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!
I recently contacted Maurice to talk about his fifth book of poetry, published last month, The Gone and the Going Away (2013 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
Brandon Stettenbenz: As the narrator in your book (the unnamed observer of “Fog Town Holler” and its denizens) recollects/dreams tales which are generally raucous or silly, and at times sobering, we get a broad swath of earthy characters from a past gone if not far removed. Did you set out to capture some impression of historical charm or community tradition you see fading from Kentucky?
Maurice Manning: It is always a process, of course. As I was nearing the end of my last book, The Common Man, I realized that the world I was writing about was nearly gone. I was thinking of a small Kentucky town, a community with its own integrity, history, and ties, a distinct place with distinctive people living in it. Rather than bemoan the loss of our small communities in my next book, I decided to imagine a small community and fill it with imagined characters, perhaps to suggest what we have lost.
BS: I personally felt the themes of family, heritage, and belonging continuously reinforced throughout this book in passages such as, “And so, / I suffer and love it still, and drag / my father with me, knowing it came / from him, from being here…” Here we see the narrator tied explicitly through his heritage to the land. What connection, if any, does this book have with your own history or that of your kin?
MM: The poem you quote is called “The Debt.” It is a true poem. My father grew up on a farm along the border of Clay County and Jackson County. The landscape in my mind is a combination of that region of eastern Kentucky, the knobs outside of Danville where I grew up, and the farm where we live in Washington County.
BS: There’s something in “Fog Town Holler” of the mystic and mysterious natural world—the people there seem closer to their origins, closer to the earth, and whether skeptics, preachers, or spirit “slain” parishioners, perhaps closer or more curious about the nature of being (alive) and the spiritual nature of their living world. Could you discuss for us this reverence for everyday beauty and nature evident in these poems?
MM: Well, I think you’ve put it as well as I can. I admire people who are closer to the earth and closer to their origins. Such people have roots and a history of being in one place. I think belonging to a place is important—to feel known and claimed by the place. Rather than us making a place our own, I prefer the notion of allowing a place to make us its own. That puts us more properly I think in a subordinate position.
BS: That reverence is also evident no only in the character’s ruminations upon life and the land, but also in your rendering of the landscape:
“and fog / rising from the ribbon of river / unstrung and loose below the hills / which fetched up like a row of knee / poked into the rosy sky”
Imagery is the primary mode used to immerse a reader into a place and sometimes into the mind of role of the speaker. However, your living pictures of “Fog Town Holler”, like the candor of its people, are rendered using colloquial modes of speech. Please tell us about the importance of writing in this way, of this place.
MM: I think the colloquial is something I can’t avoid, because my experience with language starts with listening to it. I love the natural rhythms of our local talk, but a local language also has a role in what is observed or thought or expressed. One of my duties is to point out that local language can be intelligent.
BS: This is certainly the funniest, most colorful elegy I’ve ever read. I would even venture to say that humor lures the reader into this half-dreamed, half-remembered holler by endearing them to the long-gone (but perhaps not lost) characters of this fading memory/place. Could you discuss the role of humor in this book?
MM: I enjoy humor is the short answer. In The Gone and the Going Away I think some of the humor is there to provide comic relief. There are a number of heavy poems in the book as well. Humor is also neighborly—my neighbors are always stopping by to share a tall tale or tell a little joke or share something funny. I often think I’m writing to a neighbor.
BS: Speaking of sing-song, there are many short, funny poems throughout this book, interspersed between longer dream sequences which seem to skirt the border of fable and parable. Do these song-poems stem from a regional tradition?
MM: The short poems are described by a friend of mine as “honky tanka”. I call this a stanza, since there are a few poems in the book composed of several of these stanzas. The stanza is 30 words: 5 words to the line and 6 lines. Odd-numbered lines begin with an iambic foot and even-numbered lines begin with a trochaic foot. I believe each stanza has three rhetorical moves. The stanza is like a little math problem. I like the description of “song-poem.” This is a case where the form had a real role in generating the poem. Once I wrote one of these I wanted to write another one. And so forth.
BS: The longer, dream-like poems in this book seem to reach or search for some wisdom, lesson or knowledge perhaps once known and lost. Did you have traditional fables or Christian parables in mind when you wrote these pieces?
MM: To some extent I would say a parable is a form I often think about. In my own life I respond to what I call spiritual confirmation. Some of the longer poems are attempts to seek such confirmation and to enter into all of the paradoxes that accompany any sense of faith.
