Tuesday, April 21, 2015

12 or 20 (small press) questions with Jared Schickling on Delete Press

Delete Press publishes work by established and emerging poets.  We ask ourselves the question: what does it feel like to be set on fire with an odorless accelerant?  We respond by building chapbooks that are letterpress printed and handbound.  Anti-gravity ephemera is also floated.

Jared Schickling edits Delete Press and eccolinguistics, and has served on the editorial board of Reconfigurations: A Journal for Poetry & Poetics / Literature & Culture, among others.  He is also the author of several books, recently Two Books on the Gas: Above the Shale and Achieved by Kissing (Blazevox, 2014), ATBOALGFPOPASASBIFL (2013) and The Pink (2012), The Paranoid Reader: Essays, 2006-2012 (Furniture Press, 2014) and Prospectus for a Stage (LRL Textile Series, 2013).  He lives and works in Western New York. 

1 – When did Delete Press 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?
Crane Giamo, Brad Vogler and I started Delete Press in 2009 when we were all living in Fort Collins, Colorado.  We’ve done ten paper chapbooks since then, and the only thing that’s really changed for us is the medium.  Crane is the press’s bookmaker (I edit, Brad is webmaster) and as his skills have crystallized the intricacies of the objects have changed.  As this has increased the cost and amount of time between each book, Brad and I decided to launch an e-book series.  We’ve published four titles so far.  We also have our own projects, aspects of Delete—Crane is the proprietor of the letterpress Pocalypstic Editions, Brad publishes Opon, an online journal of long poems and process statements, and I do eccolinguistics in the mimeograph tradition.  One thing I’ve learned is the importance of distancing yourself from the presswork—it’s the only way a writer will trust you and the only way to properly present another’s work.  Another is what it means to arrive at that point where all involved will trust that someone else’s idea is a good one, what it means to build something with people you admire. 

And also this: produce, produce, produce, be irreverent, and keep promises no matter how embarrassingly long it may take.

2 – What first brought you to publishing?
As far as Delete is concerned, a desire to be of service publishing great work and the belief that this could be done with Brad and Crane.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?
To change the face of literature. 

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is?
I think we’re unique.  After all, we’re not doing what other wonderful operations are. 

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new books out into the world?
To be honest, my primary concern in this regard is to make sure we’ve made something that when read brings pleasure.  The rest seems to take care of itself. 

But certainly digital transmissions and friendships are the most effective way to get the word out.  That’s difficult too, though, as it requires a fair degree of diligence keeping up with what’s what.  Basically, I participate in various forms of reading and listening and that natural curiosity makes the connections I cannot.     

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?
I stay utterly faithful to the work.  In the case of small press poetry, submitted materials tend to arrive in rigidly precise form.  The editing in that regard has much to do with finding the correct shape and feel of the book object or page, or screen, the space around the content.  I certainly have made my fair amount of text edits, though.  But even there, it has tended to be in response to some imposition of format. 

I am presently editing a book in which the next-to-last line of the manuscript needed to go.  I deleted it and explained politely to the author why it was necessary.  I was right, and the author was agreeable.  It’s not always so easy.

That’s another thing I’ve learned—more often than not (no one is perfect), trust your editor. 

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?
Editions of Delete Press paper chaps have ranged from 40 to 120 copies.  The e-books have gotten a few hundred downloads each.  300 copies of the eccolinguistics mailer go out periodically, for free.
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?
I think I mentioned my wonderful experience working with Brad and Crane, so I won’t say too much.  Really I would just like to see them more.  We live in different parts of the country now. 

9– How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?
Utterly.  I primarily edit my work.   

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?
Well, I’m not against it in principle, but one who goes that route needs to be very careful.  The offending person’s stature in the poetry market must be such that the ego can be overlooked.  In the case of coterie, I think a shared critical apparatus has to be there or else the cliquishness doesn’t make much sense.  

I suspect that self-publishing through one’s own operation didn’t always carry such a stigma, when the technology and means of distribution were more prohibitive of an over-saturated field of publishing writers and when the aesthetics we’ve inherited were just beginning to take shape.  Perhaps it is that the vast good and cheap publishing opportunities for poets today means the expectations for model behavior have changed.   

