Inner Journeys

A (Baker’s) Dozen – Small Press Poetry Publishers to Look Out For by Steve Dickison, Sales Director, Small Press Distribution, Inc.

BURNING DECK, Providence, RI. Award-winning poet/translators Rosmarie & Keith Waldrop have dedicated over 30 years to publishing dozens of books, from the newest experimental American poets, to some of the most interesting contemporary French and German poetry in translation. Recommended: Cole Swensen’s airy NUMEN. Lisa Jarnot’s ANOTHER KIND OF MISSION.

CHAX PRESS. Minneapolis, MN. Beautifully made books growing out of the tradition of the handmade letterpress edition, from poet/bookmaker Charles Alexander. Recommended: Korean-American Myung Mi Kim’s THE BOUNTY, and Tom Mandel’s poem sequence following the death of his father, PROSPECT OF RELEASE.

CITY LIGHTS, San Francisco, CA. It’s not just for Beats anymore! Recommended from the more diversified grand-daddy of small poetry presses: Nathaniel Mackey’s SCHOOL OF UDHRA (African myth, jazz rhythms); Ammiel Alcalay’s KEYS TO THE GARDEN, the first anthology of Israeli mizrahim (Eastern) poets; and Arab poet Shams Nadir’s ASTROLABE OF THE SEA.

HANGING LOOSE, Brooklyn, NY. Groundbreaking young Native American writer Sherman Alexie’s first (some say best) book, THE BUSINESS OF FANCYDANCING, was published by this small press poetry institution. Also recommended: Jack Agueros’ new SONNETS FROM THE PUERTO RICAN, Hawaiian New Yorker Kimiko Hahn’s EARSHOT, and BULLSEYE, the latest anthology of “outstanding high school writers.”

HARD PRESS, West Stockbridge, MA. From the publishers of the beautiful literary magazine LINGO, strong, edgy poetry from Jim Brodey’s musically moving HEART OF THE BREATH to Bernadette Mayer’s wonderful big book of prose poems (with its great Gertrude Steinian title) THE DESIRES OF MOTHERS TO PLEASE OTHERS IN LETTERS.

INSTITUTE OF AMERICAN INDIAN ARTS, Santa Fe, NM. Young, talented, inventive new Native American writers on the rise. The IAIA publishes regular anthologies of new writing (poetry, stories, some plays), including: the brand-new VOICES AT DAWN, GATHERING OUR OWN (a drama collection), and HOME IS IN THE BLOOD.

KAYA PRODUCTIONS, New York City, NY. PREMONITIONS: THE KAYA ANTHOLOGY OF NEW ASIAN NORTH AMERICAN POETRY, edited by Walter K. Lew, is one of the most impressive debut books from a new publisher in years. Physically an extremely beautiful book, PREMONITIONS opens up onto a landscape of bold, various new Asian American poetries (plural) for the 21st century.

KELSEY ST. PRESS, Berkeley, CA. Right now likely the foremost publisher of experimental poetry by women, and specializing in painter-poet collaborations to make some of the most handsome poetry books available. Recommended: ARCADE by Erica Hunt (poems) & Alison Saar (woodcuts) is rooted firmly in the myths, language, and textures of urban African America.

LOST ROADS, Providence, RI. Highlights from this long-running poetry press (co-edited by poets C.D. Wright and Forrest Gander) include: Kamau Brathwaite’s gritty Jamaican TRENCH TOWN ROCK; Fanny Howe’s mystically-oriented THE VINEYARD; and Arthur Sze’s clear and compassionate RIVER RIVER.

O BOOKS, Oakland, CA. Prolific poet Leslie Scalopino has also, as a publisher, brought out over 40 collections of new poetry. Among the earliest and most wonderful: Robert Grenier’s brilliant PHANTOM ANTHEMS; among the latest, Alice Notley’s newest book, CLOSE TO ME & CLOSER…(THE LANGUAGE OF HEAVEN).

POST-APOLLO, Sausalito, CA. Arab American publisher Simone Fattal has specialized in bringing out the collected works of Lebanese poet/novelist Etel Adnan. Other books include Barbara Guest’s QUILL, SOLITARY APPARITION, with its painterly floating atmospheres, and an excellent French biography of Rumi, Eva de Vitray-Meyerovich’s RUMI & SUFISM.

SUN & MOON, Los Angeles, CA. Poet/playwright Douglas Messerli’s press has become one of the most prolific and significant American publishers of high quality literary books. Recommended: Pam Rehm’s TO GIVE IT UP (poems where “a calm descends in which the spirit thrives”); Lyn Hejinian’s bestselling autobiographical prose poems, MY LIFE; Benjamin Hollander’s mysterious, haunted THE BOOK OF WHO ARE WAS.

TALISMAN HOUSE, Jersey City, NJ. Poet/critic Ed Foster’s press has specialized in impressive selections from important, though under-recognized poets. Included: collections from Alice Notley, Leslie Scalopino (both mentioned above), Boston legend Stephen Jonas, light-as-air British-American Simon Pettet, expatriate American Gustaf Sobin’s BY THE BIAS OF SOUND, and Gerrit Lansing’s lifelong work, HEAVENLY TREE/SOLUBLE FOREST.

All publishers and books listed are available from Small Press Distribution, Inc., 1814 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA, 94702, a non-profit distributor of literary small presses, and the most comprehensive source for new poetry. Call toll-free 800-869-7553. In the Bay Area dial 510-549-3336; fax 510-549-2201. Free catalogs available on request.

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