Small Press Points

by Kevin Larimer

News and Trends

Posted 1.1.04

January/February 2004

One look at the books published by Ugly Duckling Presse (www.uglyducklingpresse.org) is sufficient proof that the Brooklyn-based nonprofit arts and publishing collective has no reason for an inferiority complex. What started in 1993 as the Ugly Duckling, a low-budget literary magazine with the short-lived subtitle Journal of the Russian and the Absurd, has grown into…not a swan exactly, but a fully functional small press that has published other periodicals, including 6x6 and the Emergency Gazette; art books; and books of poetry—from handmade, letterpress volumes to perfect-bound titles with print runs of 500 to 1,000 copies. Recent offerings from Ugly Duckling Presse (the extra e is a nod to Kafka, of course) are the first titles in the Eastern European Poets series: Genya Turovskaya's Calendar, Alexander Vvedensky's The Gray Notebook, and Ilya Bernstein's Attention and Man.

Web del Sol, the literary nonprofit organization whose Web site hosts over 25 literary magazines, recently launched Del Sol Press (webdelsol.com/DelSolPress) with the print publication of four new books—Diagram, an anthology of writing from Diagram magazine, "the online periodical of esoteric oddness and schematic," edited by Ander Monson; Hand-Held Executions, a collection of poetry and critical essays by Joan Houlihan; Detour, a novel by Michael Brodsky; and Mad Anatomy, a collection of stories by Kimberly Nichols. The press plans to publish several titles annually. The books will be printed by Lightning Source, the print-on-demand service based in La Vergne, Tennessee, and distributed by Ingram and Baker & Taylor.

Flashy it's not, but Scienter Press (dleightty@earthlink.net), the small poetry press founded last summer by attorney and poet David Leightty in Louisville, Kentucky, is off to a solid, albeit modest, start with the publication of chapbooks by R.L. Barth and Suzanne J. Doyle in editions of 125 and 200 copies, respectively. The books are available on Amazon.com. While Leightty hopes to eventually publish longer books in larger print runs, chapbooks—at the rate of approximately four per year—will likely be the primary format for the press until a readership is established. In the meantime, Leightty is adhering to some basic tenets, "Self-indulgence and self-absorption detract" and "Financially, the goal is to be self-sufficient" among them.

On the other hand, Low Fidelity Press (www.lofipress.com) in Brooklyn is a small press with an attitude. With the release of Christopher Kennedy's book of prose poems, Trouble With the Machine; a new contest for best novella, judged by Robert Olmstead; and distribution by Baker & Taylor and Small Press Distribution, Low Fidelity Press is emanating enough confidence to support the following description—pumped with enough testosterone to make Chuck Palahniuk blush—on its Web site: "We are Low Fidelity Press. We are the books you hear with your eyes. We are printed on busted speaker cones. We sound best in the back seat of your Ford Galaxy 500, V8 cylinder, 428 super cobra jet, pro-shot 375 horse power engine, cherry fucking red."

Kevin Larimer is the associate editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.

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Our Independent Publishing Issue features an in-depth interview with Graywolf Press editor Jeff Shotts; a look at the successful partnerships of eleven small-press authors and their editors; a profile of indie essayist Charles D'Ambrosio; Donald Hall recalls a golden age of American poetry; best-selling author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore on the rewards of self-promotion; advice for self-published authors; a conversation with Guernica publisher Lisa Lucas; and much more.

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