Wednesday, April 11, 2018
above/ground press 25th anniversary essay: Carrie Olivia Adams
This is the sixteenth in a series of short essays/reminiscences by a variety of authors and friends of the press to help mark the quarter century mark of above/ground. See links to the whole series here.
Just as no one becomes a poet to make money, no one becomes a poetry publisher to make money. And so, it is a discipline that inherently attracts those that are drawn to it as a calling and those who believe in poetry for poetry’s sake alone. Yet, even in a discipline composed almost entirely by people who have come to it out of shear desire and admiration, rob mclennan stands out as someone whose commitment to poetry and its potential readership is powerfully unique and true. And as a result, his love and belief in poetry has grown a community that is remarkable for its inclusivity.
Though there are more people studying and writing poetry than ever before, I fear that the readership for poetry has not grown in accordance. Instead, just as we have become enclosed in our own small news media bubbles, many of us poets, myself included, are too often caught in our own incestuous poetry worlds when it comes to the books and journals we read. Through above/ground press and Touch the Donkey, rob offers an anecdote to this. His strength as a publisher and editor is having a wide vision—one that is not tied to any particular geography or region, not tied to any aesthetic or cool cohort, and one that encompasses age and profile. Emerging or established, old school or new—for rob it’s about the work itself. It’s about what poetry can do and the readers it can find and create.
And this takes incredible work and time and attention—to find and solicit writers, to paginate and fold those pages, and to stuff all of those many, many envelopes. It seems like every week at least one of those joyful white envelopes is in my mailbox—a regularity and a productivity unmatched in the publishing community. I feel incredibly lucky that rob reached out to me for an interview after my first book Intervening Absence was published almost ten years ago. It established a creative and encouraging friendship for which I am grateful. We, as poets, are all lucky to have him as our champion and as a champion of the art to which we’ve all devoted large parts of our hearts and lives. Cheers to 25 years! Let’s hope for many more.
Carrie Olivia Adams is a Chicago-based freelance book publicist and the poetry editor for the small press Black Ocean. She is the author of Grapple (above/ground press 2017) and Overture in the Key of F (above/ground press 2013) as well as the full-length collections Operating Theater (Noctuary Press 2015), Forty-One Jane Doe’s (book and companion DVD, Ahsahta 2013) and Intervening Absence (Ahsahta 2009).