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Small Press Points

Jorge Luis Borges wrote, "Unlike the novel, a short story may be, for all purposes, essential." Plus they're short, adds Bill Scheurer of Hourglass Books (www.hourglassbooks.org), a small press based in Lindenhurst, Illinois, that publishes anthologies of short stories focused on a common theme. "Today's busy readers need an alternative," reads the press's mission statement, "quality short stories that can be read in one sitting, to avoid slipping into the trap of easy entertainment." In other words, turn off the TiVo, unplug the Xbox, and read some short stories already. So far, Hourglass has published a single anthology, Falling Backwards: Stories of Fathers and Daughters (2004), edited by Gina Frangello, who is also the executive editor of the literary magazine Other Voices, but it has two more in the hopper and is assembling a fourth. The Long Meanwhile, a collection of stories about "change," and Peculiar Pilgrims: Stories From the Left Hand of God, which explores the spiritual realm, will be published later this year. The press is currently accepting submissions for Occupational Hazards: Stories From the World of Work.

After forty years as an independent publisher, Hanging Loose Press (www.hangingloosepress.com) is still holding tight. A lot has changed during the last four decades, of course, but the editors at the Brooklyn-based press have responded by redefining—and redesigning—their efforts. The small press started back in 1966, when Ron Schreiber and Emmett Jarrett—fresh from the demise of their letterpress magazine Things, which they had begun three years earlier at Columbia University—joined Dick Lourie and Robert Hershon to publish the first issue of Hanging Loose, a journal devoted to contemporary poetry. The journal's format, which consisted of loose, mimeographed pages stuffed in an envelope—hence, the title—was a product of a very low budget, but it also served to convey the idea that poetry is meant to be enjoyed now, not in some distant, canonical future. According to the press's Web site, if you liked a poem, "you could pin it to the wall. If you didn't like a poem, you could use it as a napkin." After publishing twenty-five issues, however, the editors decided that perhaps loose pieces of paper blowing in the breeze wasn't the ideal format for newsstands and libraries, so they chose to have the journal bound. Along with the new format came new content, and the magazine began publishing fiction as well as portfolios of work by artists and photographers. In the early 1970s the press began publishing books—each one in simultaneous hardcover and paperback editions that remain in print today. Hanging Loose Press has now published over 160 titles, including first books by such writers as Sherman Alexie (The Business of Fancydancing, 1992), Kimiko Hahn (Air Pocket, 1989), and Dennis Nurkse (Shadow Wars, 1988). Forthcoming poetry titles include Guilty at the Rapture by Keith Taylor and Where X Marks the Spot by Bill Zavatsky.

Hanging Loose Press and Hourglass Books are fairly straightforward names for small presses. (Indeed, the tag line for Hourglass is "time to read.") Then there's Chiasmus Press (www.chiasmusmedia.net/press.html). Webster's defines chiasmus as "an inverted relationship between the syntactic elements of parallel phrases." Chiasmus Press founder Lidia Yuknavitch defines it as "a reversal in the order of two words in two otherwise parallel phrases." To complicate matters just a bit further, the mission of Chiasmus Press is to "promote a reversal in the order of words in two otherwise parallel realities." Luckily, a famous example of a chiasmus, from Shakespeare's Richard II, brings it all into clearer focus: "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me." Which is a good point. So, without further ado, Chiasmus Press is an independent publisher based in Corbett, Oregon, whose mission—deep breath—is to support "the most innovative emerging authors, those who have been excluded or have not yet been co-opted by the mainstream print industry or well-established, often academically entrenched, forms of Avant-gardisms." Since 2003, the press has published eight books, including novels by Andy Mingo, Lance Olsen, and Cris Mazza. A recent Chiasmus release is The Garbageman and the Prostitute by Zack Wentz, which National Book Award–winning author William T. Vollmann has called "a sad and creepy work."

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

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Small Press Points (March/April 2006)
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