' editors had titles during their tenures as editors for the press, including Victor Coleman and bpNichol. What do you think of the arguments for or against, or do you see the whole question as irrelevant?

The arguments for and against have all been rehearsed and repeated numerous times. so much so that I think the discussion is irrelevant. I'm skeptical when presses exist solely to produce the publisher's own work, but have no problem with publishing my own work. The first Smallminded Books was a set of my own small poems.

11- How do you see Smallminded Books evolving?

I don't. It will probably run for a while and then stop when I'm bored with it. It's designed to be ephemeral and low-key. It's a quick fix to deal with my sense of exile from poetry publishing since I ended Stride.

12- What, as a publisher, are you most proud of accomplishing? What do you think people have overlooked about your publications? What is your biggest frustration?

I think the world needs immediacy, interesting objects and free gifts as much as glossy paperbacks or online access.

13- Who were your early publishing models when starting out?

For this, mostly a student-run magazine called Whip, which they produced and left lying around the university where I lecture. It had a different format though.

Otherwise I might point to some lo-fi artists books as well as everyday leaflets & flyers.

14- How does Smallminded Books work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see Smallminded Books in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?

It doesn't, the press relies on personal contacts/friendships, many from the 30 years I've been writing or the 22 years I published Stride. If it engages with communities at all is is only by giving them things to read.

15- Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?

No readings or launches, although I did hand out copies of my own Smallminded Books edition when I did a reading a couple of weeks ago. But the press is mercifully marketing-free.

16- How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?

I don't. I am indulging my luddite tendencies with this one.

17- Do you take submissions? If so, what aren't you looking for?

Nope, I aren't looking for submissions. I read voraciously and invite authors to contribute if I think it appropriate.

18- Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they're special.

Mike Ferguson's Found In Dissonance is the first publication of any of Mike's ongoing sonnets project apart from on his blog, which is mainly to do with listening to LPs. The poems are gritty, urbane and witty. He deserves a proper book.

David Miller's from Holger Enke's Room is a snapshot of a longer sequence in progress, that demonstrates the author's philosophical and mystical concerns with belief and language.

Philip Terry's Spring Sestina (Sprung Sestina) allows Phil's playful sestina room to breathe and live on its own, giving a very different reading experience to a sestina in a regular book format.

Other titles by Richard Kostelanetz, Peter Finch, John Levy, Roselle Angwin, Peter Dent, rob mclennan and Nathan Thompson are just as interesting and focussed.

12 or 20 (small press) questions:

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A new printed broadsheet by Someone, rob mclennan + Nathaniel G. Moore

POSTERS are flying off the press!
3YEARS: This deceivingly beautiful 3 colour broadside commemorates the third anniversary of Canadian Literature's only full contact literary reading, Throwdown in O-Town: 26 June 2008, in Ottawa between rob mclennan and Nathaniel G Moore. Printed in a super limited edition of 50, from wood type and plates, these authors live their work LARGE in this tribute in two voices.
The most beautiful new printed broadsheet by Someone (the press formerly known as Dreadnaught), with a poem each by Ottawa writer rob mclennan + Toronto writer Nathaniel G. Moore.

To order, go directly to the Someone site here (only fifteen copies left!) or go to their storefront at 1691 Dundas Street West, Toronto), or from rob mclennan via paypal (I have a few copies as well; either drop me $23 on paypal, or send an email at As Nathaniel G. Moore claims, "Canadian Literature's only full contact literary reading."

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Poker: an appreciation,

KD: I had a really great high school teacher, a fiction writer, Jack Hodgins. He's a well-known Canadian novelist. In Canada, you got educated in “the tradition” to a certain extent, but also there were all these local Vancouver Island writers. They exist. And that was pretty interesting, but then, in The Capilano Review, 1975 issue, which was somehow in Jack's classroom, they have some poems by Spicer. These were later included in One Night Stand and Other Poems, the early work Spicer rejected. And then there's Williams. Williams just barely makes it into the canon at that point, but I started reading him then. I remember also, this last year of high school, seeing things by a poet named Christopher Dewdney.

MG: Yes, I wanted to ask you about him. I just stumbled on some of his work. Is he still alive? (“Marcella Durand Interviews Kevin Davies,” The Poker #3, Fall 2003)
It may have taken me a while, but recently I managed to get my hands on three issues of the late American poetry journal The Poker (“Half with loathing, half with a strange love”): issues one, three and eight. Edited and published by Daniel Bouchard out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with contributing editors Beth Anderson, Kevin Davies, Marcella Durand, Steve Evans, Cris Mattison, Jennifer Moxley and Douglas Rothchild, the journal published twice a year publishing engaging poetry, interviews, essays and even the occasional review. What happened?

The story not so good had the reindeer
showed up and withered. Mule.

In some afters we must steal our glittering
coup de foudre's, burning little lexicons.
A traveler like Carmen, but less
of an archaeologist, Don Jose could clamor

thunderclaps. I'll storm no more of that!
Won't no longer so wander no coughing

so trembling at the sentiment braying I in I:
even John Locke claimed the Prince of Naasua's

parrot could talk sense, say “Homo Marinas”.
And Parascelsus was such a fine scientist