11– How do you see Delete Press evolving?
I don’t know.  To be honest, Crane’s bookmaking abilities have reached a point where we are reassessing what the chapbook line should be.  I suspect that we will also be doing full-lengths in the near future.  Brad is pondering a new website.  Delete Press has changed and will change again, I know that. 

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’m proud that we’ve sold out of most everything.  That might sound superficial, but it’s not.  The generous response from readers has helped confirm my faith that, contrary to a popular belief, people actually do read poetry.   

But you have to be realistic about it.  I wouldn’t say we’ve been overlooked—we’ve been too busy making and publishing to notice in any case.  You have to be tactical in your methods and output depending on the work you are publishing.  And you have to be willing to accept anonymity. 

For me the frustration is with trickle-down poetics.  I’m not looking for laurels but I wish the embalmed would get out of the way.  I just read a rather smug response by Ron Silliman to the identity politics happening in poetry lately.  The gist of his blog screed is that humankind is headed for a cliff of epic proportions, so there’s no sense getting riled up.  Plus, he says, if the targets are institutional then they’re misguided.  Hell, even the police are our friends—verbatim!  We’re just too far gone for any of that to matter, says Ron Silliman.  The problem is that unless he’s rapture-bound, which he very well may be, who can say, then Silliman is as stuck here in the only place we got as anyone. 

The life of poetry and of literature is always small press.  Always.  Chris Fritton printed these wonderful broadsheets for the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair that are tacked to my office walls: “Small Press / Everything for Everyone Nothing for Ourselves.”  The words are Mike Basinski’s, or so I hear.  An original Basinski gifted me is tacked next to one of the broadsheets.  I kind of live according to that advice. 

13– Who were your early publishing models when starting out?
Frankly, I didn’t have any.  I read voraciously and saw all manner of things.  But later on, dirty mimeo, Fuck You, The Marrahwanna Quarterly, the Aldine Press, Grove, stuff like that. 

I did learn a great deal from Stephanie G’Schwind at the Center for Literary Publishing at CSU, where I interned, and from David Bowen of New American Press, whose Mayday Magazine I helped launch (issues 1 and 2).  I learned a great deal about what not to do as an editor and publisher at Alice James Books.  That shouldn’t be taken the wrong way, as AJB is very good to their authors and their own venerable history doesn’t need me.      

14– How does Delete Press work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see Delete Press in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?
Well, at one point I think Compline, LittleRed Leaves, Punch Press, and Delete considered getting a small corner of AWP.  That was maybe five years ago, I don’t remember.  I still dig what those three are doing. 

But honestly we at Delete are omnivores.  I know I am.  Ugly Duckling Presse is stellar, of course, and I am particularly fond of their translation series.  michael mann’s unarmed is a powerful little journal.  One of my most cherished possessions is a tiny, nondescript, side-stapled bit of ephemera from Luc Fierens and François Liénard, PAPER WASTE SHOOTING!  Boaat Press’s Some Simple Things Said By and About Humans by Brenda Iijima is a book whose physicality furthers what’s there in the poem.  Projective Industries, Further Other Book Works, Cuneiform Press—there are some master bookmakers out there, all specializing in poetry.    

15– Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?
We don’t organize launch readings or sell wares at book fairs as we don’t have any stock to speak of.  All the books are gone.  I’ve organized readings, but not for Delete.  Readings are very important.

16– How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?
We advertise on the Internet and otherwise read it.  Reading is essential to a publisher, for all the obvious reasons and more.

17– Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?
Generally speaking, yes.  We are fluid and keep ourselves open to what comes in.  We like adventurous work and we know we want it when we see it.  We are in every way an experimental bunch.  We also solicit most projects that we end up taking on.  

18– Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.
PORCHES by Andrew Rippeon
Dancing in the Blue Sky: Stories by Geoffrey Gatza
ROPES by W. Scott Howard and Ginger Knowlton

All of these literary works advance an internal poetics while stimulating the senses.  Each of them invokes their respective traditions while managing to transcend lineage and enter into dialog with a contemporary moment.

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