Chris Mattingly talks Scuffletown
Maurice manning reads from The Gone and The Going Away
Affrilachian poet Makalani Bandele reads
ARTxFM.com 1pm TODAY!
Chris Mattingly talks Scuffletown
Maurice manning reads from The Gone and The Going Away
Affrilachian poet Makalani Bandele reads
ARTxFM.com 1pm TODAY!
Tomorrow at 1pm on ARTxFM.com! I’ll be airing performances by Maurice manning and Makalani Bandele, as well as an interview with Chris Mattingly, author of Scuffletown (Typecast, 2013). I’ll also read a few pieces from local authors, and announce upcoming events. Tune in for great local literary culture and some chill tunes! The show will air weekly!
Poet Chris Mattingly, whose new collection Scuffletown (pre-order here) is forthcoming this month from Louisville’s own Typecast Publishing, will read April 20th 7:30pm at Seidenfaden’s (1134 E Breckinridge St Louisville, KY 40204) with fellow Typecast authors Amanda Smeltz (who’s coming down from Brooklyn, NYC just for us!) and Matt Hart— a line-up not for the faint-of-heart.
Brandon Stettenbenz: TYPECAST PUBLISHING (Louisville, KY) has a unique approach to publishing. They create one-of-a-kind books and assemble them by hand, ensuring that each collection has its due as an artifact worthy of ownership. Can we get any spoilers about the design, presentation, or packaging of Scuffletown?
Chris Mattingly: It’s the size of a Moleskine cahiers journal—which is what all of the poems from the book were drafted in—and the cover was letterpressed at The Firecracker Press in St. Louis. In terms of the printing, the cover has a deep impression, some gritty noise, and nice shades of color that conjure river clay, in my mind. The book feels good to touch. It feels substantial.
BS: Matt Hart recently told me that Jen Woods is a “really careful editor”, and I read once that she told M. Bartley Seigel “this is going to hurt” before taking the red pen to his This is What They Say manuscript. Assuming that the recollections and ruminations in Scuffletown are hard-lived truth or nearly so, do you think developing this personal collection with an invested, supportive editor like Jen was easier or more difficult, than it would have been with a less intimate press?
CM: Easier. The personal connection to the editor—well, to be clear, editors because Lindsey Alexander actually did the bulk of the hands-on editing with Scuffletown—was important to me as a poet and person. To be honest, I wanted for this book to come out of this region in every way possible. This is almost [from a] political urge to grow and cultivate things—not just food—locally. That said, I do want the book to achieve an audience larger than the local region! This is where aesthetics comes in: For a long time, I’ve respected what Jen has done with the magazine (Lumberyard) and the work she’s done on Typecast Publishing’s previous collections of poetry. So even though the book was created almost wholly on a local level, I believe Jen has created an audience that transcends place based on her aesthetics.
BS: Do you feel that the book ended up better because you were able to work locally with someone who, as a fellow Kentuckian, understands Scuffletown and the stories that emanate from that place (fictional perhaps in a similar way to Wendell Berry’s fictional “Port William” is an analog for his native Port Royal, KY)?
CM: Yes. Like I said, Lindsey Alexander was the editor of Scuffletown. Lindsey, being from a Louisville family that has roots in Barren County, I fully trusted her ear. Going back to the last question, it is important to note that we were able to cultivate trust through a personal connection based in part on both of us having deep family roots in rural Kentucky. Also, because we were both in Louisville, we were able to sit face-to-face and talk about the book. During these meetings, I was able to see the jubilance with which Lindsey approached the manuscript. Seeing that joy eased any apprehension I may have had about someone putting hands on my art. For me, this trust would have been harder to achieve if I was working with a distant editor strictly through, say, email.
BS: Scuffletown contains confessions of realities beyond regret, and yet the speaker/narrator recalls his grim histories with an elegiac nostalgia. Talk a bit if you would, about the contradicting emotions that are captured so well, in my opinion, by the speaker’s raw, simply stated recollections.
CM: You’re right there is nostalgia, and that’s because it’s my childhood. I am nostalgic about all sorts of elements of my childhood, not just the good. I’m often equally nostalgic, or sentimental, about summer bike rides out to stripper pits as I am about sitting around the fire pit drinking whiskey with my mom after a domestic dispute. The reason, however, is more complicated. What I know is that in those moments, like in the poem “Bon Fire,” the mother and son connect in ways that many children never connect with their parents. In that poem, the son becomes the parent to the mother, and in that, there is an opportunity to nurture, comfort, and even counsel the one who would traditionally be in that role. I think there’s also something about healing and forgiveness that informs the tone you’re talking about.
BS: Getting through the collection can be difficult, not because of any tough abstractions or thick lexicon, but because of the emotional gravity involved. I have to admit, I’ve not shed tears in public for years, but as soon as I cracked the book (pg. 3) a poem titled Bonfire (mp3 here) took my knees out from under me. How would you foreword or foreworn Scuffletown to average poetry reader? To Kentuckians or others familiar with places with Scuffletown?
