Burning Deck Press

Flipping through the subtitles in A Poetics of the Press, the first press to catch my eye was Burning Deck Press, perhaps because Halloween is just around the corner, and the title helped evoke the spirit in a strange sense. This press was founded by couple Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop in Michigan in 1961, and began as a magazine that published ‘experimental’ poetry and stories. It shortly evolved to a publisher of diverse poetry and short stories in offset book form.

Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop (left to right) at Harvard University for the 40th anniversary reading

In an interview with WWB Daily upon the presses closing, Rosmarie Waldrop recalled what sowed the seeds of Burning Deck was a rivalry between the Donald Allen and Hall-Pack-Simpson presses, which she called a ’war of anthologies.’1 Keith was frustrated by the hostility in the world he called home, and responded by cofounding a magazine that was more inclusive with the poets it featured.

In the interview, I’ve noticed Kyle Schlesinger, the interviewer inquiring possible signs of bias, particularly towards the writings of Brown graduates, but Rosmarie replied that Burning Deck Press finds manuscripts in all sorts of ways, that they and Brown University have no financial relations, and that, after a recent rough count, she found that almost around thirty of the 135 authors featured by the press happened to by Brown graduates, but never by students.

Kyle also questioned their utilization of traditional rules of legibility despite featuring mostly experimental literature, he brought up Camp Printing as an exception. Rosmarie responded in saying that while she finds traditional printing more pleasing to read, she had made a mistake while printing one of James Camp’s chapbooks, but enjoyed what came of it and began to experiment farther with the printing process. This part of the interview stood out to me for its encouragement to never waste a moment of your life mowing through a task, even in frustration. There could always be some element that could push your work or your craft to the next level.

Work Cited

Words without Borders, Experimental Poetry Press Close Shop: An Interview with Burning Deck’s Rosmarie Waldrop. Becker, Eric M.B. wordswithoutborders.org, 2018

6 thoughts on “Burning Deck Press”

  1. The ability to see beauty in accidental production is a skill manifested in Rosemarie. We have a tendency to see deviance from intention as mistakes, but small press often counters this notion by quickly accepting and implementing deviation.

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  2. I thought it was really cool that the Waldrops founded a press for the purpose of inclusion. They printed writing that interested them, including international poetry. Burning Deck books must have a variety of poetic voices; I wonder if they sometimes published work from different literary camps in the same book.

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  3. As someone who’s submitted to publications only to find out they publish work “from the inside,” it’s very nice to see someone so passionate about being “inclusive” in a sense that shouldn’t even have to be spelled out. It’s one thing if a publication is looking for a specific group of people or type of writing, but it’s funny, to me, that the word inclusive is used because it means they don’t even extend into the majority of people (if that wording makes any sense).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This question of inclusivity is really interesting, and a bit fraught, so I’m glad you brought it into the discussion. I mean, publishing creates reading, and writing, communities…so drawing a somewhat small circle around a few kindred writers within a given context, then sending that work out into the beyond, seems totally appropriate. On the other hand, it’s clear that such a model can, at its worst, exclude important voices and squelch dialogue. Inclusivity is always an intention to keep in mind: who am is my publisher bringing in? bringing together?


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