putting his jism in the mare, cooing
this nature, all homunculi. (Anne Boyer, from”Ode Amo,” #8)
The contributors list of The Poker reminds very much of the late, lamented Toronto journal, Queen Street Quarterly, publishing a range of writers not often seen in literary journals, therefore providing an important alternate to journal culture. There aren't that many venues where one might find interviews with such writers, from Kevin Davies (#3), Ange Mlinko (#4), Robin Blaser (#5), Anselm Berrigan (#7) or Jennifer Moxley (#8), and essays by Moxley (#2), William Carlos Williams, Fanny Howe and Aaron Kunin (#3), Juliana Spahr and Steve Evans (#4), Laura Riding (#5) and Dan Beachy-Quick (#8). If you go through the website, its easy to see the appeal of the journal (listing all issues but the eighth, for some reason). Certainly, there are publications and projects that have their natural lifespan, and for whatever reason, don't live beyond particular borders, such as Queen Street Quarterly, or, like Vancouver's The Capilano Review or Saskatoon's Grain, become rejouvenated through the natural movement of new editors coming in to replace those who had long held the helm. And, not be as aware of literary culture in the United States as I am here, I'm left to wonder what has come up to fill this space? One could cite the recent appearance of Jacket2, but surely there must have been something in between.
I have been meaning to write an essay on the nature of doubt and poetry. Before reading Descartes I had dismissed him, and now reading the Discourse and the Meditations, I find him in my mind as a splinter is in a thumb. Not a pain to extract, but rather, a pain that reminds me the thumb exists, that the thumb is mine, and here I am, thinking about it. A sliver of pine becomes the world—at least, the potential for a world. I can encounter it, consider it. The poem is this crucible in which the world heats up—grasses sere, then the pond disappears, then the ocean becomes cloud, then the cloud grows absent, then the air. Then the flame is turned down, then the crucible cools, and we look in to see what remains. (Dan Beachy-Quick, “'To Know by the Natural Light of the Mind'—On the Poetics of Thinking & Doubt,” The Poker #8)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

fwd; Salmon 30th Anniversary Fundraising Raffle

Salmon 30th Anniversary Fundraising Raffle


One Grand Prize of all Salmon Poetry's 2011 titles, signed by the authors. The draw will take place at Salmon's 30th Anniversary Celebratory Event at the Unitarian Church, Dublin, on 1st November 2011. Don't pass up this opportunity to add considerably to your literary bookshelf with these stunning titles and support Salmon Poetry at the same time.

Winter Dogs – Drew Blanchard
Kentucky Derby – Andrea Cohen
•Guarding the Flame – Majella Cullinane.
Destiny In My Hands – Primrose Dzenga
The Mind – John Fitzgerald
Poems of Faith and Doubt – Gabriel Fitzmaurice
Early/Late: New & Selected Poems – Philip Fried
Daytime Astronomy – Paul Grattan
Unsweet Dreams: Poems of laughter, wit and sex – Anne Le Marquand Hartigan
Its Words You Want – Patrick Kehoe
Kidland & other poems – Paul Kingsnorth
Walking Here – Jessie Lendennie.
Fell Hunger – Joseph Lennon
Night Walk – John McKeown
Sky Thick With Fireflies – Ethna McKiernan
Mary: A Novel in Verse – Patricia Monaghan
Gods of Babel – Judith Mok
Session – Pete Mullineaux
House Of Bees – Stephen Murray
The Blue Guitar – Padraig O'Morain
As Much As – Allan Peterson
Witness Trees – Lorna Shaughnessy.
Mad for Meat – Kevin Simmonds
The Parrots of Villa Gruber Discover Lapis Lazuli – Julian Stannard
Stray Birds/Eanlaith Strae – Rabindranath Tagore with Irish translations by Gabriel Rosenstock
Night Horses – Ilsa Thielan.
The Geese at The Gates – Drucilla Wall
Sailing Lake Mareotis – Eamonn Wall
Ghost Estate – William Wall
Echoes of a River – Gordon Walmsley
Silent Music – Adam Wyeth

Your Paypal receipt is proof of entry. If you purchase 5 tickets for 5Euro, your name will be entered in to the draw 5 times. If you purchase 12 tickets for 10Euro, your name will be entered in to the draw 12 times.  Raffle closes 31st October 2011. Draw takes place 1st November 2011. Thanks so much for your support and the best of luck!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ongoing notes: late July, 2011

Can you believe it? I've already started going through manuscripts as part of my ongoing editing services, and it's working beautifully. Already have space for more.

We're possibly off to the Glengarry Highland Games this weekend; might I see any of you there? I'll probably be in the beer tent, when not visiting the Clan Building; but really, McNair should witness the actual “games” themselves, don't you think?

Denver CO: It seemed as though it took forever, but I finally received a copy of Philadelphia poet Hailey Higdon's [see her 12 or 20 questions here] chapbook, HOW TO GROW ALMOST EVERYTHING (Agnes Fox Press, 2011), an 11 x 8 ½ size work (produced in a numbered edition of one hundred) that includes the lovely letterpressed piece I originally read of hers, “I wrestle home the papers” [see my note on such here]. 

I like the flow of Higdon's thoughtful, longer lines, and the meditative qualities. Is this a meditative tract or an instruction booklet, writing: “I invest in water in overpasses over water // in pools puddles pollen in pool puddles // and I don't believe that rapport has anything to do with friendship // more with the zoology, and the character struggles of animals on this planet.” (“I WAS BORN YELLOW”). 

Her use of repetition, as well, is quite compelling, and it makes me wonder how these pieces might sound out loud, the rhythm of her lines echoing a deceptive lull before another critical, twisted pull, another thoughtful punch.
No pressure. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Let me make the plans.

Put good thoughts on paper, put good ideas on paper.
Put good thoughts on paper, put good ideas on paper.

Brides wrap the park. I say, get them moved. (from “OH HAILEY POOR HAILEY”)
The poem titles by themselves are pretty entertaining as well, including such as “I WAS BORN YELLOW,” “IF YOU MISS KUDZU YOU MUST BE REALLY FAR FROM HOME,” “DIDN'T LET NOBODY TAKE YOU TO THE CLEANERS DID YOU, HAILEY?” and “AND WHERE IS THE MAN WHO DIRECTS THE SUNLIGHT MACHINE?,” that ends with:
What is important to the sheep when the sheep is solitary?
What the fuck is important to the sheep when the sheep is solitary?