BS: Oral traditions have always influenced and sustained literature and storytelling; poetry is no exception. In the aforementioned short poems, I noticed some exaltation declared in a Whitman-like candor: “O—I’ve been dizzy too!” I also see some imagist influence reminiscent of William Carlos Williams—the way he dealt intimate glimpses of his native Rutherford/Patterson, sharing his elation for the place by inviting the reader into the complex simplicities of his home and his neighbors. Please tell us a bit about the influence of both storytelling traditions and other poetic forms on your work.
MM: Storytelling is the beginning for me. I was lucky to have known my great-grandmothers and other elders who were wonderful storytellers. The stories were informal and usually incomplete, because the occasion usually wasn’t an official story. If my grandmother told me about the time she stayed with cousins in Paint Lick and a train derailed, I would have been fascinated by the fragment of the story, but I would also have known what my grandmother was thinking about years later. Those kinds of stories don’t come from an overt desire to tell; instead I think they reveal what someone is wondering about. That usually means the story doesn’t have a “lesson,” or even an end. That sense of wonder and ambiguity suit poetry very well. Beyond hearing stories in my head, I’ve been drawn to Wordsworth and Coleridge and their pioneering belief that landscape can be the genesis of the poem.
BS: Dear Readers, Carmichael’s Bookstore will be on hand Friday during Speak Social to sell The Gone and Going Away, and Maurice will no doubt be happy to speak with you about the book and sign copies.
Author’s Bio (taken from The Gone and the Going Away):
“Maurice Manning is the author of four previous books of poems. His most recent book, The Common Man, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize and a Guiggenheim fellowship, he teaches at Transylvania University in Lexington, KY.”
Tonight 5/17: First installment of the Homegrown Art, Music, and Spoken Word series hosted by Bobbi Buchanan
At Cedar Grove Coffee House 142 buffalo run road shepardsville, KY 40165. https://m.facebook.com/#!/events/306641226132694
Spalding university’s Festival of Contemporary Writing feat. Faculty and guests including Greg Pape, Kirby Gann, Maureen Morehead and many more starts tomorrow! 5/18
The KY Women’s Bookfest runs tomorrow 5/18 from 9:30am until 3pm at UofL’s Ekstrom Library. Affrilachian poet Bianca Spriggs, WFPL’s Erin Keane, Sheri Wright, Judith C. Owens-LaLude, and Sarah Garland will speak
Monday 5/20 Sarabande hosts Mary Jo Bang and Kazim Ali at hotel 21c 7:30pm
Friday 5/24 Maurice Manning and Makalani Bandele read at Java Bardstown (1707 Bardstown rd) for Speak Social at 7:30pm
Look midweek for my interview with former Guggenheim fellow Maurice Manning (with audio!)
Eric Scott Sutherland is the creator, curator, and host of Holler Poets, a reading series held in Lexington, KY @ Al’s Bar (601 N Limestone St.) at 8pm, usually on the last Wednesday of each month. The series will celebrate its fifth anniversary at Holler 60 on May 29th with readings by Kentucky’s new poet Laureate Frank X Walker and fellow Affrilachain poet Mitchell Douglas. Musical segment by JustMe. Eric is also the author of three collections of poetry and his fourth, pendulum, is due out soon from Accents Publishing.
[Note: “regional literary scene” refers to literary happenings in Lexington, Louisville, Frankfort and surrounding areas.]
BS: Frank X Walker, our new poet laureate here in the commonwealth, is your featured reader for Holler’s fifth anniversary (May 29th). Aside from starting the Affrilachian poets and teaching, I’m sure Mr. Walker has more than earned his honors. I’m unfortunately less-than familiar with his involvement in the regional literary community…so could you perhaps tell us about the man, his work as a writer, and his contributions?
ESS: Frank has been a tireless promoter of poetry in Kentucky and beyond our borders. His work has helped enlarge our story, adding an Affrilachian point of view to our incredible literary heritage. Frank opened the door, no, kicked it in with kindness and persistence for many to walk through. Throw in his positive presence and you have Kentucky’s first African American Poet Laureate. He’s also the youngest and so deserving of this honor. In several conversations at his historic induction ceremony in Frankfort, the consensus was that he has been doing the work of Poet Laureate for years.
Brandon Stettenbenz: Holler Poets has welcomed over 80 writers and dozens of musicians over the last five years. Man, I wish I’d heard of it sooner. Could you tell us the origin story of Holler, and perhaps a few of your favorite Holler moments?