CM: Think of the poems in terms of the blues form. We play the blues, we sing about hard times, sadness, and violence as a way of keeping it from having power over us. This book is like that; it’s me singing, testifying. I want it to be like the experience of hearing Skip James sing “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”: no matter how down-low and rough [it] seems, in the end, you feel strangely empowered, maybe even connected to the speaker’s, or your own, experience a little more. If so, maybe the work will be validated, the experience redeemed.
BS: Level of education and manner of speech are addressed repetitively in Scuffletown, and near the end the speaker even indicates that he’s lost some part of his identity by leaving words unique to his region of origin behind. Laying judgments like “genuine” and “truth” aside, why did you decide, after college, that you would continue or return to writing in form and dialogue befitting your Kentucky heritage (as opposed to adopting non-regional standard English and traditional narrative forms or classical forms)?
CM: That’s what this project called for. I wanted the language to insinuate place. The themes in this book aren’t just regional, they’re American, but I think each region has a different way of understanding and dealing with those themes. One way this shows through is the language we use. For example, one poem ends with: “Let me beat on your for a while.” The idea, because of who the speaker is, is that she is basically saying, “I love you” in her own language. The line comes from an actual experience: One day, while fiddling around in the root garden, I overheard my neighbor say, “Git over here baby girl an’ let me beat on you fur a-while.” Because I am a sucker for a good expression, I stood up smiling while I felt the chaos of language resonate through my body. The little girl, 4 years old, was tickled, squirmed a little and simply said: “Naw, Mamaw.” The expression, make no mistake about it, was one of affection and tenderness. The old woman was basically saying let me love on you with pinches, squeezes, nibblin’s and rough ticklin’. An idea conveyed in a language that insinuated place with all its intricate familial, regional, historical, and class workings churning through my head like so many gears. Truth-be-told, I was moved by the way her expression entangled love and violence. And I was startled by what murked the surface of the quirky words: the brutal truth and wisdom of love’s deeply textured experience. The way pleasure is complicated by a hurting place peppered her tongue with subjective experience that burned like bourbon in my chest as I said the words over and over later that night. And I was startled again by the way her words evoked a place beyond the backyard in Louisville, out past the hills of her East Kentucky upbringing, and into a psychic region in a league with, say, the bullfighters, gypsy flamenco guitarists, and death infused dancers of Garcia Lorca’s duende. Or better, Blanch was like Feste, the jester in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, who imparts real depth of understanding beneath a sheen of comical ease. But of course, she was just talking, being her own danged self in her own danged backyard. She was not weighing each word or measuring each syllable, calibrating lines, and synching up sounds with meaning. She was not trying to raise a place from out of the seasoned lumber of the written word. The way we poets do.
BS: You hold an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University here in Louisville. Would you like to tell readers who may be unfamiliar with that program about the Spalding writing/academic community?
CM: It’s a close-knit community that also is very much linked to the larger Louisville community. I think it feels linked to the wider community because during the residency—it is a brief-residency program—many of the readings and seminars are open to the public. As far as the instruction, it was ideal for me because it is more of an apprenticeship experience. While workshops are the backbone of the residency, the bulk of the semester is spent one-on-one under the guidance of a master. I worked with three different poets, one poet twice, and I always like to liken my experience to that of the young poet who’s exchanging letters with Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet.
BS: Seidenfaden’s here in Louisville is a neighborhood bar, and you’re also performing for Holler Poets at Al’s Bar in Lexington on April 17th. Do you prefer to read your poetry, rife as it is with hard luck and hard drink, in a bar as opposed to a lecture hall, classroom, gallery or other formal setting?
CM: Not really. In a way, it seems more important to read these poems in a formal setting, but I do feel at very much home in taverns. When I was a teenager, my mom worked in a neighborhood tavern. I used to go in there to watch her work and listen to the stories of the people at the bar. Also, my uncles and dad went to neighborhood taverns, so I grew up going there with them, too. As far as Seidenfaden’s goes, on quiet nights, it’s like home: I’ve done homework there; I’ve hung out with my dad there; I was hired for a job while hanging out there; my friends and I used to spar and shadow box inside on slow nights; I’ve watched the World Series there; I’ve walked down there from the house just to unwind; And the poems do seem to ideally fit into that context.
BS: I’m betting both readings will be rowdy and raucous. You won’t wanna miss the party, dear readers! Clean out your ears and wear your stompin’ shoes. Bourbon is optional but recommended; tip your bartender(s).