Remember the time the Asian lady was trapped in her own dry cleaning business?


Remember the time the Asian lady was trapped in her own dry cleaning business?

She knocked on the glass to me. CALLING ME. ME.

And I know today is somebody's birthday.

Somebody's baby was born.

I just can't remember if the baby was important.

Philadelphia PA: Published as part of Brian Teare's Albion Books Third Series is Jonathan Skinner's poetry chapbook Warblers (2010), a small cadence of poems for different types of birds. Considered an eco-poet, merging poetry and ecology, Skinner edits ecopoetics, found here.
Wilsonia canadensis

to trip it sift through seeds like this
gray coast in thicket
don't believe it when you see
somebody's yellow-breasted
necklace, edges of spectacles
the architecture's soft
drupes lifted, how truly
have you seen something
inquisitive zancos a
shack on stilts called
Kootenay's perspex on Paris
staccato, even, irregular
cresting curlicue lips
the neobaroco sea is livid
I'm intrigued by what Skinner is doing in this collection, and even further intrigued by the note at the back of the collection, writing a wonderful acknowledgment of how the collection was conceived and constructed, citing influences per poem, and/or borrowed/altered texts, writing:
Most Warblers emerge from the following limiting factors:

1) ACQUAINTANCE: add the bird to your “life list” before writing; 2) VOICE: listen to the bird's song, translating its rhythm and pitches; 3) PLUMAGE: note the bird's color and pattern; 4) BEHAVIOUR: attend to habitat and details of foraging, breeding, nesting and migration; 5) RANGE: name a far away place, since warblers link humans across hemispheres; 6) LANGUAGES: include words from poets writing in the North as well as the South—warblers feed on both sides of the border; 7) NONSENSE: acknowledge that warblers are restless, hard to see, and give you a crick in the neck.

Warbler diets: BLACK-THROATED GREEN: Michael Kelleher/Soleida Rios; CANADA: Lisa Robertson/José Lezama Lima; HOODED: Robert Kocik/Dolores Dorantes; NORTHERN PARULA: Benjamin Friedlander/Gonzalo Rojas; MAGNOLIA: Lisa Jarnot/Tamara Karmenszain; MYRTLE: Peter Gizzi/Antonio Jose Ponte; PALM: Jennifer Moxley/Petro Marques de Armas; PINE: Tom Raworth/Nicole Brossard.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

12 or 20 questions (second series) with Angie Abdou;

Angie Abdou is a fiction writer and teacher who has a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Calgary. BC BookWorld called her short story collection, Anything Boys Can Do (2006), an "extraordinary literary debut" and the Victoria Times Colonist commended its original take on female sexuality. The Globe and Mail praised her first novel, The Bone Cage (2007), for its "beautiful writing" and The Quill & Quire called it "vivid, intense, and authentic." The Bone Cage was a finalist in Canada Reads 2011. Angie has just released her second novel: a black comedy about mountain-town culture called The Canterbury Trail. She was raised in Moose Jaw, SK and now lives in Fernie, BC with her husband and two children. She teaches at the College of the Rockies.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

Publishing my first book didn’t change my life at all, though I had my first baby a few months later and man, did that ever change my life: forever.  I think all my books are very different from each other. My first (Anything Boys Can Do) is a short story collection mostly about infidelity. The Bone Cage is about amateur athletics, the relationship between identity and body, and the end of a dream.  My new novel, The Canterbury Trail, is a fairly satirical look at mountain life and is about identity, community, the environment.  That’s what I like about fiction: I can do something completely new each time. I never get bored. I suppose there is some overlap between projects, but only in the most general terms – an interest in identity as fluid and, perhaps, a bit of an obsession with the body/bawdy.

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?

I actually wrote non-fiction first, but not creative nonfiction. I wrote academic essays, tourism articles, light-armoured-vehicle manuals, software online help … that kind of stuff.  Poetry: I’d love to be able to write good poetry.  Every so often I read a poem that knocks me right over, and I think: if I could write a poem like that, why would I bother with novels?  But bad poetry kills me.  Really. So, it’s not a risk I’m willing to take. I can’t  let myself write bad poetry long enough to try to get good.  Novels – that’s really what I’ve always wanted to write, ever since I learned how to read them.  I guess that desire stems from how much happiness, insight, and sanity novels bring me – I love the thought of being able to do the same for other readers.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

Starting is the hard part for me. Once I get going, I can be pretty disciplined and pile up the pages rather quickly.  However, that momentum might be a result of taking my time at the beginning – by the time I start writing, the plot and characters and central themes are already pretty organized in my mind.  When I’m in the writing part of the process, I start every day by revising what I wrote the last day.  So, the first draft isn’t really a first draft – it’s already undergone a lot of rewriting.  That version, though, is fairly close to the final shape.

4 - Where does fiction usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

I start immediately on a book (not on notes or on a “let’s see what this turns out to be”).  I’m  very … shall we say “goal oriented” (it’s some kind of personality disorder, I’m sure, but I prefer “goal oriented”).  The start is always an idea – though that idea may morph a fair bit in the writing of the book.  With Anything Boys Can Do, I started by insisting I was writing about “The death of the out-dated institution of marriage.”  That always cracks me up because by the time I was out promoting it, I was very happily married and gigantically pregnant.  In The Bone Cage, I started wanting to write about post-Olympic depression (and though that’s not what the book is actually about, I think anyone who has read it can see how it came out of that interest).  So, a book begins with an idea … or rather an “idea turned obsession” (but that’s another personality disorder we don’t need to get into).

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I love public events, but I read very little at them. I hate reading (no, I love reading – I hate reading aloud to a room full of people who are perfectly capable of reading to themselves).  I really, though, very much enjoy talking with readers about my books and my writing process. I like hearing questions. I like making people laugh and think.  A really good event charges me right up.  But, yes, those public events are (even though I like them) still counter to the creative process. Writing a book and figuring out how to talk about a book – two very different things.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

I just wrote a page long answer to this question that bored even me.  The question (the only question) is: WHY?


