the thirty years-to-date of my poetry chapbook publisher above/ground press (b.
July 9, 1993) I’ve worked hard to engage with numerous threads of literary
activity, from multiple elements of poetic form (prose poems, long poems,
visual poems, lyric forms, etcetera) to different geographies and communities,
and a whole slew of individual writers across North American and beyond in
their ongoing works. Centred in the Ottawa literary community, above/ground
press publishes single-author poetry chapbooks as well as a handful of ongoing
journals (Touch the Donkey [a small poetry journal]
, GUEST [a journal
of guest editors]
and The Peter F. Yacht Club
), and has published
chapbook debuts alongside works by award-winning authors and produced works in
translation and collaborative efforts, running the gamut between wildly
experimental works and more traditional forms. Last year, above/ground press started
producing a series of festschrifts, celebrating the works of individual poets
from across North America, attempting to find a spark of positive throughout
the weight of the Covid-era.
very nature of chapbook publishing is both ephemeral and immediate, and able to
take a particular kind of risk that almost refuses anything commercial.
Unfortunately, of course, publishing is an expensive enterprise, and
subscriptions alone provide far less than half of publishing costs. I’ve long
resisted increasing my subscription rates, precisely due to not wishing to
outprice anyone who wishes to engage with the work.
the pandemic years managed with roughly the same amount of annual above/ground
press subscribers overall, the press saw severely reduced individual sales, as
well as wiping out in-person readings and small press fair possibilities (from
the ottawa small press book fair to Toronto’s Meet the Presses), so there
hasn’t been the same ability to replenish the financial coffers to feed back
into production. My personal Public Lending Rights and Access Copyright monies have
also fed directly into the press, but it still hasn’t been enough to not worry
about how one might keep the lights on. Given the enormous backlist the press
holds, much of which is still in print (although half of the titles I’m listing
include some of the final copies), I thought this might be an opportunity to
offer a series of curated packages of titles, many of which highlight a variety
of threads the press has deliberately attended.
aware that chapbook publishing, especially poetry chapbook publishing, is
inherently a not-for-profit enterprise, I’d like to keep moving forward,
otherwise I might have to seriously reassess how best to keep publishing, if at
opening salvo of available perks have been posted, and I’m aiming to announce
further perks over the following weeks, including more bundles (a second
Brooklyn Poets bundle, for example), as well as bundles featuring the work of
Amanda Earl, Derek Beaulieu and Ken Norris. There will probably be others,
goals for this fundraiser are to keep going. See the link to the campaign here.