Small Press Points: Phoneme Media

After noticing that a lot of exciting international literature wasn’t reaching English-language readers—particularly books from lesser-known countries like Burundi and Mongolia, and those written in languages like Isthmus Zapotec and Uyghur—translators David Shook and Brian Hewes decided to do something about it. In 2013 they launched Phoneme Media (phonememedia.org), a nonprofit publisher “dedicated to promoting cross-cultural understanding, connecting people and ideas through translated books and films.”  Phoneme MediaBased in Los Angeles and funded by PEN Center USA, the press publishes twelve books of translated poetry and fiction each year, and also produces literary films—video poems, paratextual films, and short documentaries—that feature the press’s authors and translators. A look at just two months’ worth of Phoneme titles is a trip across several continents: In December the press released Smooth-Talking Dog, a poetry collection by Mexican writer Roberto Castillo Udiarte—also known as “the Godfather of Tijuana’s counterculture”—translated from the Spanish by Anthony Seidman. Richard Ali A Mutu’s novel Mr. Fix-It, translated from the Lingala language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Bienvenu Sene Mongaba and Sara Sene, was also released in December. This month the press publishes its first Icelandic translation, Cold Moons by Magnús Sigursson, translated by Meg Matich; as well as The Conspiracy, a thriller by exiled Venezuelan novelist Israel Centeno, translated from the Spanish by Guillermo Parra. The Conspiracy is the second book in Phoneme’s City of Asylum series, which features works by exiled writers receiving sanctuary in the United States. Phoneme’s general submissions are open year-round, and can be sent via e-mail to submissions@phonememedia.org. The press is particularly interested in books by women and those translated from non-Indo-European languages.