7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I think writers allow people a space to reflect on what it means to be human in this crazy contemporary world.  Everything is moving and changing so fast; novels force us to slow down and think.  Fittingly, the books I’ve connected with lately do have that ethical dimension: Every Lost Country (about humans’ responsibility to see—and respond to—injustice), Annabel (about the harm done by our society’s rigid notions of gender), Cool Water (about people figuring out how to cope with an inevitable change from one way of life to another), Before I Wake (about the miraculous and how to respond to it in a way that’s neither fearful nor exploitive) … you get the idea.  Books let us think, in a deep and serious way, about how to best live our lives.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I have had great experiences working with editors.  Working with an editor is both difficult and essential, definitely.  Suzette Mayr was the editor of The Bone Cage, and I learned so much about writing from her.  She was also the dissertation advisor for The Canterbury Trail (which was, in an early version, a Ph.D. dissertation before it was a published novel).  Lynne Van Luven was the editor for The Canterbury Trail, and we had so much fun together (it’s a wild book so I appreciated having an editor who embraced that wildness), but being fun didn’t make it any less difficult.  Editing is definitely work, and it feels like it. I don’t think I could do it myself: I need that outside set of eyes.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

OK, this is an interesting question because one of the very first pieces of advice I was ever given was “always assume your reader is at least as smart as you are.” Bonnie Burnard said that at a Booming Ground workshop in about 2001.  I took it very seriously and have repeated it often.  Then, I had a sinking moment a few weeks ago when I thought that it might be the very worst advice I’d ever been given.  Or that maybe I’d misinterpreted it (maybe I heard “Always assume your reader is at least as well-read as you are?” – not the same, right?).  It turns out that there are people, a lot of them, who have never heard of The Canterbury Tales.  Really.  Never heard of it.

So, I’m still figuring out what to do with that, but in the meantime here’s another piece of advice (less likely to cause me anxiety) ….

I think of this corny piece of advice almost every day: The most important equipment in a writer’s tool kit: glue. Now put it on your seat and sit down.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (short stories to novel)? What do you see as the appeal?

Easy (I mean as much as the word “easy” can ever refer to writing).  I started with short stories not because I thought they’d be easier than a novel, but because I thought it would be a more practical way to teach myself how to write fiction.  Simply, the end of a short story is closer in sight.  With short stories, I could start sending stuff out fairly quickly and get some feedback early on.  However, I always intended to finish enough stories for a book and then move onto a novel. A novel, in fact, is easier than short stories in the sense that the writer doesn’t have to keep building a new foundation every 20 pages.  In a novel, momentum does some of the work.

I do admire the short story form (especially its tightness and length-to-impact ratio), and I have ideas that make me want to go back to it. If I wrote full-time, I’d likely do both simultaneously.  Short stories in the morning and novels in the afternoon – how’s that for a fantasy life?

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

A typical day begins for me at 6:30 with my two-year old yelling “MOMMY!  I’M DONE MY SLEEP!!! MOOOOMMMMYYYYYYY!!!”  So, life has changed.  I used to have a three page rule: I wrote three pages a day (first thing), and then I could do whatever I wanted.  On a good day, I’d likely write more.  Now, I write when I have childcare.  There’s nothing quite like paying-by-the-minute to motivate a gal.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

Physical activity. I step away from the computer and get moving – that’s where my characters come alive and I start to see what needs to happen.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?


14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

I’ve never heard that saying before.  So true! Books do come from books.  My books also come from physical activity – running, cross-country skiing, swimming. I start my writing process at the computer, but then I get out doing something to give my brain a little space to work on the creative process without my interference (or without me trying so hard).  So – yes, nature, but specifically me-in-motion in nature.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

I’ve been lucky to take workshops with (and be edited by) some really great writers, especially Bonnie Burnard, Elisabeth Harvor, Lynn Coady, Suzette Mayr, and Lynne Van Luven.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

Spend an entire winter barefoot on a beach.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

My day job (College English Professor) is actually exactly what I would do if I hadn’t been a writer.  They pay me to talk about books (and I have a captive audience).  It’s awesome.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

A car crash. I was doing something else – working a job I didn’t particularly like, partying a lot, running marathons, skiing every weekend … and then I broke my back in a head-on highway collision and asked “What do I really want to do?” The answer (write novels) wasn’t a big surprise: it’s been there, just below the surface, ever since I could read.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

I’m just finishing Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and am dying to talk to someone about it – which makes it pretty great already.  Films – I hardly watch any, to be honest. I have a two-year old and a four-year old and a full-time job and a writing career.  Life is insane.  However, I watched Black Swan on a plane to North Bay last week – a book blogger (Bookgaga) had written a review comparing it to The Bone Cage, and I was curious.  They do raise a lot of the same issues.

20 - What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a novel – but it’s a bit early to say more than that (which is interesting because I didn’t know until right now that I do have weird superstitions about my writing!).