Eric Scott Sutherland: [In] February 2008, everybody I knew was drained of significant life force after enduring two [presidential] terms of George W. Bush, to the point of depression. The Iraq invasion had become an all out debacle and was closing in on the five year anniversary. I had been writing about the invasion and war in general for years, which in the wake of September 11th only escalated. I had marched on Washington with 200,000 other fellow human beings of all faiths and nationalities the fall of 2002, before it all began. Back home, I had performed at protest events, held signs and chanted slogans at rallies, and published a collection of poems in response, [titled] incommunicado, but somehow I [still] felt like there weren’t enough [voices] being heard. One night I was sitting in Al’s Bar, my favorite neighborhood hangout, where I have [now] been appointed, Poet Laureate, belly up to the worn bar, having some beers on a crowded rock n’ roll night. The bar was full of conversation, artists and activists and others who don’t fit into the manufactured box of modern society. All of us [were] pioneers in [this] poor part of town: men and women of action, artists and entrepreneurs reclaiming what had been in decline for years; the abandoned communal spaces and cultural spaces. My friend Chuck Clenney and I were getting into the deep end of U.S. foreign policy and venting a desire to speak out against the runaway war machine. Chuck is a poet, as well and his work always speaks to the climate of the times. No holds barred. We are certainly brothers in word when it came to matters of [U.S.] politics. By the time we’d finished our beers, we’d cooked up a poetry event to be held around the time of the fifth anniversary [of the U.S. invasion of Iraq]. The idea being, poets would speak out in a public forum and address our country’s role in [both] the creation of war and the maintenance of peace. It was a segment of the population we both felt was being shut out of the conversation by mainstream media. This was a way to become more actively involved. Poets for Peace was born.
We went our separate ways that evening with the idea that we’d be in touch. I left inspired and promptly began assembling names and thoughts as to how it would go down. Within a few days I had secured eight commitments (myself among them) to perform, including the [then] current Poet Laureate of Kentucky, Jane Gentry Vance. My friends Jeremy Midkiff and John Ferguson would perform as The Joybombs. When I spoke with Chuck, I told him it was all set and he was blown away by how fast it came together. He volunteered to handle the poster and we were off. Sunday evening March 30th we packed Al’s to capacity and then some. The crowd buzzed in anticipation. Folks mingled as the place became packed, adding an electric charge to the air. The stage was set for a night of catharsis, free speech and collective action for peace. Chuck Clenney, Affrilachian Poets Bianca Spriggs, Jude McPherson and Mitchell Douglas, Leatha Kendrick, George Ella Lyon, Jane Gentry and I all delivered impassioned readings of our work. The audience, in a gospel-like call and
response mood, surged with each poem and shouted out when they felt compelled to do so. It was such a special moment, to bring these writers of different pedigree together, to speak out against the war and the strange silence and complacency that had swept the nation.
At the end of the show, Lester Miller, one of the owners of Al’s and a north side neighbor, approached me with handshakes and congratulations. He was as energized as the crowd. He told me that was the kind of thing he wanted to see happening in his bar. He also wanted to know if I was interested in doing something like this on the regular. I told him I was interested, but only monthly. He said let me know when you come up with a date but Wednesdays would be great for us. And thus, holler was born.
As far as memorable moments, several come to mind: Whitney Baker beginning his feature by the bar, which was loud and not paying attention. After gathering their attention, he returned to the stage and blew the crowd away earning a rare standing ovation in the process. Maurice Manning’s second feature brought the house down. Silas House, Marianne Worthington, Daniel Martin Moore and Joan Shelley putting together a seamless hour and a half masterpiece. Ron Whitehead’s wild rant-a-thon when he ripped the UK banner off the wall behind the stage, later licking a shot of Patron off the stage. Nikky Finney’s riveting feature six months before her National Book Award. The July 2010 Holler when there were so many literary luminaries in the audience I quipped from the stage that if the powers that be wanted to wipe out modern Kentucky literary history all they’d need to do was bomb Al’s bar. Just a few weeks ago, Ross Gay’s amazing debut just a week after he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. And to be honest, each month’s show is so unique to itself that they are all memorable in their own special way.
BS: Now let’s talk about your poetry. Aside from being an outgoing, supportive literary community leader, you’re also an active writer with three books published and a forth coming soon from Accents Publishing. You also had a poem featured in Accents’ “Bigger Than They Appear” anthology, and its worth mentioning that Accents is, like your Holler series, a beacon of literature in the bluegrass. Tell us about Accents Publishing and your forthcoming collection pendulum.
ESS: Katerina Stoykova-Klemer is a dear friend; my poetic sister, if you will. We are the same age and have brought our own unique energy to the current Kentucky literary scene. It has been a fulfilling, synergistic relationship where we support each other’s projects while raising up everyone in the community simultaneously. From Poezia to Accents the Radio show and Accents Publishing, Katerina has helped shine a wider light on the amazing powwow of talented writers in our region. [Accents Publishing] has given voice to some of our best local poets. Her exquisite chapbooks are a steal at $5, but have helped make poetry more accessible for those who might be hesitant to purchase a book of poems for $20. I think what we both understand is that you have to develop appreciators of poetry. There are plenty of writers; we need more readers and listeners.
