Small Press Points

Kevin Larimer
From the March/April 2009 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

And lo, a deep sleep fell upon the literary magazine called the Canary. And editor Josh Edwards took one of its founding principles, and he did close up the pages. And with that principle—and some blessed funding from the University of Michigan—made he an independent press. And he saw that it was good. That's the genesis, more or less, of Canarium Books, the new poetry press that recently released its first two titles: Ish Klein's Union! and Tod Marshall's The Tangled Line. A third, Flowers by Paul Killebrew, is scheduled for publication at the end of the year. While the literary magazine from which the press sprang is officially on hiatus after seven issues (look for the resurrection, or perhaps the second coming, in 2010), the soul of the journal is still very much alive, driving the decisions of the press's editors: Edwards, Robyn Schiff, Nick Twemlow, and Lynn Xu. "Like our editorial efforts with the Canary," says Twemlow, who was also an editor of the magazine, "we're interested in books that risk failure, of course, but that also risk ambition. We like poets who write sentences—thoughtful, complex sentences that, whether long or short, unfurl intellect and emotion in unpredictable ways." While the initial funding provided by the University of Michigan, where Edwards received his MFA, was heaven-sent, the release of the press's first list was hardly preordained. For one thing, two of the four editors, Edwards and Xu, have been in Shanghai, China, where Xu was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, for the past six months. And given the group's collaborative approach to reading submissions and designing, marketing, and promoting their books, they've had to rely on technology to provide a virtual work space as they prepared for the press's launch. While Canarium Books is still finding its footing, the press will soon be open to submissions and plans to publish three poetry collections annually, including a work in translation, in print runs of a thousand copies.

Tupelo Press, the ten-year-old independent publisher whose stable of authors includes Matthew Zapruder, Mark Yakich, Floyd Skloot, Anna Rabinowitz, Ander Monson, and Joy Katz, started the year in brand-new digs, having moved from Dorset, Vermont, to North Adams, Massachusetts, and with three new members of its staff. Tupelo founder Jeffrey Levine announced a new managing editor: Jim Schley, whose resumé includes positions at the New England Review, the University Press of New England, and Chelsea Green, the independent press that caused a kerfuffle among booksellers last summer when it offered a book on then-candidate Barack Obama exclusively to Amazon for two weeks. Schley succeeds Margaret Donovan, who had been with Tupelo from its beginning and left the press last year to devote herself to her ad agency, Manchester Advertising, Inc. In addition, Cassandra Cleghorn, a senior lecturer at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, is the press's new associate editor for poetry and nonfiction, and Bernadine Williams succeeds Liza Dee as operations coordinator.

Readers (or listeners) who have yet to check out From the Fishouse, a sort of audio lit mag that promotes the oral tradition of poetry, may want to pick up a copy of the new anthology forthcoming in April from Persea Books, the thirty-four-year-old independent publisher in New York City. From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems That Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great, besides having a groovy title, collects over 175 poems by nearly a hundred poets from Matt O'Donnell's Web site, which, by the way, takes its name from the writing cabin of the late Lawrence Sargent Hall—the sweet one that O'Donnell moved, with the permission of Hall's son, from Orr's Island, Maine, to Pittston, about fifty miles north, where he now uses it as his own. One could, of course, question the printing of poems that From the Fishouse intended to be heard, but for those skeptical readers, the anthology includes an audio CD featuring recitations of thirty-seven of them. Listen to a few here.

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

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