12 or 20 (second series) questions:

Monday, July 25, 2011

headlight anthology 14

For this 14th edition, we wanted to join the voice of Concordia's student body to those of other schools nationwide. We sent out a call for unsettling and curious writing and were impressed by the diversity and skill with which the authors approached this theme. Thank you to all the writers who submitted, and who allowed us to explore the slightly disturbed reaches of their imagination.
I recently received a copy of headlight anthology 14, put together by an editorial group led by editors-in-chief Sabrina Lightstone and Caitlin Stall-Paquet. As much as I enjoy the occasional theme issue, I'm not sure if the Concordia University annual headlight anthology, now in its fourteenth year, was necessarily the place for such a theme of outsiders, and predominantly since the publication is only annual. Do we now have to wait another year to see what students in and around the creative writing department at Montreal's Concordia University are doing? Part of what has always attracted me to this publication (I think I'm only missing the first couple of issues) has been precisely through the opportunity to read some newer Montreal-based writers that I might not have seen (yet), otherwise. Yet, their editorial choice for a theme, on one hand, and stretching open submissions across to other universities, on the other, is an intriguing one; what might other students in other centres be writing, from their spaces including programs (whether Regina, Guelph, Victoria or Calgary) or not (Ottawa)? Unfortunately, I worry that the theme and the open call takes away exactly what makes these anthologies so great: publishing the best writing from students in and around the creative writing program at Concordia. There are some interesting pieces here (the last line of Leesa Dean's “Manuelzinho #2 (found)” is quite startling), but on the whole, the issue doesn't really sing. headlight anthology is supposed to sing. Why doesn't it sing?
Manuelzinho #2 (found)

You say they're burying him today.

Your father:
a fistful of endless superiority
a honeycombed conspirator with no friends
suddenly dead in the kitchen
beside the stove
pants down
potatoes in a triangle at his feet
dead from poisoned cabbage
and you think it's funny.

I give you money for the funeral.
You buy a pound with it
so I hand over more
but you come again,
sniffling and shivering.

You are the strangest blueprint of a father
a thread
a pump gone dry
a sodden grandfather in your thirties
the worst gardener since Cain.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Juliana Leslie, More Radiant Signal

Green's Function

Read the pictorial sunset moving backwards. Place the subject in her boat. Address the hand as it leaves the body. Consider the necessary element of surprise in the painting, the lack of similitude before you temper the definition. Say goodbye carnelian. Swallow the whole country if you can, the whole egg about to unfold. Consider salt as currency and meanwhile or further intuit the sun one letter at a time. Consider the falling viceroy, his plum shirt, the quiet signature you make in the sand, the glass, the inkwell, the mind alike in one mouth, the humble boy, his leafcutters, the bottom falls out.
Juliana Leslie's first trade poetry collection, More Radiant Signal (Chicago IL: Letter Machine Editions, 2010), is an impressive debut collection of taut lyric and prose poems. Her pieces are like small moments, stretched to slow conclusion, exploring the tangible essences of abstract things. Moving effortlessly from line to line, Leslie's poems end up in odd, considered places. A radiant signal indeed, furthering all else it brings.
Unknown Quantity

How many ways to exist?
I don't have a pencil
as if I could write this
I can't even think
You are the textual orange
between presence and absence
Wind in the subtext is my wind
Mom is in the alphabet
Simultaneously all of the gesture
you ever want:
mittens, war and calico
Throughout the collection, Leslie seems to have a fascination with colour, making her More Radiant Signal nearly an entire book on colour, radiant on all sides, such as in the poem “Paul Klee,” “Unknown Quality,” or “Softer More Radiant Signal,” that begins:
Tell me more about
crayons, contingency
and winter fruit
polyamorous structural
locations we know aren't always the best
for human hands anyway
Tell me she is all worn out
from work
and thinking
Unlike her shorter lyric pieces, which make up the bulk of the collection, Leslie's slightly longer poems appear more disjointed and fragmented, suggesting space, writing a series of similar moments to her shorter pieces, further stretched. With so much everything and almost nothing happening, her poems slowly work up to the point, which is not the point. Hers are poems, to tweak Auden's infamous quote, that make nothing happen. How is that even possible?
The Number One is in the Flower

Therefore in her arc is lily like

Her lights Her hips at a tilt

As figure / she said
in parallel air
and shadow m

The total distance
versus the rings of Saturn


We sing in real time before the fire
from a chapter in our book

with leaves in our throats at midnight
fluid vowel a

The number one is in the flower
coiled and unflown

In winter form In movement

In perpetual revolt

Friday, July 22, 2011

12 or 20 (small press) questions: Brian Teare on Albion Books

A former National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, Brian Teare is the recipient of poetry fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Headlands Center for the Arts, and the American Antiquarian Society. He is the author of three full-length books—The Room Where I Was Born, Sight Map, and the Lambda-award winning Pleasure—as well as the chapbooks Pilgrim, Transcendental Grammar Crown and . An Assistant Professor at Temple University, he lives in Philadelphia, where he makes books by hand for his micropress, Albion Books.

1 – When did Albion Books first start? How have your original goals as a publisher shifted since you started, if at all? And what have you learned through the process?

A: Albion Books kind of meandered into existence in 2008. Since 2004 I had been teaching at the New College of California; its financial and administrative infrastructure began to collapse in 2007, and I quit in January of 2008 because the College hadn’t paid its faculty since early October. During this financial and professional disaster, I’d begun adjuncting at several other schools in the Bay Area, and once I quit NC I had a little extra time on my hands. My partner suggested I learn to do something new that I’d always wanted to do: bookbinding and letterpress printing. That winter and spring I took a lot of classes in both binding and printing at the San Francisco Center for the Book, and I began to volunteer at the Center as a binder and printer’s devil; by midsummer I felt ready to try my hand at hand setting and printing a broadside and putting together a chapbook with letterpressed covers. At that time, I didn’t have a lot of goals as a publisher, nor did I even think of myself as publisher; I was simply seeing if I had the skills to put together a small edition on my own.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?

