Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ink Press

Today I’m going to write about Ink Press, which is the most dead-on name for a press I’ve ever heard (except maybe one called “Book-Maker Press”). It’s a Baltimore press, run by Tracy Dimond and Amanda McCormick, who are both just peachy keen folks. They host a writing group called Gin & Ink and have had tons of readings; they’ve published a literary journal, Espresso Ink, and two books, both of which are fabulous small-press outings. I recently spoke at a reading with Dimond about the press and the printing process, which I find fascinating. The books are hand-bound and designed in-house. There’s something really satisfying about holding a piece of art someone’s made out of another piece of art someone else made by writing it.

5 Drawings of the Maryland Sky, by Joseph Young, is a chapbook of Young’s microfiction. Young is known for his Publishing Genius collection Easter Rabbit, which is composed of similarly brief microfiction. And when I say “micro” I mean the longest story is 27 words long. These aptly named “drawings” sketch imagist, resonate micro-scenes. Drawing 2 states, “Just there at the rim where the water caught, some cloud. Under the rocks things with shells and diamond eyes. Went back our hands in the grass.” Young evokes strong images and streamlines his language to only the bare essentials, while still leaving room for resonant meaning. Drawing 4 goes like this: “Great grays of it falling a too sweet rain. We climbed the upward hills.” What makes Young’s work so powerful is its thinness; he plants the suggestion of a scene and then leaves room for its interpretation. There’s so much meaning packed into these scant lines that it nearly bursts through.

Sorry I Wrote So Many Sad Poems Today, by Tracy Dimond, has the feel of a self-produced indy-rock album that perfectly captures a 20-something milieu. I couldn’t help but think of Pavement or some similar band when reading these tragi-comic poems. Her poems are also mostly brief, but whereas Young’s work is fairly difficult, Dimond’s is more accessible; there’s an endearing simplicity to her work:

Today is a Gift

Have you been to the Gulf lately?
British Petroleum lives in my hair.

Tomorrow I’m washing my hair with Dawn,
just like an oil-soaked duckling.

You said smiling is for the weak
and showed me a picture of your dogs.

I would buy you a gift basket
if you sent me more emails.

The confetti would be shredded poems
I didn’t write about you.

The title poem to the collection captures Dimond’s playful tone well, “Sorry I haven’t written/anything happy lately./The sun sets early.” She begins. She’s hinting at a kind of social confinement, here; this is a world that conflicts with happiness. Later, in “I Couldn’t Think of a Title,” she says:

I write poems that are funny
to other people, but sad to me.

9:30 a.m.
I smell like French Fries.

There are stains on my pants
that are going to have a hole soon.

I already ripped the lace
on my underwear.

Writing is like running;
I don’t want to stop.

The ennui Dimond hints at is the result of the social confinement I mentioned earlier. Dimond is less than enthusiastic about her current situation (and probably sees not much hope for change in the future) but there is hope, “…I gather fireflies/and keep them in a drawer/for something to follow.” she says later in “Catching Fireflies.” “I Got So Sad” is a touching portrait that exemplifies many of the themes in the collection:

I know I am twenty-four,
but I should believe

puppies live forever at the end of rainbows
and my vote matters.

* * *
-CL Bledsoe

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Summer Plans

At the end of last year, I posted my list of goals for the first half of this year. I've failed spectacularly at most of them, but not without great effort. For example, I wanted to have a new job. Well, I applied, interviewed, etc. everywhere I could think in four different regions/cities and came up with bupkiss, though it's still a little up in the air. I also wanted to lose weight/get in shape and all that physical shit, but I let that slip to the back-burner mostly because I started getting so depressed about the job hunt. I had a few writing goals, and I'm doing okay with those, but regardless, I've had to rethink things. So here's my new plan:

1. Lose weight. By God (oh wait, I'm an athiest. I mean by...Me) I'm going to get somewhat in shape this summer. ("Somewhat" because I'm being realistic, folks.) If I'm going to be stuck in my current job for another year, then I'm going to use that year to get in shape, among other things.

2. Place a poetry collection & a short story collection. I've already started on this.

3. Finish my next two novels. One, I'm already halfway through.

4. Make some fucking money at writing. More to come with this.

That's it. Not too grande. We shall see.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Interview with poet and publisher Kristina Marie Darling

What I like about Kristina Marie Darling, aside from the fact that she's really nice and is a really talented writer, is the fact that her work is different. I've been reading Darling since I first published her when I edited Ghoti Magazine, and even back then, I appreciated the creativity and uniqueness of Darling's work, which is a rare thing. I can honestly only think of a handful of current writers whose work is actually unique. JA Tyler comes to mind. Mark Z. Danielewski. There are others, of course, but most other writers, even "experimental" ones, can be easily placed within a category (my own work included). This isn't to say they aren't "good," but Darling stands out. And she isn't just experimenting for the sake of experimenting; her work is vital and interesting. So when I heard Darling started a press, it piqued my interest. Here's a fun little interview I did with her for Pank. And here's a little more in-depth one below.