I am excited to have a full length collection being published by Accents. Pendulum was inspired by my time running a café in Lexington’s Central Library. I was there for 8 years and met many memorable characters. Several of them will be immortalized in this book, though not every character in the book is an exact portrait of a real life person. I’ve also attempted to mystify the setting to keep it from being too literal. Those that know me the best will get it, but for those not familiar, they could read it and have a totally different idea of where the action unfolds in the book.
BS: You’ve also been published in more than a few journals over the past decade, including many regional journals such as Kudzu and Still: the journal (named after the late poet James Still). Your love for the land is also apparent in your poetry. Did you grow up in Appalachia? Could you tell us about your connection with Kentucky and the Appalachian region?
ESS: I am not from Appalachia, though I do own some acreage in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Menifee County. I grew up in central Kentucky, Shelbyville to be exact. It’s not exactly Appalachia, but it is similar in a rural sense. On my grandparents farm I learned about the small wonders of nature along Rattlesnake Creek. It was this early exposure to the miracles of the woods that lead me to fall in love with Kentucky. Once I was old enough [I wanted] to move out west, like most of the people I knew, [but] I couldn’t escape the pull of this place. It was always home, a place to defend and cherish, calling me back like a Siren.
BS: I could say “I’ve seen Eric read and he’s a moving, sincere poet with a talent for conjuring the magic of Kentucky hills, valleys, and mountains” or “I’ve been to Holler, and it’s a raucous yet respectful vaudeville of poetic performance”, but I think readers want to hear your sentiments. What can we expect from your new collection, pendulum, and from the Holler fifth year anniversary event in May?
ESS: Pendulum is a departure from what I call my earth poems. Nature’s revelations recede in these poems to favor the psychological landscape of the cast who inhabit the book. I hope those who read it will be emotionally touched by each character and the stories unfolding in each poem. What happens in the dim rotunda and in its vicinity is a microcosm of the greater world, the struggle between light and darkness.
You can expect a literary celebration and a large, jubilant crowd for the fifth birthday event on May 29th. Newly appointed Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker will be joined by fellow Affrilachian Poet Mitchell Douglas. Holler is always a monthly family reunion of writers with heaping helpings of words, but this one will be extra special.
Eric Scott Sutherland is the author of the chapbooks tall tales (1999), the psychonaut sails (2000), incommunicado (2007) and the forthcoming full length pendulum (2013). He lives, teaches, and curates/hosts the Holler Poets Series in Lexington, KY. You can find Holler Poets Series online via Facebook or his fan page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eric-Sutherland/133556093940 and read some poems, check coming Holler dates, and keep up with Eric’s news and events at his website http://www.ericscottsutherland.com/.
You (and I) may have missed InKY, and Speak Social may be taking the month off, but you need not despair, there are still a few literary events still going on in and around Louisville. They will, obviously, not coincide (where avoidable) with the NCAA schedule.
TOMORROW, March 13th at 9pm. Join Rachel Short and crew in Decca’s swank stone cellar/lounge for Subterranean Phrases! This month’s reader is Thomas Olges, local teacher, poet, satirist and fiction writer. I personally guarantee evocative, weird, uncomfortably poignant satire/thematic out of this guy. He’ll be accompanied by Ryan Conroy on various instruments.
March 21. Render After Party: A Benefit for Holler Poets Series (will follow Rebecca Gayle Howell’s official release of “Render / An Apocolypse” winner of the 2012 Cleveland State University First Book Prize, selected and with a foreword by Nick Flynn, at the Carnegie Center for Literacy)
Music by Matt Duncan with guest appearances from Katerina Stoykova- Klemer, Eric Scott Sutherland, Maurice Manning, and Marianne Worthington. 9:00 p.m. | Al’s Bar, 601 North Limestone Street $5 cover & donations accepted to benefit The Holler Poets Series.
March 27th, Holler returns for its 58th installment. Tina Andry (celebrating the release of Ransom Notes from Accents Publishing), and Jeremy Paden (celebrating the release of Broken Tulips, also from Accents) will read; Chris Sullivan will play some Tunes. As always, Holler gets loud at Al’s Bar in Lexington.
Stone Soup didn’t want to compete with chocolate…I mean Jesus…so there will be no Stone Soup for Easter. In April, Jimmy will welcome Divinity Rose, Norman Buzz Minnick, and Jay Sizemore.
There are also several author signings and readings at Carmichael’s Bookstore, which I will “share” on FB.
Enjoy the Madness and the (slowly improving) weather!
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.)