A: That first chapbook was a gift for a friend, the poet Jane Mead. I wanted to thank her for her friendship and support of my work—and also to celebrate the publication of her third book, The Usable Field. That first chapbook was the pedagogical product not only of many classes at the Center for the Book, but also of several years of apprenticeship as a member of an editorial and publishing collective called Woodland Editions. Spearheaded by Jaime Robles, the collective put out anywhere from two to four chapbooks for the three or so years I was a member; each chapbook was made in an edition of one hundred, and we did any labeling and all of the collating, folding and sewing by hand. From Jaime I learned the kind of planning involved in making an edition and also the rudiments of desktop publishing; she taught me how to use Quark and also gave me a lot of digital typefaces. From our sessions making books as a collective, I learned how much labor even a small edition takes, but I also learned how to prepare and organize the necessary materials and put together an assembly line of sorts, to make a lot of books in a short period of time. In essence it was years of collective effort, pedagogy and the gift economy of literary community that brought me to publishing, but it was the desire to keep that economy circulating that made me a publisher. In the summer of 2008, Albion Books was born: I published Where in the Story the Horse Mazy Dies in an edition of 30 or so, each chapbook accompanied by a handset, letterpressed broadside.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?

A: There are so many kinds of small press publishing! But if I may speak broadly, it seems to me that each community is a microclimate to which its small presses adapt their particular goals and functions. Within a given literary ecosystem, small presses typically act as interstices: they not only fill in the cultural and aesthetic gaps left between larger publishers and university publications with which MFA students are affiliated, they also serve as the connective material between them, articulating the shape of street-level and post-, ante- and anti-MFA literary landscape. Small press publishing is kind of like the grasses and weeds that keep a hill’s surface from eroding—not only because their roots serve as the structure that holds a broader community together and keeps it from being centralized around one or two larger systems, but also because small press publishing is so often overlooked and under-supported. Everyone mourns a tree cut down, but in our literary imaginations, small press publishers—like weeds and grasses—seem to be expendable, less valuable. This is perhaps our greatest weakness, but I’d argue it’s also our greatest opportunity for strength. Given the impact and dependence the publishing industry has on the environment and given also the depth and persistence of the economic downturn, I think it’s important for a press to be able to flourish in conditions of scarcity, to demand as little capital and support from the earth as possible. And though I understand the very important work that tree-like institutions can do in a literary landscape, my idea of publishing embraces more the qualities of weeds and grasses: flexible, adaptable, minimal, ephemeral, as easily uprooted as rooted.

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?

A: I don’t know if I’m doing anything that no one else is doing, though I hope a fairly holistic picture of the press will emerge over the next several questions, and readers can judge for themselves. I’ll begin by just describing my manufacture and editing. Manufacture: I combine handset letterpress covers with digitally set interiors; I hand-collate, fold, cut and sew all the books. No new type is cast; no polymer plates are used; the C&P press is run by treadle. Whenever possible, I keep the design collaborative, and work with the author’s ideas and desires in mind, but I also let them know from the outset what my parameters are: at least 60% of the paper for each edition is salvaged and upcycled from offcuts produced by other presses or printers; the edition is generally designed around the available paper, and its colors and textures also largely governed by chance. One further constraint: I don’t allow myself to spend more than $100.00 total on the materials for any edition, which generally includes cover and text stocks, end-sheets, and thread. Editing: Most of what I’ve published I first heard aloud at the author’s reading; a handful of the chapbooks have been commissioned or solicited because I specifically wanted to celebrate and support the work of that author. I’ve published a broad variety of lyric postmodernisms—particularly ecopoetics and experimental varieties of spiritual and queer poetries—as well as lyric essays and statements of poetics. I’ve published more women than men, and as many queer writers as straight.

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new books out into the world?

A: This is an interesting question to me: what does “effective” mean? It’s a word that shifts meaning greatly from press to press because the goals of each press are so different. One of the aims of Albion Books is to stimulate the gift economy in the poetry community; one of its other aims is to design and make the most beautiful and interesting books possible given the ecological and economic constraints; another is to publish exciting and challenging work. Which is to say my idea of “effective” wouldn’t work for a press interested in making money and publishing a larger list, and vice versa. If I price books fairly low—$15—and make them as interesting to look at as to read, then I hope that will be enough to get them out into the world. The fact that I aim to barter or give away at least 40% of each print run does mean that the books make it out into the community. Without much effort, an edition sells out within a year; with effort, it will sell more quickly than that. Though initially I wanted distribution to run wholly through the “natural” channels of word of mouth and friendship networks, I’ve made certain concessions to the digital world: from time to time, I’ll send out email announcements, and I made a website last fall. And though I have seen more sales to strangers and institutions like libraries through the website, these methods haven’t changed the distribution patterns too much.

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?

A: I prefer a lighter touch, but that’s largely about expedience: I do everything myself, so to edit a manuscript demands more time and adds another task to the typesetting, proofing, finding materials, setting type, cutting paper, printing, etc., that I’m already doing. I also like the basic friendliness of accepting work without critical intervention. That said, certain authors have asked for editorial input, and other authors have turned in manuscripts that needed some reshaping. In each case, the dynamic has been different, but overall I’ve enjoyed the level of mutual respect and conversation, and I think the work has emerged from editing with the integrity of the author’s vision intact. To be honest, though, I prefer the kind of relationship where I enjoy and admire the work and make a book that holds it to advantage.

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?

A: Out of each edition—which currently is one hundred to one hundred and twenty—the author receives twenty copies. The author can choose how the chapbooks and broadsides enter the world: as gifts, as barters, as sales. I generally give away or barter another thirty or so copies. Another dozen enter libraries and collections. The rest enter the marketplace through subscriptions, sales at readings, or internet orders. Because I spend comparatively little money on making the books and renting press time, it takes very few sales to actually recoup costs, and any surplus goes right back into producing the next few books.

8 – How many other people are involved with editing or production? Do you work with other editors, and if so, how effective do you find it? What are the benefits, drawbacks?