Chris Mattingly is the author of Ad Hoc and a translation of Anglo-Saxon riddles A Light for Your Beacon both from Q Avenue Press. Mattingly holds an MFA from Spalding University, cultivates a great big garden, plays banjo, sometimes travels ridiculous distances for burgoo and chess pie, and is the eighth-generation Mattingly to live in Kentucky. He currently resides in south-east Georgia where he teaches at East Georgia State College
Typecast Publishing authors Amanda Smeltz, Chris Mattingly, and Matt Hart will read April 20th 7:30pm at Seidenfaden’s (1134 E Breckinridge St Louisville, KY 40204). I guess Jen Woods couldn’t resist throwing a party here in Louisville for National Poetry Month! Smeltz’s Imperial Bender is forthcoming as a limited VAULT edition, the first run of Mattingly’s Scuffletown is due shortly, and Matt Hart’s Sermons and Lectures: Both Blank and Relentless is being reprinted in box-set (letterpressed booklets and the CD album of the same name by Matt’s band TRAVEL stuffed into a cool box). To celebrate her own book and the rest, Amanda Smeltz is coming all the way from Brooklyn, NYC to party with us!
Brandon Stettenbenz: As a sommelier you have to know your product intimately, down to the slightest nuance. In Imperial Bender, your poems often compare individuals to very distinct wines, and you seem to mull them over carefully, in a similar way to wine though perhaps with less professional distance. How does your profession fit with or influence your poetic?
Amanda Smeltz: I compare people to specific wines in the book? I know there’s one poem where I liken my skin getting tan to Heiligenstein (which is a famous vineyard in Austria, it means holy rock)— but this has less to do with wine knowledge and more with my capacity for mythologizing. My profession isn’t being a somm; that’s an aspect of my day job. Thinking about wine isn’t a superpower, though of course it doesn’t suck to think sensually and emotionally as part of your job. But listen, a lot of it’s throwing around cases of booze in storage and dealing with imbecile salespeople. The Muse turned down my invite to visit the walk-in where I’m counting kegs.
BS: Speaking of spirits, this collection is boisterous, surreal at times, but also seems very personal. Some of the poems, in my opinion, read like letters to loved ones lost to death, or simply left behind. There’s an elegiac fondness working like vines through this book, like some organic network of human experience that binds crazy parties and indiscretions into a tapestry of being (as opposed to a National Lampoon movie). Could you tell us how you approached balancing your personal experience/narrative with the universal/philosophical images that delve into/aim for our “collective unconscious”?
AS: Hey, there’s plenty universal and philosophical about indiscretions! Shakespeare was more bawdy than I am, and no one pokes him about showing too much undapants.
I was fretful about a very confessional poem I was writing in grad school, one that was about as realist as they come, and a friend advised me not to be so nervous: he said the more honest we are in poems, the more others will recognize themselves in them. Through empathy, I wager. Admittedly I sometimes fear being considered an inferior intellect for my need to overtly explore my personal history, but that’s only when I’m being pathetic. I’m bound by my personal experience, even my body, but I mean to use them both to enter being beyond my own. As to how I go about doing it, I don’t understand my own methods. A lot of the poems are just frantic attempts. Rhyme I tried, and bravado, and narrative, and vivid imagery. How does any poet do it? I’m still learning. Seidel has: “I don’t remember poems I write. / I turn around and they are gone.”
I like that you said “elegiac fondness” in the same breath as “vines,” though. Couldn’t be happier to have those things said in earshot of my poems.
BS: Your poems in Imperial Bender go back and forth between allusions involving Greek mythology and romanticized modern experiences akin to the dramatically embellished beaches and pastoral places a reader might find in say, a Harlequin Romance. I found these transportations surprising, at times hilarious and at other times dead serious. I just don’t see many people hitting two very disparate ends of the literary spectrum within one collection, let alone one poem, very often. Delivering believable emotions to your reader in two modes back to back seems like an inherently difficult approach. Why did you decide to layer your work with these different allusions?
AS: Because that manner of counterpoint delights me. High and low, pah. It seems to me our notion of poetry lags way behind our notions in the visual arts. We’re comfortable there with not differentiating between high and low. I make a shitty realist, it turns out, and I can’t “correct” some of my bad taste. I populate my poems with things I delight in or am vexed by. If that’s Tupac and the book of Isaiah in the same breath, I can’t help that any.
BS: You also address people in your personal history (most notably in “Letter to Denny from Brooklyn”) as well as historical figures (ex: George the second) and poets (ex: Keats, Li Po). Besides being obviously rooted in your past and education, perhaps in your development as an artist or just personal development in general, what reasons did you have for using such specific figures? What’s their function for you, and also for your readers?
AS: I like people! I put people in my poems because they’re what I spend the bulk of my time thinking about in real life – whether alive or dead, fictive or “real…” The people in what I write are alive to me. To employ someone from my life is strange anyway: the moment you put them in your poem, your intention of how to depict them or what they mean to you is out of your hands. It belongs to the reader immediately. Denny Smeltz may as well be John Flippin’ Keats to you. And who Keats is to me is my own goddamn business, and I intend to keep talking to and about him. Although, as regards the habit of name-checking my poet loves, the very intelligent Mark Bibbins told me I’m too much FUCK YEAH NEW YORK SCHOOL, and that’s likely true.
