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Words, Words, Words: Our Poetry Publishers on Their Favorite Poetic Lines

In case you haven’t heard, April is National Poetry Month, and today, instead of highlighting the poets behind your favorite works, we’re turning to the ones who make it all possible: the publishers.

With an inundation of social media, chapbooks, and more, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of poetry that exists. That’s when we look to the publishers – the few, the brave, the mighty, who wade through lines upon lines to raise up the best and the brightest of voices. O! Those careful curators, who show us new poetry that crackles with potential and remind us of the old favorites we hold close in times of need. We are eternally grateful to the endless hours they spend examining word after word to feed our literary souls.

We reached out to a few of those helming modern poetry publishing to find outwhat moves them? What are their favorite lines of poetry?

boa logoPeter Conners, Publisher at BOA Editions:

“I loved you before I was born.”

Li-Young Lee, The Word from His Song (BOA Editions, 2016)

BOA Editions is located in Rochester, New York. Their latest book of poetry is The Black Maria by Aracelis Girmay.

 

Chris Fischbach, Publisher at Coffee House Press:

“In the Johannesburg minescoffeehouselogo
There are 240,000 natives working.

What kind of poem
Would you make out of that?

240,000 natives working
In the Johannesburg mines.”

Langston Hughes, from the poem “Johannesburg Mines” (1928)

Coffee House Press is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their latest book of poetry is They and We Will Get Into Trouble For This by Anna Moschovakis.

 

copper canyon

Kelly Forsythe, Director of Publicity at Copper Canyon Press:

“Don’t listen to the words—

they’re only little shapes for what you’re saying,

they’re only cups if you’re thirsty, you aren’t thirsty.”

— Jean Valentine, from the poem “as with rosy steps the morn,” from Break the Glass (Copper Canyon, 2010)

Copper Canyon Press is located in Port Townsend, Washington. Their latest book of poetry is Alamo Theory by Josh Bell.

 

Rebecca Wolff, Publisher and Founder of Fence Books:fence

“Cosmic potential–and–actualization!”

Rodrigo Toscano, Explosion Rocks Springfield (Fence Books, May 2016)

Fence Books is located in Albany, New York. Their latest book of poetry is Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror 2 by Paul Legault.

 

manicdJennifer Joseph, Publisher and Founder of Manic D Press:

“It’s not how far you fall, but how you land.
Are you here for the sowing, reaping, or the dead?”

Justin Chin, from Gutted (Manic D Press, 2006)

Manic D Press is located in San Francisco, California. Their latest book of poetry is The Roots of a Thousand Embraces by Juan Felipe Hererra.

 

Brittany Dennison, Managing Editor at Wavewave Books (Seattle, Washington):

“Hell, I love everybody.”

James Tate, from Riven Doggeries (Ecco Press, 1979)

Wave Books is located in Seattle, Washington. Their latest book of poetry is Olio by Tyehimba Jess.

 

There you have it, folks. The most beloved lines of poetry from the people who’ve seen it all. Thank you, publishers, for all of your time, taste, and dedication!

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Celebrate National Poetry Month with 10 New Must-Read Collections

Only a decade ago, if someone asked you what you thought of poetry, you may have thought of dust-covered textbooks, of droning professors, and of lines that you read over and over and still were unable to fathom. Sure, there were the outliers—Plath, Neruda, Angelou. But for the most part, poetry got trapped in the Ivory Tower of Academia; where you needed at least one literature degree to be trusted (or even want) to really engage with the art.

But with the onset of the digital and information age, poetry is not only surviving, it’s thriving. Now poetry is diving headfirst into this new flood of possibilities provided by the digital revolution and the information age, and it’s flourishing. In the past few decades, poetry has evolved and diversified to the point that an art form once dominated by “old dead white guys” is now being reclaimed by poets of all identities, from all backgrounds and experiences.

In honor of National Poetry Month, and in honor of a new age of poetry by and for the people, we present to you a round-up of contemporary poets from leading independent publishers to both soothe and trouble the soul. Because, after all, as the late and great C.D. Wright once said, “Poetry is not like, it is the very lining of the inner life.”

night sky with exit1. Night Sky With Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press) is is Ocean Vuong’s first full-length collection. Vuong’s poems use his characteristic gentle (yet incredibly dynamic) cadence to explore the things that make us human—subjects of romance, family, memory, grief, and war. Night Sky with Exit Wounds is the kind of book that soon becomes worn with love. You will want to crease every page to come back to it, to underline every other line because each word resonates with power. Ocean Vuong is hot right now, picking up steam with a Whiting Award win, a roundup in Teen Vogue, and a recent excerpt in the T: the New York Times Style Magazine. Night Sky with Exit Wounds publishes April 5.