A: Right now, I’m the sole editor and maker of the books and broadsides. And while I do miss a lot about the energy and camaraderie that resulted from the collective effort of making books and editorial decisions as a group, I don’t miss messy group dynamics, trying to schedule collective meetings, and botched email communication. Benefits: publishing becomes a series of one-on-one relationships with the authors; the logistics of scheduling and production are far less complicated; there’s a lot of improvisation involved in designing and printing the books, and I don’t have to stick to one plan. Drawbacks: there’s no possible delegation of tasks; I always wish I could do more than I’m capable doing; there is always something else to do. As I type out the drawbacks, I realize that, except for task delegation, these are largely the problems of any kind of publishing: it’s a fire that will always consume whatever you put in it.

9 – How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?

A: I don’t know if publishing itself has changed the way I think about my own writing, but learning to typeset in lead has given me more permission to conceive of the page as a plastic space, to read the poem both as language and as a piece of visual art or design. The weight of the job stick and the pace of setting type for broadsides have lead me to understand just how organic the metaphors of “Projective Verse” are, how privileged the writer’s body is in Olson’s prosody—what about the typesetter’s body? And though I’ve always felt a deep kinship with his ideas about the phenomenological and proprioceptive qualities of writing poetry, being both a poet and a typesetter makes me think about the poem in both realms: as metal type (as materials), and as breath (as music). Which I guess is to say that my relationship to language has changed, hybridized, to extend propioception into the page not purely as breath/prosody but also as design, a vision that activates the reader.

10 – How do you approach the idea of publishing your own writing? Some, such as Gary Geddes when he still ran Cormorant, refused such, yet various Coach House Press’ editors had titles during their tenures as editors for the press, including Victor Coleman and bpNichol. What do you think of the arguments for or against, or do you see the whole question as irrelevant?

A: I’m not terribly interested in publishing my own writing, but I don’t judge others for doing so. The best thing about publishing your own work is that you have no one else to blame concerning error! Early on I made an ephemeral chapbook/broadside edition of my own work—on the occasion of a reading—and I learned a great deal from the mistakes I made, especially because I wouldn’t have allowed an edition of someone else’s work the same number of design/production miscalculations. And though I was trained by old-school binders and printers and thus am fairly finical and self-critical, I like that the constraints of money and time actually impinge on my ability to be a total perfectionist. That said, I have abandoned an edition entirely and started over, but it’s very rare that I have the time or resources to do so. Generally I work with chance and let error lead me to adapt the design, or serve as inspiration for revision. The kind of publishing and bookmaking I do is a practice in accepting and treasuring a certain level of error as an inevitable by-product of handcrafting.

11 – How do you see Albion Books evolving?

A: I have a new job, so I’m in the process of moving from San Francisco to Philadelphia. The move and the new job themselves will lead to change. Also: I don’t own a C&P, and so will have to find a new print shop to work with. If I wish anything for the Albion Books, it’s that this move will bring a bit more stability and the ability for me to make a deliberate plan about how the press will move forward. Part of my philosophy has been to remain reactive and adaptable, rather than aggressive and inflexible, and I won’t be giving that up; however, I would like to plan on making six books per year and to get them done. That kind of plan might also entail being less dependent on chance for what I publish, and seeking out or commissioning texts more often, which would also enable the press to cultivate more relationships with Canadian writers and also with more writers of color. Those are my goals for the next publishing year, which begins with Dawn Lundy Martin’s fabulous chapbook Candy.

12 – What, as a publisher, are you most proud of accomplishing? What do you think people have overlooked about your publications? What is your biggest frustration?

A: It’s safe to say that Albion Books has been both a learning experience and a training ground, and if I’m not totally happy with many of my earliest efforts, I’m unequivocal about the books I’ve made in the past year or so. I’m also amazed to think that, at this point, I’ve made well over seven hundred books by hand. Many of the broadsides and print ephemera have been lovely to look at, and I’ve also designed some limited edition hardcover books that I like. So I suppose I’m proud of having eventually created a certain kind of design sense for the chapbooks: an emphasis on color and on binding, on elements of surprise and elegance—despite and because of the constraints. If they’ve seen the books, I’m not sure folks have overlooked anything—but because of the limited edition sizes, the books have a built-in limitation in terms of audience. That’s both what keeps me sane and able to run the press. My biggest frustration has all along been the constraints I’ve been given and chosen to work within: so little time and so little money.

13 – Who were your early publishing models when starting out?

A: Given my apprenticeship with Woodland Editions, it was inevitable that I take some basic operational and procedural cues from the workings of the press. But in terms of design and editing, I have two contemporary inspirations that couldn’t be more different. On the one hand, I’ve long admired the Scottish poet Thomas A. Clark’s Moschatel, which engages in a kind of low-impact gift economy self-publishing. Perhaps what I love most about the project—aside from Clark’s writing, and Laurie Clark’s drawings—is how the chapbooks and cards are so small and inconspicuous, and yet if you read the work, they open up conceptually into an engagement with the world, language always present as language and yet also always giving way to phenomena. Given that their bindings are largely minimal—a pamphlet stitch or a simple folded structure—their design carries a certain ethos that rhymes with the content of the work. On the other hand, I love Michael Cross’ Atticus/Finch publications, which are certainly more sumptuous in design and also, from a production perspective, more labor-intensive. Given the work he favors as an editor—highly structured and rigorous—this makes sense. I love that the work he publishes is demanding in a certain way of its readers, and that he responds to those demands as a printer and binder, too, creating designs whose structure is a kind of “gloss” or “reading of” the work inside. Somehow I’d like to combine these two modes of working with editing and bookmaking—which are in many ways inherently contradictory—and it’d be flattering if someone thought that I already had. But there other presses—both current and historical—who serve as beacons: Lyn Hejinian’s Tuumba, Jonathan Williams’ Jargon Society, C. D. Wright’s Lost Roads, the folks at Coracle, and Dale Going’s Em Press.

14 – How does Albion Books work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see Albion Books in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?