BS: There’s quite of bit of self-destructive behavior, which you lament, celebrate, and forgive almost simultaneously. Likewise, the destruction and mutilation of individuals, societies, and landscapes wrought by war is also present. Finally, the motif of destruction, mutilation, and change inevitable to time and human experience is implied by natural imagery (most notably in “Baby, Vivere”). Those are three quite distinct ways to address our malleable reality and growth/decline as individuals and as a species. Why did you choose such an aggressive mode to tackle this subject? Is the natural imagery intended to quell or defang the terror of war and abuse?
AS: “Lament, celebrate, and forgive almost simultaneously” – that’s very accurate. That’s close to how I encounter wrongdoing and suffering in myself and in the world. Some kinds of destruction have no redemptive aspects – rape, abuse of power, brutality. But even in the wake of horrible suffering, there’s sometimes a pasture… And some kinds of destruction aren’t evil at all; I’m not the only artist who’s made good, lucid work in a gnarly hangover. I don’t know how to talk about the ambiguity of destruction better than this. It is probably one of the reasons I write poems.
If this mode, whatever it is, seems aggressive to you, I can tell you that you aren’t the only person who’s found being with me exhausting. Being a human is intense!
For the natural imagery – no, it can’t de-fang the horror of the world. But it is still crazy beautiful here sometimes. There’s a begonia blooming outside my window right now, on my gritty industrial block. I love it, and I love the neighbors who insist on it despite their nonexistent backyard.
BS: Ok, that was a ton of literary, philosophical and craft talk. Lastly, I’d just like to share a note I wrote while reading Imperial Bender and maybe get your reaction to it: “Celebrations of the wild mundane and of modern misfits drunk on dreaming.”
AS: I’d say you’ve captured perfectly my romanticizing self-indulgence. Cheers.
BS: If you aren’t excited Louisville readers, you might want to check your pulse. Seidenfaden’s (1134 E Breckinridge St Louisville, KY 40204) April, 20th @7:30PM: Grab your best hat, slip on your boots, get ready to laugh, hoot and holler, put a couple books and maybe some bourbon on your tab for the authors!
Author Bio: “Amanda Smeltz is the assistant poetry editor for Forklift, Ohio. Her interests include philosophy, history, swears and insults, bourbon and big laughter. In addition to writing, you can find Smeltz in her Brooklyn stomping ground working as a sommelier and wine director. Buy her a drink.”
Well, I don’t know if I’m spearheading a literary revolution, but I’ve had damn good time doing this blog. I started in late August 2012 and set out to change the dynamics of our local Lit. scene by co-mingling crowds and attempting to generate public/community interest in new and resurfacing authors via interview. Since no “year-in/year-end” blog posting is complete without them, I’m going to all the awesome people I’ve interviewed this year (which you can still check out!), some of the inspiring books I’ve read, and the people I have slated and in-mind for interviews this spring.
Past interviews: John James, Hannah Gamble, Joe Brashear, Makalani Bandele, Ada Limón, Jessica Farquhar, Erin Keane (and her questions answered by me, Brandon Stettenbenz), Sean Patrick Hill, Jennifer Woods (Typecast Publishing), Nettie Farris, Jimmy Besseck, Kiki Petrosino, Sheri Wright, and Rachel Short. I’m sure this wasn’t the highlight of the year for any reader or interviewee, but I hope everyone had fun!
Recommended reads for the year: Ada Limón’s Sharks in the Rivers, Sean Patrick Hill’s Interstitual, Hannah Gamble’s Your Invitation to a Moderate Breakfast, Kiki Petrosino’s Fort Red Border, Jimmy Besseck’s Bus Boy Moments, Sheri Wright’s The Feast of Erasure, Erin Keane’s Death Defying Acts, Dean Young’s Fall Higher, Charles Simic’s That Little Something, Richard Taylor’s Fading Into Bolivia, W. Loran Smith’s Night Train, M. Bartley Seigel’s This is What They Say, and many more than I can list or remember.
Reading list 2012 (So far): Dorthea Lasky’s Thunderbird, Dean Young’s Bender: New and Selected poems, Sean Patrick Hill’s Hibernaculum, William Carlos William’s Paterson, Mary Ruefle’s Selected Poems, and so forth and SF books no one cares about.
Slated & possible authors/publishers to interview: Adam Day, Jeriod Avant, Meg Bowden (Sarabande Books), The White Squirrel (UofL) staff, Thomas Olges (later this mo.), Eric Sutherland (Holler Poets, Lexington, KY), Chris Mattingly, Matt Hart, Lynnell Edwards (LLA, InKY, Poet), Brian Leung (LLA, Inky, Novelist) and hopefully many more interesting persons.
I’ve had a decent year personally, and an excellent five months with this blog. I’m hoping that 2013 will bring the Louisville Lit. scene closer together than ever before (we are the only support we have folks!), and I look forward to seeing great readings and interviewing/meeting interesting writers.
Keep Louisville Literary in 2013!
Best wishes to all,
p.s. If you curate, edit or are otherwise part of literary events, magazines/journals, workshops or festivals anywhere in the region, I’d love to collaborate with you for this blog! My goal is not an insular one; enriching any literary community also means connecting with other literary communities and traveling writers! Its a two way, mutually beneficial endeavor.
