Small Press Points

by Kevin Larimer

News and Trends

Posted 5.1.04

May/June 2004

Inspired by Paris-based subscription presses like Robert McAlmon's Contact Editions-the publisher of Ernest Hemingway's first book, Three Stories & Ten Poems (1924), and Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans (1925)-and Nancy Cunard's Hours Press, Samuel Beckett's first publisher, Richard Jensen and Matthew Stadler recently founded Clear Cut Press (www.clearcutpress.com) in Astoria, Oregon. Jensen, a former executive at Sub Pop Records, the independent record label that helped launch Nirvana, Mudhoney, and Soundgarden, and Stadler, a fiction writer and literary editor of Nest magazine, started Clear Cut Press because they felt that "traditional publishers may have lost sight of who reads and why." The goal of the press, therefore, is pretty clear-cut: "Our job is simply to place the author's work into an efficient and durable format that fits gracefully into the lives of readers." Graceful might be pushing it, but the first four books are compact, beautiful volumes-with built-in bookmarks to boot. They are designed by Tae Won Yu, who has created album covers for indie rock bands like Built to Spill and Versus, and printed in Tokyo by Toppan Printing Company. Ode to certain interstates and Other Poems by Howard W. Robertson, Office for Soft Architecture by Lisa Robertson, Denny Smith by Robert Glück, and the anthology The Clear Cut Future make up half of the press's first series; four more books will be published in August. A $65 subscription gets you the complete series, but single books-distributed by Small Press Distribution and Partners West-are also available. Time will tell what the future holds for Clear Cut Press, but the flap copy of its recently published anthology includes a good prediction: "Some possibilities will blossom as others collapse. The language of the future is more beautiful than we know."

With the help of sales reps at Literary Press Group, an association of Canadian publishers, Andrew Steeves and Gary Dunfield, founders of Gaspereau Press (www.gaspereau.com) in Kentville, Nova Scotia, are hoping to place their "cultural objects" in the hands of U.S. readers. For the first time since the fine press was founded in 1997, Gaspereau Press books are being distributed to independent bookstores in the States. Recent titles include the poetry collections The Year One by David Helwig and Gabriel's Wing by Allan Cooper. If the only bookstores you frequent are (shame, shame) Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com-neither of which will stock these books-you can still visit the Virtual Printshop on Gaspereau's Web site, which offers an interesting behind-the-scenes glimpse into book production.

Luquer Street Press (www.luquerstreet.org), a nonprofit press located on-you guessed it-Luquer Street, in Brooklyn, New York, publishes English and English-Italian editions of poetry and collaborations between poets and other artists. So far the small press, founded in 2002 by visual artist Pietro Costa, has published three books: In Dreams We Kiss Ourselves Good-bye by Deanna Pickard, Illegible Address by Denver Butson, and Costa's grace, a collaboration among several artists responding to the events of September 11 and grappling with "the role of memory as muse, when the muse is born of violence and tragedy." The bilingual book takes its title from Costa's sculpture, which was being prepared for installation at the Hudson River Museum at the time of the terrorist attacks, and to which the artist later added thousands of pieces of paper containing the names of those who died at the World Trade Center-pieces that viewers were then invited to take home with them. Forthcoming from Luquer Street Press this year is bloodworks, a collaboration between Costa and Butson featuring 15 lithographs (Costa's blood on paper) and a 15-page poem by Butson. The book was completed while the artists made two barrels of wine and planted, tended, and harvested an organic garden behind Costa's Brooklyn studio in the summer and fall of 2001.

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