Saturday, August 15, 2009

bread loaf, copper canyon press

I sat in on a special talk given by Michael Wiegers on Copper Canyon Press, which, interestingly enough, started by a handful of poets who won $500 for a college magazine (Tree Swenson, who runs the Academy of American Poets, and Sam Hammill being two of said poets). Thirty seven years ago, they took that $500 and invested it in a platen letterpress, bought type and furniture and a printmaker joined this team, setting the roots firmly in independent and non-profit production.

Now, Copper Canyon prints 18-20 books a year (a third of which, in answer to my question, indeed come out of the slush pile).

Wiegers spoke a lot about how Copper Canyon is not a corporate press, and he spoke of how 90+% of publishing is in the hands of three or so giants--what does that say about our national culture? He spoke of how he is interested in the private act of reading and how that translates to a public discourse. He referenced CD Wright's "sacred cone of light over a reader."

He also used the words "privashing," recognizing that as a non-profit, Copper Canyon has a duty to the public, and is funded partly by sales, by grants, by donations. This year's saving grace, interestingly enough was sales, and that was mainly because of Merwin's win of the Pulitzer, and Stone's nomination.

It was also the story of twins, both poets, who are being published, and the attention they are getting. I hate to be someone interested in its curiosity--but of course, as a voyeur (look at the url!), I am curious as to similarities and whatnot, not because of the twinness, though this is compelling, but simple genetics. The offspring of writers are sometimes writers, but not often as good, and siblings (major exception: Brontes) may have similar careers but not always so.

PS: One of the twins is here.

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