03 October 2012
Reading: Paradise Was Typeset
Speaking of Brian Teare and Albion Books, I just received an immaculate chapbook printed by MC Hyland for (new to me) DoubleCross Press, collecting some of Brian's musing on publishing micro-press chapbooks. Paradise was Typeset features some snippets from a long interview between Teare and Rob McClennan, punctuated by semi-discursive expositions on community-based publishing, the joys (and difficulties!) of participating in a gift-economy, and the value of eco-printing.
The book itself is stunningly produced, and Brian's take on publishing seems especially apropos at the moment. Here are some excerpts:
...it seems to me that each community is a microclimate to which its small presses adapt their particular goals and functions. Within a given literary ecosystem, small presses typically act as interstices: they not only fill in the cultural and aesthetic gaps left between larger publishers and university publications with which MFA students are affiliated, they also serve as the connective material between them, articulating the shape of street-level and post-, ante-, and anti-MFA literary landscape. Small press publishing is kind of like the grasses and weeds that keep a hill's surface from eroding--not only because their roots serve as the structure that holds a broader community together and keeps it from being centralized around one or two larger systems, but also because small press publishing is so often overlooked and under-supported. Everyone mourns a tree cut down, but in our literary imaginations, small press publishers--like weeds and grasses--seem to be expendable, less valuable. This is perhaps our greatest weakness, but I'd argue it's also our greatest opportunity for strength. Given the impact and dependence the publishing industry has on the environment and given also the depth and persistence of the economic downturn, I think it's important for a press to be able to flourish in conditions of scarcity, to demand as little capital and support from the earth as possible. And though I understand the very important work that tree-like institutions can do in a literary landscape, my idea of publishing embraces more the qualities of weeds and grasses: flexible, adaptable, minimal, ephemeral, as easily uprooted as rooted.
...one of my mentors at the Center for the Book reprimanded me for giving away the majority of the edition; she suggested that next time I tally up the cost of all the supplies and all the hours of labor that went into making an edition and make sure that I price each chapbook accordingly. She said this would be the only way to be fair to myself and to the press as a business because it would ensure that I was paid back adequately. Though I found I could agree with her in the abstract, it didn't take me very long to figure out that a) not only would no one pay that much for a chapbook, but b) I didn't want to charge more than the average paperback book, c) I didn't believe that chapbooks I made were "worth" more than that, and d) the chapbooks were largely meant to go out into the poetry community, not to collectors.