2. Olio (Wave Books), by Tolioyehimba Jess, is an exploration of black musicians and performers from the pre-Civil War Era to World War I. If you’ve been wanting to get into poetry but haven’t been willing to give up the power, characters, and length of a novel, Olio is the book for you. Clocking in at a whopping 256 pages, Olio sings with the same musicality it describes, from jazz and blues to work songs and church hymns, as it dissects the legacy of minstrelsy and blackface through the personas of almost a dozen artists. Olio will be published on April 5.

3. Scattering The Dark: An Anthology Oscattering the darkf Polish Women Poets (White Pine Press), edited by Karen Kovacik, is a collection of over thirty women poets writing before and after the fall of Communism in Poland. If you’re the poetry aficionado that’s read it all, Scattering the Dark is for you. The poets muse on universal topics—dreams, art, what “home” means—while revealing what it means to be both a woman and a writer in a time when both identities were practically forbidden. It’s a lyrical window into a previously unseen world. Scattering the Dark will be published on April 12.

4. The Spoons In The Grass Are There To Dig A Mspoonsoat (Sarabande Books) by Amelia Martens is a book of prose poetry that packs a mighty punch for such a slim volume (64 pages, folks). Her writing is unassuming and unpretentious as, again and again, she reaches into the mundane and pulls out the extraordinary. The Spoons in the Grass are There to Dig a Moat will be published on April 12.

the black maria5. The Black Maria (BOA Editions Ltd.) by Aracelis Girmay is a lyric of history, of heritage and violence, and of building new futures. Girmay writes unflinchingly of America’s long traditions of racism against African Americans, her poetry infused with both a slow-burning anger and the ache of longing. The crowning achievement of this book is a jaw-dropping long-form poem which weaves together stories from the youth of astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Girmay’s dreams of her own future child. In its first-ever poetry issue, O Magazine included The Black Maria in a sampling of “recently published gems of the genre.” The Black Maria will be published on April 12.

6playdead. Play Dead (Alice James Books) by francine j. harris is not for people who like to enter poetry and come out unchanged. harris’s writing is raw, gritty, and unflinching. Her words will reach into your very core as she spins together difficult and necessary lyrics with shreds of hope. Play Dead has been praised by everyone from Ross Gay, who “read these poems not knowing they were possible” to Publishers Weekly, who gave it a starred review. Play Dead will be published on April 12.

7. The Big Book Of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books) is a nbig bookew collection of poems by Jamaal May. If you know what it’s like to miss a step going down the stairs and suddenly find yourself breathless, you know what it’s like to read a book by May. You can feel May’s yearning tugging at you from the page. His poems are often narrative, but that doesn’t mean they’re lacking in subtlety and intricacy. May is a master of images, drawing new meanings with each turn of phrase. They’re the kind of poems you whisper to yourself over and over again. The Big Book of Exit Strategies will be published on April 12.

8. Out Of Print (City Liout of printghts Publishers) is the third book of poet and publisher Julien PoirierIf you’ve ever had trouble getting into poetry because it’s too stuffy and scholarly, Out of Print is the perfect solution. It’s raucous, it’s uncensored, and it puts on no airs as it tap-dances over the notion of “high-brow literature.” Out of Print draws equally from absurdism and pop-culture. Poirier’s poems will make you laugh until your stomach aches, only to suddenly pause and think, huh. Out of Print will be published on April 19.

9. New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Tatu) (Akashic Books) containew generationns eight volumes of poetry from eight different poets from across the African continent, plus an introduction by editors Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani. The chapbooks work together like instruments in an orchestra, their unique tones and timbres coming together to present a work that is magnificent, both as a whole and in each part.  It is a love song, a lament, a history, a future, and a tribute to what Abani describes as Africa’s “unending lineage of light.” New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Tatu) will be published on April 19.

shallcross10. ShallCross (Copper Canyon Press) is Wright’s seventeenth volume of poetry and the first published after her passing on January 12, 2016. It’s safe to say that ShallCross is one of the most anticipated books of this year. Wright draws from journalistic techniques and filmic narratives to range across seven poetic sequences, including a collaborative suite responding to photographic documentation of murder sites in New Orleans. ShallCross will be published on April 26.