Me: Some of your recent works seem to take the form of reactions to the works of others (which could really be said of all writing, I’m sure). What was the impetus of displaying these reactions so blatantly? What I mean is could you describe the form of some of your recent work and what was the impetus for choosing/creating this form?

Darling: That's a great question. I've always been intrigued by Marianne Moore's notion of "conversity," which is a term she coined to describe the dialogic nature of poetry. According to Moore, poetry is a conversation, in which contemporary poets not only respond to what's been done before, but revise, refine, and perfect it. This idea of art as processual was very influential for thinking about my own work. For me, the works of others aren't static art objects, but rather, are always in the process of being articulated. For this reason, they're subject to revision, appropriation, etc. And it's this type of engagement that seems most productive to me as an artist.

Two of my most recent books, Petrarchan and The Moon & Other Inventions, are presented as direct responses to another artist's body of work. The responses take the form of footnotes to absent text, which utilize material from the works of Joseph Cornell and Petrarch, respectively. I chose to display my reactions to others' work in a fairly straightforward manner because I think it's important to situate one's own work in a particular artistic conversation, since it's meaning (in my case at least) is so dependent on context.

Me: Tell me about the press: what’s the mission?

Darling: I recently started a small press, which is called Noctuary Press. Noctuary Press specializes in women's writing that takes place across (and beyond) traditional genre categories. We're very interested in publishing work that not only challenges the notion of genre, but engages it in a meaningful way, assessing both the risks and the possibilities inherent in maintaining genre categories. All too often, writing that interrogates the notion of genre remains unpublished and undisseminated, since much of the publishing landscape is predicated on well-established genre categories. Cross-genre texts become difficult to deal with from a pragmatic standpoint, since they don't fit within the existing channels of dissemination. Noctuary Press strives to create an alternative channel of dissemination for cross-genre texts by women, allowing them to reach an appreciative audience.

Me: Why did you start a press and what led you to focus on women authors?

Darling: I've always loved editing because it puts me in touch with interesting people. Not just poets and writers, but visual artists and small press editors as well. Starting a press was just an excuse for me to do something that I loved.

I chose to focus on women authors because the writing that most often fails to fit within existing genre categories, and the writing that's most frequently "othered," is women's writing. I believe this is because women refuse to write in a tradition that's hostile to them, and almost always, this means eschewing predominantly male literary forms. I'm very interested in the gender politics inherent in existing genre categories, and I hope that the press will allow both myself and readers to explore this in the years to come.

Me: Is there a disparity between publishing opportunities afforded to men and women, and why is this, do you think?

Darling: I think there is definitely a disparity between publishing opportunities afforded to men and women. All too often, publishing is coded as masculine because it requires aggressively submitting work, networking, and just being pushy sometimes. And all of these things are seen as traditionally masculine qualities. I know many women who feel that it would make them less feminine to be really aggressive or persistent about getting their work in journals. Creating greater equality in the publishing world would mean much more than just getting women in magazines. It would involve rethinking how we define "masculinity" and "femininity" in a much more general sense.

Me: What has the process of selecting work been like?
Darling: Because Noctuary Press is a small, one-woman publishing project, we've been operating mostly by solicitation, but I hope to post an open call for submissions in the fall. I would really like to be taken out of my comfort zone, and look forward to being exposed to writers whose work I wouldn't otherwise have encountered.

Me: Who are you publishing? Can you tell me a little about your forthcoming publications?

Darling: Our forthcoming books include Eva Heisler's Drawing Water, a book-length poem on the line, and Kristy Bowen's The shared properties of water and stars, which explores the intersection of poetic language and logic in ways I haven't encountered before. A feature about Heisler's book can be found in BOMB Magazine. We're in the process of assembling our 2014 series, so stay tuned.

Me:Who are your influences? Who are you reading now?

Darling: My influences range from Imagist poetry - H.D., Marianne Moore, Richard Aldington - to Victorian ephemera and contemporary visual art. But right now I'm reading Andrew Grace's Sancta, Jill Magi's Slot, and Allison Benis White's Small Porcelein Head. All three collections are just magnificent. They manipulate and undermine readerly expectations of narrative in ways I've never encountered before. I'd recommend all three.
  * * *