Small Press Points

Kevin Larimer
From the January/February 2006 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

McSweeney and Johannes Göransson can pretty much sit back and wait for everyone to notice the work they’re doing at Action Books ( But the entrepreneurs are more or less shouting from the rooftops about the small press they launched late last year to promote “poetry that goes too far, the kind discouraged in workshop and screened out of the contest system.” Evidently they know a thing or two about workshops and contests: Both McSweeney and Göransson are graduates of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and McSweeney’s first book, The Red Bird, won the 2002 Fence Modern Poets Series competition sponsored by Fence Books ( Rather than operate outside the “contest system,” however, the editors established the annual December Prize, given for first and second books of poetry. “No screeners will be involved, and we won’t hide behind a celebrity judge, either,” they write of their plans for the contest, which had a deadline of December 5, 2005. “We’ll read every manuscript submitted, and everyone who enters will receive a free book.” As for the first three titles already published by Action Books—The Hounds of No by Lara Glenum, Remainland by Swedish poet Aase Berg, and My Kafka Century by Arielle Greenberg, whose first book, Given, was published in 2002 by Verse Press (, which was recently absorbed by Wave Books (—they may prove that there is something even louder than action: blurbs! The books by Glenum, Berg, and Greenberg garnered prepublication blurbs that drop such tantalizing adjectives as “morbidly brilliant,” “zoologically savage,” and “cutting-edge.”

Tin House Books ( home.html), the book division of Tin House, the quarterly literary magazine founded in 1998, recently announced that it has split from Tin House Books/Bloomsbury, the joint publishing venture it formed four years ago with Bloomsbury USA ( As a result, Tin House Books is now fully independent, with editorial offices located in Portland, Oregon, and New York City. Under the editorial direction of Lee Montgomery, the former executive editor of the magazine—the position now filled by Rob Spillman—Tin House Books will publish six to eight literary titles annually. Forthcoming books, which include Best of Tin House, an anthology of stories originally published in the magazine, and Girls in Peril, a novella by Karen Lee Boren, will be distributed by Publishers Group West ( Titles already published under the Tin House Books/Bloomsbury imprint—including Low Down, a memoir by A.J. Albany, The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen, and Bestial Noise, a collection of Tin House fiction—will continue to be distributed by Holtzbrinck Publishing Group.

The majority of American readers who scan the list of books previously published by Twisted Spoon Press ( will likely recognize only two authors: Franz Kafka, of course, and Tomaz Salamun, whose poetry collection The Four Questions of Melancholy was published by White Pine Press ( in 1997. Other than those two, the authors published by Twisted Spoon Press, founded in 1992 in Prague, will be utterly unfamiliar—which is exactly why this independent press is worthy of careful consideration. Focusing on translations of a variety of writing from Central and Eastern Europe, the press has published the work of up-and-coming as well as established writers, including Hungarian poet Sándor Kányádi, Polish novelist Andrzej Stasiuk, and Czech novelist Eva Svankmajerova. Twisted Spoon Press has also published original writing in English, including titles by Soren A. Gauger, a Canadian fiction writer living in Poland; British poet and fiction writer Phil Shoenfelt; and, most recently, New Jersey–born fiction writer Joshua Cohen. The books are distributed in North America by SCB Distributors ( in Gardena, California; Small Press Distribution ( in Berkeley, California; and Disticor Direct ( in Ontario, Canada. Forthcoming titles from Twisted Spoon Press include Waiting for the Dog to Sleep by Jerzy Ficowski, in May, and Boys & Murderers by Hermann Ungar, in June.

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