Saturday, September 23, 2017

12 or 20 (small press) questions with James Yeary on c_L books

c_L books began in 2010 with the publication of Phoebe Wayne's Lovejoy. In 2011 he started the c_L newsletter, which ran for nearly two dozen issues. c_L books collaborated with FLASH+CARD to issue Gertrude Stein & Sandra Gibbons' OBJECTS from Tender Buttons, the originals of which are now held by the Beinecke Library at Yale. Forthcoming is A Nomad's Guide to Listening by Budhaditya Chattopadhyay, a co-release with the label Touch (UK).

Apart from his publishing work with c_L books, James Yeary has been involved as editor of the presses spitch and editions plane. With Nate Orton (abandoned bike press, he has authored 15 or so books in the my day series, which are place-based diurnal meditations taking influence from expressionism, psychogeography, the new sentence, science writing, and whatever else. He is a member of the collective-run Spare Room reading series. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he works as a bookseller, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.

1 – When did c_L 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? Started in 2009, by asking an author if she would let me publish a book, and publishing that first c_L book in 2010. That was "Lovejoy" by Phoebe Wayne. My goal at that time was to publish "handmade chapbooks." What does that mean? Quality books without spines I guess, though I've made at least one vertebrate... I think my goals have shifted since then, and shifted back to making handmade books. I want/ed to help bring poetry that I like/d into print. Once I had made Phoebe's book, other people started asking me if I wanted to make books, and now I have made a small amount of books. Under that name, that is.... there have been many other publishing projects and collaborations outside of c_L... 

2 – What first brought you to publishing? I was getting to know a community of experimental poets, my first experience with people taking poetry semi-seriously and it seemed obvious that publishing was a component of that. But publishing was in my blood too... my dad was a "desktop publisher" in the '90s and works for a publisher today. My earliest memories are making handmade books, seriously! Zines throughout college. It was going to happen.

3 – What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing? Not sure I do. I think the sensibilities should be anarchic, to say the least. It should be a safe place, a place to test ideas, even bad ones. And it is! 

4 – What do you see your press doing that no one else is? Primarily, literally, publishing the authors that no one else has published, or perhaps publishing the works that hadn't been published yet, or, further, in Morgan Ritter's case, (Who is in Charge, 2013) publishing work she had self-published on a tiny scale that I thought could have more of a circulation... I'm sure there are a lot of presses that are operated by single agents, such as myself, so I know I'm not unique there. But I open myself up to a lot of whimsy (in all things) but especially in design.

5 – What do you see as the most effective way to get new books out into the world? Well, the internet helps, though I'm not much for managing a web page. Someone tried to do that for me for a little while... but I've sold most of my books via email. Email is good. The rest of the internet can go and take a flying fish.

6 – How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch? Case by case. When I published Morgan Ritter's book she suggested I actually have fun editing the poems, and that was a unique project. But in general I wouldn't want to edit anyone's poetry, anyone's poetry I intended to publish, that is. Obvious mistakes are another matter. But as a publisher, designer, printer, I like to make mistakes.

7 – How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs? Email. 126.

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? It's just me, in varying degrees of collaboration with the author. Sometimes the author will have it all designed, as with Lisa Radon's book, Book of Knots (2013) and David Abel's Carrier (2012). Lisa even arranged the binding of the book... all I really did was supply some funds, some paper, and a dry emboss of the title and my press on the wrappers. But it was still lovely to be involved with that. David's on the other hand, while he designed everything, we printed every page together, on his hp!

9 – How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing? I don't know if it has - but - when I do publish my own work, I feel I really start to get a sense of it when I start seeing it in multiples, but, that's true for my authors too - I really start to get the work when it's in production. That's because I'm not a very keen editor.

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?
I did a little c_L book of mine, but it was a very small edition of 26 copies. I've self-published a lot of things and hesitated to put c_L on it. I actually have put out an occasional series of chapbooks since 2009 under the press name "spitch" but I haven't put my name on the poems... just my initials. None of this is based on my ethics, only my inclinations.

11 – How do you see c_L books evolving? Well, I'm applying for a grant to do this collaboration with a very well-established label out of London. But, I don't really think c_L is evolving. I'm able to put less and less time into it, because I've got young kids and am going back to school. I'm like the Ramones, and even though I really like avant garde stuff and aspire to be La Monte Young or whatever, as a publisher, I'm the Ramones. Or whatever the confluence of La Monte Young and The Ramones is. I say the Ramones because they were against evolving. Everything I've designed has been in open source software I only kind of know how to use (I'm learning things here and there still). I wouldn't have it any other way! Octopus and Wave make beautifully designed, edgy books, I know Drew Scott Swenhaugen, designer for Gramma and Octopus, and I think he's a genius, mad skills. And I'd love to do something for a press like that. But I would still want to do this in my spare time. When I can't sleep. With no budget. D.A. Levy should probably be invoked here.

