Wednesday, June 07, 2023

the above/ground press 30th anniversary fundraiser!

Across the thirty years-to-date of my poetry chapbook publisher above/ground press (b. July 9, 1993) I’ve worked hard to engage with numerous threads of literary activity, from multiple elements of poetic form (prose poems, long poems, visual poems, lyric forms, etcetera) to different geographies and communities, and a whole slew of individual writers across North American and beyond in their ongoing works. Centred in the Ottawa literary community, above/ground press publishes single-author poetry chapbooks as well as a handful of ongoing journals (Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal], GUEST [a journal of guest editors] and The Peter F. Yacht Club), and has published chapbook debuts alongside works by award-winning authors and produced works in translation and collaborative efforts, running the gamut between wildly experimental works and more traditional forms. Last year, above/ground press started producing a series of festschrifts, celebrating the works of individual poets from across North America, attempting to find a spark of positive throughout the weight of the Covid-era.

The very nature of chapbook publishing is both ephemeral and immediate, and able to take a particular kind of risk that almost refuses anything commercial. Unfortunately, of course, publishing is an expensive enterprise, and subscriptions alone provide far less than half of publishing costs. I’ve long resisted increasing my subscription rates, precisely due to not wishing to outprice anyone who wishes to engage with the work.

While the pandemic years managed with roughly the same amount of annual above/ground press subscribers overall, the press saw severely reduced individual sales, as well as wiping out in-person readings and small press fair possibilities (from the ottawa small press book fair to Toronto’s Meet the Presses), so there hasn’t been the same ability to replenish the financial coffers to feed back into production. My personal Public Lending Rights and Access Copyright monies have also fed directly into the press, but it still hasn’t been enough to not worry about how one might keep the lights on. Given the enormous backlist the press holds, much of which is still in print (although half of the titles I’m listing include some of the final copies), I thought this might be an opportunity to offer a series of curated packages of titles, many of which highlight a variety of threads the press has deliberately attended.

Fully aware that chapbook publishing, especially poetry chapbook publishing, is inherently a not-for-profit enterprise, I’d like to keep moving forward, otherwise I might have to seriously reassess how best to keep publishing, if at all.

A whole slew of available chapbook bundles of experimental writing have been posted or shall be soon, including Ottawa Poets, Brooklyn Poets, Bay Area Poets, Canadian Surrealists, Canadian Minimalists, Canadian Long Poems,  language poets, collaborative projects, visual poetries, translation bundles, Toronto Poets, Vancouver Poets, prose poems, Montreal Poets, chapbook debuts, Philadelphia Poets, Kingston Poets, prose chapbooks and Chicago Poets, as well as various bundles featuring the works of Jessica Smith, Jason Christie, Derek Beaulieu, Phil Hall, Ken Norris, Julia Drescher, Sarah Mangold, Stephanie Bolster, Amanda Earl, Hugh Thomas, Amish Trivedi, rob mclennan, etcetera. There will probably be others.

The goals for this fundraiser are to keep going. Check out the campaign at the link here.

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