Jennifer Woods founded Louisville, KY based Typecast Publishing in 2009. She previously worked for the non-profit Louisville, KY publisher Sarabande Books as their Assistant Editor and also as Editor-in-Chief for Gannet’s Custom Publishing Division. The Lumberyard Magazine, which started the creative fire that is Typecast Publishing, has bolstered Louisville’s reputation as an artistic, hip, weird, and literary place to be through its aggressive yet playful graphic format and unique poetic content. Typecast has since become a corner stone in the foundation of our growing local literary industry and community. Keep Louisville Literary interrupted Jen Wood’s manic schedule to get some behind-the-scenes info:
Keep Louisville Literary: The Lumberyard magazine came first, if I’m not mistaken, but that project seemed to lunge head-first into Typecast Publishing. Could you relate to us your “origin story”?
Jennifer Woods: Yes, you are correct. The Lumberyard began conceptually in 2006, with our first issue appearing on the stands in 2007. Initially, the project was an excuse for me to join with my brother, a designer and letterpress artist (http://www.firecrackerpress.com), to combine our professional endeavors and see if we could make something new and fun. Back in 2006, you didn’t see the emphasis on aesthetics in literary publishing like you do today, and I just felt like poetry deserved that kind of venue. We made that issue mainly for ourselves, not really anticipating anything, but the project took off like a small wildfire, and after several years of continued growth and a positive review from Dwight Garner at The New York Times, I decided to make the leap and expand our efforts even further by forming Typecast Publishing. The magazine continues to evolve and, I’m happy to say, still delights us to make, but we also now produce books of various stripes both for our own publishing house as well as some works-for-hire for other presses who want to have the deluxe print experience but need a practiced hand to guide them through gorgeous and affordable book-making. We also house the Typecast Inspiration Institute, which hosts readings, workshops, and our online magazine, Sawmill, along with just about any idea we come up with that we think will actually inspire others as well as ourselves to continue investing in reading and writing.
Our grandfather owned a lumber supply store when we were growing up, and my father worked there with him, so every day after school the bus would drop us off at the store, and our afternoons were often spent exploring the lumber sheds, playing hide and seek in giant rolls of carpet, finding snakes in sawdust piles. All of these things influenced us in profound ways. And while neither of us picked up trades as practical and quantifiable, over the years we both found paths that morphed our fine arts careers into something less ethereal and into something more hands-on and grounded. The result has been a delicious ride reinventing the concept of what the arts can be, and so much of the creative side of what we produce now, ironically, requires the tools of our youth. We’re both very frugal, and upcycle most of what we make as a point of pride. At Typecast, unlike many indie presses, we don’t farm out any of our production to a large printing house unless we absolutely have to. We like to make things by hand that look as good, if not better, than anything you can mass produce and they still hold up in a contemporary market, not necessarily taking on that DIY feel that many crafted book projects do. I think our customers can feel the number of artisan hands that have shaped and molded The Lumberyard by the time it reaches the bookshelf. My favorite thing is when people pick one up and giant smiles spread across their faces as hands begin noticing the texture of the letterpress. They sniff them for the smell of the ink, they flip back and forth through its pages, and honestly, it’s divine to watch.
KLL: Speaking of the Lumberyard, which Typecast Publishing’s website describes as “the hottest place for swinging poetry and totally wasted design”, can you tell us about the evolution of the magazine (printed by The Firecracker Press letterpress shop in St. Louis, MO) and where it’s headed?
JW: Well, as I said, when we started out, I wasn’t sure that anyone would take to the project, so we just stuck close to what my brother and I felt like would make for a fun magazine that pushed the envelope of what poetry and design could do when forced into a relationship together. After the first five issues, we were winning design awards on the national and local levels, and so, in order to keep the magazine fresh and our readers intrigued, we felt it was important to continue challenging ourselves in terms of how the magazine is produced. We changed the format to a landscape format, which massively increased the amount of white space we had to contend with. The thinking was that this might give us new ideas of how to combine poetry and design, and allow us to chart new territory. Our final issue of 2012 will mark the end of that experiment, and in 2013 you can expect to find that The Lumberyard will change again.
We also introduced new editors and head designers this past year. Lindsey Alexander, the poetry editor at Typecast, now curates the issues, and Matty Kleinberg, who has been with Firecracker for many years now, heads up the design. At first it was terrifying to let go of control, but we knew fresh perspectives are key to growth, and these two young artists had already proven their talents in other projects, so it was a natural evolution. They have brought their own personalities into the magazine, and now I’m more excited than ever to see a new issue hit the stands. I couldn’t be more proud of what they do with the magazine.
KLL: We can tell you wear many hats for Typecast, but could you educate us about some of your major roles?
