I started small press publishing under the housepress moniker in 1997, shifting to No Press in 2004. Several times I have written about the closing of housepress, what I believe small presses can be, and entreating writers and readers to publish work by themselves and their colleagues (much of which has, of course, been published in small press editions). Over the 23 years my invested has wavered, a crisis of faith at times, but ultimately, I believe in the importance of small press publishing and have always returned to photocopier, printer, needle and thread.
Most of what no press publishes as leaflets, pamphlets and chapbooks is experimental (“avant-garde”) poetry; work that experiments with form and content. As an undergraduate and graduate student, many of my teachers were influenced by Black Mountain poetics, the thinking of Creeley, Olson, Duncan, and the poetics grounded in 1960s Vancouver. I return again and again to Robert Creeley’s dictum that “form is never more than an extension of content” – and that if you want to express a experimental / avant-garde / marginalized content that the form itself – the shape of the writing on the page (that “compositional field” of Olson’s “Projective Verse” essay) – should reflect and extend, complement and emphasize that content. Form and content are tied. Now, that said, my own writing – like much of the writing I publish – doesn’t do a whole lot with breath and speech, nor the focus on the poet himself, the “possibilities of the breath, of the breathing of the man.”
But where we are, the communities we serve, the conversations we engage with, the ways we see the world through poetry, adapts and is flux – not only with web-based forms of conversations, publication and dissemination – but now with the social distancing, quarantining and isolation of CoVid-19.
With physical gathering (small press fairs, hand-to-hand trading, bookstores, pub gatherings, in-person readings) limited, the role of the mail for small press increases (acknowledging that our American cousins are having challenges with the USPS).
Small press publishing remains, for me, the best way of getting the poetic “news” and supporting writers as they explore the limitations of their own thinking, the edges of their own maps. The small press should not be graduated away from as an author becomes more established; it is a continuous space of experimentation, community, and mentorship.
Derek Beaulieu is the author/editor of over twenty collections of poetry, prose, and criticism, including two volumes of his selected work, and ). His most recent volume of fiction, a, A Novel was published by Paris’s Jean Boîte Editions. Beaulieu has exhibited his visual work across Canada, the United States, and Europe and has won multiple local and national awards for his teaching and dedication to students. Derek Beaulieu holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Roehampton University and is the Director of Literary Arts at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
He can be found online at www.derekbeaulieu.wordpress.com