 

Technically, this title was published on March 15, but we love it so much that we couldn’t resist throwing it into the mix…

11. They And We Will Get Into Trouble For This (Coffee House Press) by Anna Moschovtheyandweakis, is a series of three long-form poems tied together by a fourth poem, which runs along the bottom of each page in the form of bracketed words and phrases strung together like a row of lanterns guiding you. Moschovakis writes with an honesty and simplicity that is at once concise and lyrical. She muses on heredity, mental health, and philosophy in a stream-of-consciousness that is impossible to look up from until you realize you’ve reached the back cover. Anna Moschovakis and her beautifully designed, beautifully written collection also made Bustle’s list of poetry collections to read for National Poetry Month, and you can get a taste of it from this poem, excerpted in BOMB.

Find out where to buy Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Olio, Scattering the Dark: An Anthology of Polish Woman Poets, The Spoons in the Grass are There to Dig a Moat, The Black Maria, Play Dead, The Big Book of Exit Strategies, Out of Print, New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Boxed Set (Tatu), Shallcross, They and We Will Get into Trouble for This, and many more books here at the Consortium website.

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BOA Editions Celebrates 40 Years!

Huge congratulations BOA_40th_Logoare in order: BOA Editions is turning 40 in 2016! Based in Rochester, New York, BOA has become a leading non-profit and independent publisher of poetry, literary fiction, and poetry-in-translation. Founded in 1976 “to give voice to important, yet underserved writers,” the press now has over 300 titles in their catalog and is one of the nation’s premier independent presses.

To celebrate BOA’s 40 years, the press has planned a year-long celebration, including being the Presenting Sponsor for the 2016 AWP Conference in Los Angeles, where they have many fun things planned including on-site readings and a reception to celebrate the 40 year anniversary.

BOA STAFF BOARD

BOA Editions’ Staff and Board. William J. Ingalls. © 2014 All Rights Reserved.

Peter Conners, publisher at BOA, was recently recognized in Publisher’s Weekly Star Watch because of his innovation and dedication, a timely honor to match BOA’s 40th celebration. Thanks to a dollar-for-dollar challenge grant from the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe, BOA is kicking of “40 for 40,” in which $40,000 will be used to celebrate BOA’s 40 years in the industry, while another $40,000 will be provided to ensure the press’ financial stability for the next 40 years. In addition, the University of Rochester has acquired the press’ archives from 2006-2016, creating the “largest repository of BOA materials.” Conners said that given BOA’s place in “Rochester’s cultural history” and the University of Rochester’s “status as a venerable institution of higher learning,” he couldn’t be happier with the partnership.

As icing on the cake, many of BOA’s titles and authors have recently won prestigious awards. The poetry collection The End of Pink by Kathryn Nurenberger was chosen for the 2015 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the work of psychological fiction  Bridge by Robert Thomas won the 2015 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Fiction.

Conners summed up BOA’s exciting milestone: “We will celebrate BOA’s past, work to ensure its future, and celebrate the artistic and communicative power of the written word.”

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Akashic Books, BOA Editions, and Sarabande Books Make Publisher Weekly’s Star Watch 2015!

StarWatchGet ready to break out the confetti, because the honorees and finalists for Publisher Weekly‘s inaugural “Star Watch 2015” were announced on September 11! A huge congratulations to Peter Conners at BOA editions and Kristen Radtke at Sarabande Books for making the honoree list, and to Ibrahim Ahmad at Akashic Books for being a finalist! The program “recognizes young publishing professionals who have distinguished themselves as future leaders of the industry.” Star Watch was created in collaboration with the Frankfurt Book Fair, and the 4o honorees—which includes four finalists and one “superstar”—were chosen from over 250 nominees and selected by a panel of judges from the Association of American Publishers, the American Booksellers Association, the Frankfurt Book fair, and industry consultant Richard Nash. As Publishers Weekly boasts, the honorees and finalists “represent every part of the book ecosystem: booksellers, designers, digital specialists, editors, and publicists. They sell and publish a variety of formats across all categories and genres, from literary fiction to romance, picture books to academic tomes, and comics to classics.” Publishers Weekly briefly highlighted the achievements of each honoree and winner, including quotes from peers.

PeterConners

Peter Conners. Photo credit: Ashleigh Deskins

Star Watch noted Peter Conners‘ talent for nurturing great writers and his successful fundraising pursuits among other achievements. Melissa Hall, the development director at BOA Editions, said “Peter Conners’ star has been on a meteoric rise, and his success in all aspects of American publishing deserves to be celebrated.” BOA Editions is a nonprofit press that publishes poetry and other genres, as they “foster readership and appreciation of contemporary literature.”