JW: Oh gosh, this is something I can’t stress enough: owning your own small business is not what you think it’s going to be. No matter what your initial projection is, the reality will be different. I’ve had to push myself and become four times the person I was before I started. In any given week, I’m an accountant, a mentor, an editor, a project manager, an events promoter, a shipping guru, a web programmer, the list goes on and on. When you have your own business, you learn to be self-reliant and creative. If you don’t know how to do something, often your only option is to learn. So I learn A LOT and all the time. It can be more exhausting than any job I’ve ever had, I won’t lie, but it’s also more rewarding than I could ever imagine. I joke that my biggest fantasy is to go back to work for someone else, but in reality, I can’t imagine how I would ever do that now that I’ve had three years of pushing through fears and hesitations, only to, for the most part, come out on top at the end of the work week.
My major role now is directing and being the honest-to-goodness president of a company. Finance is imperative, and we are a for-profit publisher, so someone has to be on top of how much capital we have and how we’re going to spend it as well as where more capital is going to come from. I’m a bona fide business lady, which is not a role I ever saw myself in when I was young. I’ve got a great poetry editor and a great fiction editor to work with, so while we collaborate on everything initially, as a collective, I’m no longer single-handedly working the business side and the editorial side. I love the editorial work, and participate as much as I can for my own fulfillment, but I also recognize that the best thing I can do now for the books is to literally take good care of the business. That old saying, “the buck stops here,” takes on new meaning when “here” is you. And ultimately, the health and success of Typecast depends on me to make good decisions not just about the book projects, but all the other mechanics that keep the lights on.
KLL: Typecast designs and assembles very unique books. Could you tell us how these unique designs happen? Does it take many sleepless nights to produce and ship your books? There’s an obvious quality vs. cost factor (Typecast does not create simple paper-back books) with your priority obviously being quality; how does an independent publisher compete in a massive, bare bones publishing industry?
JW: Well, this is our biggest trade secret, so I can’t give away all the goods. But I will tell you that, going back to the previous question, good business sense and the creativity to find new ways to make a beautiful thing is the key. Sometimes it takes us two years to finish a project, and if that’s what is required to make the best book, that’s what we do. My brother and I still collaborate on all the design and aesthetics for every project. In the beginning, these conversations were very, very hard. And intense. And not always pretty. But the books always come out better than I expected. We never throw in the towel. After several years, we’ve literally invented processes to make books, and with several trial runs under our belt, I think we’re much more efficient at the whole thing.
I can tell you that every book we produce gets intense consideration as to how it should be produced. We don’t just pick a standard size or method and execute everything one way. That doesn’t make much sense to me when every book is so unique and special. I spend a lot of time “marinating” on the manuscript, trying to figure out what kind of book it wants to be. And then my brother and I start trying to match that to actual production methods. Often it’s a twisty road lined with many failed experiments, but when the newest book arrives it always feels like, “yep, this is right.” It’s insanely gratifying, to feel that the writing and the printing are in healthy conversation with one another. It inspires me to find the energy for the next project, because who knows where we will go next!
KLL: Speaking of unique, the collection “Oil + Water” was a short anthology of poems related to petroleum consumption and the BP/Gulf Coast disaster of 2010. Packed with the book in a letter-pressed brown sleeve, post cards were included which were screen printed with facts related to oil consumption and related ecological damage. How do Typecast books become artistic endeavors? Does the importance of something like petroleum-impact awareness effect your motivation, format, or process?
JW: Oil+Water was an idea that came about during an early phase of Typecast when I was feeling very overwhelmed and, quite frankly, very scared to be on my own in business for the first time. When I’m working on something intensely, I often need white noise to stay focused, and so many of my days were filled with news of the oil spill playing in the background (I started out in newspaper, so I’m a news junkie through and through to this day). At the time, the Gulf situation felt pretty hopeless; it was clear that nobody knew how to stop the oil from spilling, and as a rabid outdoors enthusiast, it broke my heart what was happening to the Gulf. That made all my Typecast anxieties seem very petty and ridiculous. And I wanted to turn them into something positive, to use what I was building to create positive energy towards something much bigger than this new business or myself. So the idea to create a book whose profits would benefit the Gulf seemed like a logical step. I knew time was of the essence, thus I solicited several potential partners in the publishing world to help, and Holland Brown Books of Louisville, Tuesday: An Art Project (lit mag out of MA), and the Contemporary Arts Center of NOLA all stepped up to help me make it happen. I love that book and what it represents because I think the essence of it is what a great book should be. The work inside is not preachy or dogmatic in any way; its primary purpose is just to get you to think about water and oil and how they exist on planet Earth, both in nature and in modern-day life. What you do with those thoughts is up to you, and we’ve even given you postcards to express whatever that is, however you’d like, and to whomever you’d like to tell them to.
KLL: What Typecast project has you most excited at the moment?
