With Garth Graeper

“How dependent are literary scenes and movements upon small publishers that publish their genre and style of literature, and vice versa?”

I asked Mr. Graeper this question, because I feel, in some way, especially in the current era, literary movements are tied to their context. Graeper mentioned that the publishing house he worked at for around a decade, Ugly Duckling Presse, specialized in publishing more avant-garde pieces of literature, many pieces of which were the near-polar opposite of what the Big Five publishers will even touch from lesser-known writers. As there are less bureaucratic layers between writer and publisher in small press publishing, so it is not, in theory, as difficult as larger publishers to suggest a more direct and meaningful avenue for collaboration.

I wanted to get a professional opinion on this matter, because I had felt, from my own experiences, that the more blog-friendly literary climate of the 2010’s had affected the writer-editor/publisher relationship, due to the lack of physical relationship between the participants. Of course, in reality, this is not the case; it is easier than ever to self-publish your own work, but to have a career with bountiful exposure for your own work, collaboration is vital. Graeper confirmed that participation in exposing your work (which may or may not be representative of a current literary movement or scene) can be as accessible as talking to smaller presses and reaching out to individuals within it, but one does have to develop and maintain a relationship with the individuals.

I do have some trouble not seeing writers in the idealized version I’ve developed over time, as succeeding solely on their own artistic voices alone and inspiring future writers for years on end. However, getting literature out to its audience requires resources and funds, which a publisher can provide. In addition, as can be seen from past figures like the Beat Generation’s Lawrence Ferlinghetti, outlets can themselves cultivate a scene of writers that can allow for contact between writers, which leads to more inspired work going out into the world.

Read some of Garth Graeper’s poem “Brother Cabin” here: http://sporkpress.com/poetry/?p=461

2 thoughts on “With Garth Graeper”

  1. I like that you mention this vision of an author solely spreading feelings and ideas. Texts can seem so personal and we often forget the crazy processes that go into published works that are written. “The Catcher in the Rye,” feels so personal that I forget Salinger went through a press and that the work was likely changed and moderated by several others. It’s hard to think of the text as being a product of an business/organization.

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  2. Your question reminded me of the interview with Bill Lavender on Jacket 2, where he seemed to imply that literary scenes have mostly been replaced by MFA programs. I wonder if small presses are creating their own scenes? They have their own aesthetics, they encompass a variety of work by a variety of writers, and they involve a community of readers, writers, and editors who are also readers and writers. What better expression of the concept of the literary scene?

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