A: Albion Books always publishes writers from the San Francisco Bay Area, but it very deliberately attempts to draw Bay Area poetics into conversation with elsewhere. The Bay Area tends to reify its poetry scene and its historical mythos, so it seems to me important to counter that through dialogue with the poetics of other cities and regions outside of New York. Inter-generational conversation that isn’t just hero worship is also an incredibly important and under-discussed aspect of literary community, so I try to draw at least one established writer into a mix of younger writers. 2009-2010 saw chaps by Stacy Szymaszek (NY), Peter O’Leary (IL), Laura Walker (CA), Jane Miller (AZ), and Nathanäel (IL), and 2010-2011 saw chaps by Jonathan Skinner (ME), Lisa Fishman (WI), George Albon (CA) and C. D. Wright (RI). I find the range of both seasons interesting and textured—each of the chapbooks is a completely different reading experience, a fact that I like and admire when I encounter it in other lists.

I imagine the poetics of Albion Books is probably in conversation with that of the small presses whose work I like to read: Brenda Iijima’s portable press, E. Tracy Grinnell’s Litmus, Erin Morrill and Andrew Kenower’s Trafficker, Rachel Levitsky’s Belladonna, Julie Carr’s and Tim Robert’s Counterpath, Sandra and Ben Doller’s 1913, Sun Yung Shin’s and Rachel Moritz’s winteRed, Jay MillAr’s Book Thug, Anna Moschovakis’ and Matvei Yankelvich’s Ugly Duckling Presse, Devin Johnston’s and Michael O’Leary’s Flood Editions, Kazim Ali’s and Stephen Motika’s Nightboat, Renee Gladman’s Leon Works, Teresa Carmody’s and Vanessa Place’s Les Figues, Rusty Morrison’s and Ken Keegan’s Omnidawn, and Elizabeth Robinson’s and Colleen Lookingbill’s Etherdome. But probably that’s just the beginning of a very long list that doesn’t even include journals. To participate in the conversation instigated by reading is, however, one reason for publishing the work.

15 – Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?

A: Woodland Editions occasionally held press readings, but I haven’t yet found a way to coordinate one for Albion Books. This is likely because the authors I publish are spread all over the country, I have had no money, and also I would have to be able to make a hell of a lot of books all at once, something I haven’t always had the resources for. The interesting thing is that I don’t actually need to do readings like these to sell out an edition. However, I know how effective readings are for solidifying community ties, so I hope to do them in the future, when I’m settled in Philadelphia.

16 – How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?

A: At first I was Luddite on this point, but I got flexible. For over a year I’ve had a website for the press, and for a couple of years I’ve used email announcements to spread word about publication dates and subscription rates. Both of these methods have worked well to speed up the rate at which the editions go out of print. The one thing I would like to do that I haven’t yet been able to: keep the texts of the chapbooks alive by archiving them on the website, the way that Ugly Duckling Presse does.

17 – Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?

A: I haven’t needed to take submissions, but I wouldn’t say that I don’t take them—at least one of the chapbooks has come through an author just giving me a manuscript. Given how few books I do, the press easily fills up without an open call.

18 – Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.

A: Jonathan Skinner, Warblers (2010): I heard Jonathan read from this series of poems at Green Arcade in San Francisco, and I immediately loved them. They’re constraint-based poems, but their constraints are drawn not from Oulipo-like games, but rather from species-specific qualities of warblers: habitat, migration patterns, song, etc. We’re very used to the idea that art imitates life, but I like the intelligent humor and humility of Jonathan’s particular brand of literality, which everywhere show up in the poems as homophonic transcriptions of birdsong—I asked Jonathan to include the constraints as an endnote to the chapbook, and he agreed. This has been an unusual chapbook because a lot of readers have taken the time to let me know how much they enjoyed it as text and as object, which is particularly gratifying because this was the book whose first design completely fell apart. Once I regrouped, the second design turned into a lot of fun because I took my cues from Jonathan’s poems—I based the colors and cover design on the colors and habits of the prothonotary warbler.

C. D. Wright, Jean Valentine, Abridged: “writing a word/changing it” (2011): C. D. read this talk about Jean Valentine’s work in Denver a few years ago. First of all: it was quite moving to hear such a deeply loving tribute from one woman writer to another. Second: C. D.’s read of Jean’s poems is deeply perceptive. Because both writers have been so important to me, I immediately wanted to publish the talk as a chapbook, and to make a broadside of one of Jean’s poems to go with it—it took a few years for this to come about. I enjoyed the design of this book, too: I took C. D.’s description of Jean’s visual palette—“Valentine’s palette is mostly gray. Next is blue (borage, cobalt, silk, robe, egg-blue). Then white. Some inherent greens. But she draws most often from the gray scale.”—and used that as the basis for seeking out paper and choosing the color of the inks. Because each element of the book is a different color—the covers are cobalt, the endpapers a kind of borage, and the text is gray—I was worried until the very end it wouldn’t cohere. But in the end, the inks and binding thread tied it together.

George Albon, Ryman Room (2011): George is one of San Francisco’s best-kept poetry secrets. His prolific body of work is consistently intelligent, prosodically rigorous and deeply rooted in the best qualities of Bay Area poetry: restless, inventive, political, and committed both to beauty (eros) and to skeptical inquiry (logos). The manuscript came to me directly from George, who’d been watching as the press developed, and it also came with some pretty concrete ideas about how the book would look: white, blind-stamped, square. Of course I loved the manuscript, a series of prose poems alternating with lyrics printed in grayscale—in part a meditation on the phenomenology of abstraction, in part a journey around the “room” created by Ryman’s paintings. But I also liked the challenge of making a book that in some ways George had already envisioned—one very much in keeping with Ryman’s own aesthetics. White books can be really terrifying to make because of the likelihood of staining them, but I ended up finding a really durable and fairly matte white cover stock, which quelled a lot of anxiety about their durability both in my hands and in the hands of others.