JW: All of them! I mean that sincerely. We don’t take on projects that we don’t love from the outset. It’s that love that gets you through the tough parts that inevitably arise during production. But we have two books out next spring that I never stop thinking about. Scuffletown by Chris Mattingly, a poet from Louisville who now resides in Georgia, and Imperial Bender by Amanda Smeltz, a poet from NYC. It’s the first full-length book for both writers, but when you read the books, you’ll not believe it. I joke they are the yin and yang of 2013. One, a true southern poet, the other all NYC all the way. But both very exciting, so look for more on them in the coming months. We also got involved with the Slant Culture Theatre Festival that’s coming in November to Walden Theatre. We’re producing two shows I’m tickled to death about. One is a showcase of the young poets (13-19 years old) of Generation iSpeak, a local spoken word troupe based out of the west end of Louisville. They’ve been nationally recognized, and they are some of the most inventive and brave poets living in our hometown, but almost nobody I talk to locally has heard of them. That’s terrible if not embarrassing! So we’re giving them a stage, and you should definitely check them out. The other show is a one-hour performance from Chris Mattingly based on his upcoming book Scuffletown, which I mentioned above. If you like good southern stories, great poetry, and a big dash of charisma, you won’t want to miss his show. Finally, I’m also really excited about our Best New Stories of the South short story competition. There’s been so many great fiction voices coming from the south recently, and we’re dying to publish a great book of southern fiction. Wesley Fairman, our fantastic fiction editor for Sawmill Magazine (our free, online publication designed by Shawn Coots for great, mobile reading), is heading up the charge and submissions will open just after the new year. You can find out more about all of the above by joining us on Facebook or by visiting our website.
KLL: This summer Typecast hosted the Natural Habitat reading series at Quills Coffee on the UofL campus. Aside from former Guggenheim fellow and KY native Maurice Manning, the series also featured established and up-and-coming locals. Do you plan for this series to continue? Have any readers been selected for next year that we should be excited about?
JW: Last summer was actually our second year collaborating with Quills on a summer reading series. The first year we held them at the Bardstown Rd. location and invited writers from all over the US. This year, we really wanted to celebrate what’s great about Kentucky, as well as a new location for Quills. I adore the series, and we were lucky to have such amazing talent agree to visit our stage. Two years ago, there was maybe half the number of readings in Louisville, and almost none in the summer, which is why we decided to do something to keep the local community engaged during that time. But today, it’s clear that the number of readings are on the rise (a very wonderful development). If there’s a need for us to keep doing it, I’m sure we will, but if others are doing covering that terrain adequately, I can’t say that we will continue. We have so many events in any given year that even without a set reading series you’ll see us around town. We’re building up our partnerships with other local businesses to produce events unlike anything we’ve ever done before, and I think that’s primarily where our energies are focused for the next year. But yes, people have been asking what will happen to Natural Habitat, so if the community wants it back, we’ll be happy to give the people what they want!
KLL: Continuing with Typecast’s community involvement, you and your staff were also an integral part of the first Writer’s Block festival (along with Louisville Literary Arts, proprietors of the InKY reading series). Please tell us, if you can, a bit about that experience and other ways Typecast Publishing is involved in the literary community.
JW: Up until this year, I was on the board of LLA, and for some time we had been going round and round about this idea of producing some kind of larger, festival-like event. At the same time, there were many exciting publishing enterprises, both new and old, in and around the Louisville area and I knew if there was some kind of local print fair like you have in many other cities, it would be exciting for all of us who like to make books, magazines, zines, etc. I can be pushy as hell when I want something, so I proposed to LLA that we produce The Writer’s Block Festival as both a print fair and literary festival. LLA gave it the green light, and working with Lynnell Edwards and the rest of the board, we were able to pull off last year’s fest. It was gratifying to see it come to light, but I’ll be honest, the amount of work meant I had to sacrifice a lot of my own energy that needed to go into Typecast. I made a difficult decision to resign from the board this year, as well as the festival committee, but I’m happy to say that Typecast still donates design work and technical support for this year’s festival, and we will be among the vendors at the print fair. We’re also teaming up with Garage Bar for an after after party, to kick back with everyone at the end of a long day, as well as host the local launch of our current poetry title, This is What They Say, by M. Bartley Seigel. Seigel’s poems are songs of the rust belt through and through, and he’s coming all the way from Michigan, where he edits [PANK] magazine, in order to participate in the festival and the party at Garage. Anis Mojgani, the keynote for the year’s festival, appeared in our last issue of The Lumberyard, so I’m excited to be introducing this true powerhouse. He’ll also be on hand at the after party for folks to meet and talk with.
We’re deeply involved and committed to this region, and we never shy away from our southern roots. Despite lots of advice early on to behave to the contrary, I have found this to be one of the keys to our success. Even when I’m in NYC, folks seem excited about the level of creativity coming from this region (perhaps because their own misinformed bias about the south makes evidence of the strong arts community here a happy “discovery”). Many of the ways we’re involved I’ve already outlined, but we’ve got lots of tricks up our sleeves in the coming year, so I hope people will feel welcome to connect with us. My goal with Typecast was always to produce books not just for academia, but books that invited my people, the people I knew growing up in that lumber supply store, to engage with poetry and great books again. You can’t do that without maintaining an intimate relationship with the actual community you hope to reach. We hope any time you interact with Typecast, you leave feeling like you were served a proper dose of southern hospitality and inspiration.