Kristen Radtke, the managing editor at Sarabande Books, has elevated the press in terms of visibility and sales while also “revamping” the way they design and market thsarabande-bookseir titles. Kristen Miller—director of operations and outreach at Sarabande Books—said of Radtke: “…when I hear fears about the end of books or the demise of the publishing industry, I know that as long as we have people like Kristen—with her limitless drive, her vision, her unyielding forward momentum, and lack of complacency—these fears are unfounded.” As Publishers Weekly said in their write-up, “Sarabande is a small house that is dedicated to underrepresented genres: poetry, short fiction, and essays,” and it is thanks to people like Radtke that Sarabande is so successful with these titles.

Ibrahim-Ahmad

Ibrahim Ahmad

Ibrahim Ahmad of Akashic Books was named one of four finalists, because of his fearlessness in publishing innovative works and trying new things. Now the senior editor at Akashic, Ahmad started at the press as an intern. He was new in the publishing industry and relied on his instincts as a reader, a philosophy that has continued to serve him and the company well. Publisher and editor-in-chief Johnny Temple said “equally comfortable championing everything from literary writers from the Middle East to hip-hop literature… Ahmad’s tastes wholly reflect the smart eclecticism that has come to define our list.” Temple sums it up, saying that Ahmad “has indelibly shaped Akashic Books into the thriving press it is today.”

Star Watch is a fresh program that celebrates the achievements of the tireless individuals behind important presses. The 40 honorees and finalists were honored in New York City at a party on September 16, and the “superstar” Helen Yentus—art director at New York City’s Riverhead Books—will be going on an all expenses paid trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. Congratulations to all!

 

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BOA Editions and Open Letter Books Publishers Chat about Small Presses on WXXI Public Radio

“Reading is sexy” isn’t often heard, especially in today’s modern age of celebrity gossip and mind-numbing television programming, but thanks to the efforts of small presses and the luminous work they produce, reading poetry and literature is getting sexy. In “Connections,” a podcast put out by WXXI Public Radio in Rochester, NY, in celebration of their summer book week, two CBSD publishers, Peter Connors of BOA Editions and Chad Post of Open Letter Books, sit down and discuss their publishing philosophy and how small presses fit into the larger industry and the future of publishing. Though Rochester is not widely considered to be a literary hub, these local editors and publishers show how small presses can make a big difference in the publishing world and perpetuate the idea that “people who read are sexy.”

Both publishers aim toOpenLetterBooks produce quality, honest, and enriching work, while providing authors with a home in which they can flourish and expand. Post focused on how the works of translation that Open Letter Books publishes fit into the larger scheme of publishing. Even though three percent of all published works are works in translation, Open Letter Books is a key player in this number and is working on increasing the statistic to provide more English readers with works of literature from around the world.

Peter Connors passionately stated “without small presses, these writers have nowherBOAEditionse to go… presses are where the art is.” While there are misconceptions surrounding the profitability of small and non-profit presses, Chad Post argued that if attention is paid to the balance between grants, donations, and sales, small presses with a focus towards the art of the written word can be just as profitable as larger organizations. Amidst the wails that publishing is dying, BOA Editions and Open Letter Books illustrate just how successful and important small presses are, as they give authors a home and consumers smart works of literature and poetry that not only entertain, but also, according to these publishers, increase sex appeal.

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Bookslinger Update: “Telephone Call”

The Bookslinger app has been updated with a new story!

9781938160240This week’s story comes from Jewelry Box: A Collection of Histories, by Aurelie Sheehan, published by BOA Editions Ltd. Straddling memoir and fiction, these 68 short works explore the nuances of sexuality, motherhood, love, ambition, and personal history. Like Lydia Davis, Aurelie Sheehan’s stories are potent miniatures that blossom out from seemingly insignificant encounters and objects. Jewelry Box is a collection of intimate renderings of the life that surrounds us, just under the surface.

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Bookslinger Update: “Paints and Papers”

The Bookslinger app has been updated with a new story!

This week’s story is from Innocent Party by Aimee Parkison, published by BOA Editions, Ltd. In this collection, Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize–winner Aimee Parkison’s characters struggle to understand what happens when the innocent party becomes the guilty party. With magical realist flair, secrets are aired with dirty laundry, but the stains never come clean. Carol Anshaw writes, “Aimee Parkison offers a distinct new voice to contemporary fiction. Her seductive stories explore childhood as a realm of sorrows, and reveal the afflictions of adults who emerge from this private geography.”

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