Poetry can change your life, and it doesn’t happen on the page; it happens in the rooms and places where poetry connects you to people who change how you are in the world,” says Megan Burns, publisher of Trembling Pillow Press in New Orleans. This sense of poetry as a means of community animates all of the press’s work. Trembling Pillow was established in the late nineties with an initial focus on making broadsides and occasional chapbooks but turned to producing full-length poetry books in 2006. Today Trembling Pillow publishes four or five poetry titles a year, about half of which are debut collections.
Burns approaches these editorial collaborations with first-time authors with particular care. “I am giving someone an experience that becomes the basis for future relationships in the writing world, and I want them to have a high bar,” she says, noting the years of devoted work that goes into a project before it ever reaches the press and a publisher’s obligation to treat a work with that same devotion. Trembling Pillow’s sensibility is eclectic—its titles vary from “feminist manifesto to punk rock memoir to collaborative eco-poetics to lyrical experimentation or rural horror manifestations”—but its poets share a willingness to take risks and to surprise. Among the press’s 2020 titles are Marty Cain’s The Wound Is (Not) Real: A Memoir, a hybrid text that mines the experiences of the author’s adolescence in Vermont; Erin M. Bertram’s It’s Not a Lonely World, about queerness and cancer; and Jenny Sadre-Orafai and Anne Champion’s Book of Levitations, a “modern-day poetic spell book.” Trembling Pillow is open for submissions year-round via Submittable; a $15 reading fee goes directly into producing more books and is waived in the month of December.