Jen Woods is indeed hospitable, she even added her own hyperlinks, which saves me a ton of time. Small gestures like that and volunteering her time and expertise even when she’s already stretched thin on time and energy shows the southern stuff she’s made of. Head down to the Writer’s Block Festival Saturday Oct. 13 (@the Green Building, 732 E. Market) and check out Typecast Publishing’s table at the print fair. Jen Woods will be happy to extend you her best Kentucky welcome and sell you some completely unique, beautiful books.
In a moment I will outline the full schedule for the (second annual) Writer’s Block Festival this coming Saturday Oct. 13th with many exciting FREE events and very affordable workshop opportunities.
But first! The little literary things that make Louisville awesome!
Two events will be going on Wednesday Oct. 10th, back to back. First up, at 7:00 at Carmichael’s Bookstore (2720 Frankfort Ave) Sue Driskell will be reading from her new book Knocking On The Door Of Spring (Larkspur press, 2012) with current Kentucky poet laureate Maureen Morehead, whose books are also on Larkspur (they make some seriously beautiful, hand-crafted books, right here in KY!)
Second, head down to E. Market (or NULU if you prefer) and check out Subterranean Phrases downstairs at Decca (812 E.market). That will kick off at 9pm in one of the coolest (seriously, bring a jacket) spaces I’ve ever seen: an all stone cellar decked out in swankness! Poet Jay Sizemore is driving up from Nashville to read and will be accopanied by guitarist Jonny Sands and violinist Aaron West. This event is the newest brainchild of long-time literary arts promoter Rachel Short who also happens to be a composer, poet and musician. Subterranean Phrases is fresh, unique, and begins with an open-mic session.
Fast forward to Friday: another InKY series reading kicks off the Writer’s Block Festival with the distinguished poet Maurice Manning (who will be giving a worskshop Sat.), and award-winning fiction author Crystal Wilkinson (who co-owns Wild Fig Bookstore in Lexington), music by Mike Karman and A Girl Named Earl. Open-mic sign-ups at 6:30pm, 7pm showtime at The Bards Town (1801 Bardstown Rd).
Saturday is the big day. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this fantastic, ONCE-A-YEAR celebration of the LITERARY ARTS! Everything I’m going to describe is FREE to attend accept for the workshops. Even the Keynote is FREE! Let’s start with the list of events:
Panels @ the Green Building (732 East Market Street; registration opens at 9am!):
10am-11:15 Making Matter: An Editor’s Discussion, w/ Tony Fasciano (Digital Americana Magazine), Jen Woods (Typecast Publishing), M. Bartley Seigel ([PANK]), and Matt Dobson (The Paper); moderated by Wesley Fairman (Fiction Editor, Sawmill)
11:30-12:45 Writer’s Block Conversation with Cornbread Mafia author Jim Higdon.
1-2:15 Younger Games: The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Writing Young Adult Fiction.
Literary Louisville Arts (LLA) presents readings at Swanson Reed Gallery (638 E. Market, one block from the Green Building):
1-2pm Jeriod Avant (poetry), Sena Naslund (Fiction), John Gamel (non-fiction).
2-3pm Martha Greenwald (Poetry), Frank Bill (Fiction), Sonja DeVries (poetry).
3-4pm Adriena Dame (Fiction), Chris Mattingly (poetry), Angel Elson (Non-fiction).
note: I will be hosting one or more of the readings; come say “hello”!
The Print Fair (Green Building, 732 East Market Street) runs from 9am-4pm. Tables by Typecast Publishing, Sarabande Books, Accents Publishing, The Louisville Review, The White Squirrel, Hound Dog Press (letterpress shop that does the Writer’s Block posters) and more!
PLEASE stop by and check out these vendors between events. I know for a fact that all the publishers have new titles, several of which I’ve read and can assure you are awesome.
The KEYNOTE READING with two-time NATIONAL POETRY SLAM winner ANIS MOJGANI will happen at 6 pm, @ Cressman Center, 100 East Main Street. Make sure to reserve your ticket at registration. FREE courtesy of U of L’s creative writing program.
Head back to the Greeen Building right after the key note, for the OPEN MIC after party hosted be Jeriod Avant. Spaces limited, so head straight over after getting your mind blown by Anis Mojgani (from TWB page “Anis has performed for audiences as varied as the House of Blues, the United Nations, and TEDx and his work has appeared on HBO, NPR, and in the pages of such journals as Rattle, Used Furniture, and The Lumberyard. A founding member of the touring Poetry Revival, Anis is also the author of two poetry collections, both published by Write Bloody Publishing: Over the Anvil We Stretch (2008) and The Feather Room (2011)”).
The after after party party 8:30pm (hosted by Typecast Publishing) is at Garage Bar (700 E Market, basically next door to the Green Building) with readings by M. Bartley Seigel from his new book THIS IS WHAT THEY SAY. Anis Mojgani and Chris Mattingly are also hanging out.
(Full Disclosure: I do not work for nor am I currently published by or affiliated with LLA or any other organization or business associated with the Writer’s Block, but I am a volunteer for this day’s events.)