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 book by Sam Lohmann (Lines on Canvas or What I Know or Have Seen of His Life, 2011). Why aren't there more of those? I love that book as a physical object, down to the clumsy design - I didn't know how to translate fonts to the PDF that got sent to the printers, so the opening section was published with the wrong font! And there was all kinds of mess with the letterpressed cover. That's the kind of stuff I like. But Sandra Gibbons' "Tender Buttons: Objects" A box of greeting cards with full-color illustrations of 18 poems from Tender Buttons- that was really well-executed. Co-published with Maryrose Larkin's press. I should have kept more of those. And Morgan's book. I do still have some of those, and I love them so much. That's the segue to overlooked. People overlooked how weird that book is- or maybe they saw how weird it was- and walked away!

13– Who were your early publishing models when starting out? At the very beginning, with chapbooks, I was just kind of looking at everything generally and nothing specifically. And I was learning things as I went along, though I did watch what some of my friends were doing. But I was interning at a bookstore, and got to catalogue a collection of mimeographed magazines. I was changed forever... This should reveal something, again, about my design sensibility. Looking at those (Bezoar, A Hundred Posters, Adventures in Poetry, etc.), they led me to do a newsletter, and for a few years that was my life-giving breath.

14– How does c_L books work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see c_L books in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations? I don't do a very good job at this. I used to socialize with other publishers more and go to more readings, but I'm not doing that much now because of the family. I do what I can but I'm not engaging the community much right now. I have engaged more in other capacities, specifically with Nate Orton's my day, which has more people in my community's attention than c_L does. I hope to start being more engaging, least of all because of the political situation. I think it calls for engagement.

15– Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events? Outside of my capacity as a publisher, I mean I have been organizing readings for years with a group called Spare Room, our lineup has changed over the years, but we're a group that have been putting on readings for more than ten years. That has often allowed for my authors to read at Spare Room events... but I don't know if any of those were book releases. I tried to get Nico Vassilakis to come out last year and read from Alphabet Noir (2016), but he couldn't because of school. I think I will get Kyle out to read from Let's Drift... soon...

16– How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals? I send emails to people who buy books.

17– Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for? I'm agnostic on submissions. But I think most of my books were 'submitted,' without being requested, yes, easily. I've never asked for submissions, and I haven't solicited much either, and yet!

18– Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special. OK. Well I just published Let's Drift, by Kyle Schlesinger. It's a meditation on the west. The idea of the west, the wild west. But more of a jumping off point than a goal in the author's mind. It isn't big-C or little-c conceptual at all. Kyle's a poet in the tradition of Creeley, Whalen, and Dorn. But also Robert Hunter, and his prose is overwhelmingly good. I don't think it's been published much and it's very cool to see here! Also, there is a squashed bug. It's Kyle's whimsy lighting upon mine. In won't elaborate. Buy the book.

Last year I published alphabet noir, by Nico Vassilakis, and that book is just beautiful. It's longer than anything else I've published and as a result, I spent more time on it. It was on the backburner for years (sorry, Nico). But I think it's just aesthetically a real stunner. It may be my least "naive" work as a publisher. I scrutinized it and for some reason it's still good. The binding is beautiful and ugly at the same time (that's the naivete), but its dust jacket (in the European style) is pretty sweet. Nico, who's known as a visual poet, also writes a terrific prose, and there is a lot of that in this book.

I think the next most recent title is a few years old, but that's Salt Lover by Chris Ashby, and that's a very unique and weird publication. I showed it to someone recently and they pointed out that it would be a great letterpress project, instead of a laser-printed project, but nonetheless... I came across an archive of stuff from a bay area press who did some of the most interesting and unique underground publishing in the '60s and '70s, one of the greatest little presses ever, and there were all these envelopes with a printed image of a sculptural work by [name withheld] on it... the book was by [same], but this is just an envelope. I thought, why should these go to waste? So I took a poem of Chris,' laser printed it on some pretty sheets, stuffed it in the envelope, and then I printed the name of the poem, Chris', and c_L books on the envelope. I tried to contact the artist to get his blessing to no avail.

12 or 20 (small press) questions;

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