This is the forty-seventh in Entropy’s small press interview series, where we ask editors about their origins, their mission, and what it’s like to run a press. Find the other interviews from this series in our Small Press Database here and under the Resources tab at the top of the page.
Interview with Jeff Alessandrelli, Editor
How did Dikembe Press start?
Like most great things, on a capricious whim. Bret Shepard and I went to grad school together and had talked about doing something chapbook-wise for a while. So after a few false starts eventually we made it happen. And our good friend Ian Huebert, who does all the art for Dikembe, was also there at the beginning. So it’s essentially the three of us doing everything—to paraphrase Raekwon, we came together like voltron.
Tell us a bit about Dikembe Press. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
The first chapbook Dikembe ever produced—before we actually had a name for the press—was for a reading that my old reading series The Clean Part hosted for Graham Foust and Gina Myers in October of 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. We didn’t sell that chap; just gave it away for free at the reading. From there, though, we asked some of our fave contemporary poets—Emily Pettit, Matthew Rohrer, Christine Hume, Justin Marks—to publish chaps with us and amazingly they were all into it. We held our first open reading period last summer (2014) and are going to hold another one this summer, probably in August. And as far as influences/aesthetic/mission—we believe in the chapbook as an artifact, one that’s an actual chapter in or from a larger manuscript. We exist in the interstices of full length collections and small patterings of singular poems.
Can you give us a preview of what’s current and/or forthcoming from your catalog, as well as what you’re hoping to publish in the future?
Jesse Nathan—Cloud 9
Paul Legault—What Dorothea Did
Haley Rene Thompson—Coos & Ons
Down the line possibly also a chap by Michael Earl Craig. And I’m excited for our next open reading period as well…our last one offered a cornucopia of amazing chaps. I wish we had the $ and time to publish more of them, but so it goes.
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
That there are no real gatekeepers. That the gatekeepers that are there don’t have nearly as much of the power as they used to. That writing and literature exists to beget more writing and literature. That that fact is—or should be—a source of inspiration.
How do you cope? There’s been a lot of conversation lately about charging reading fees, printing costs, rising book costs, who should pay for what, etc. Do you have any opinions on this, and would you be willing to share any insights about the numbers at Dikembe Press?
We’re a small chapbook press that only publishes 4-5 books a year, so in all honesty we cope rather easily. For our open reading period last summer we charged a small fee and with payment of that fee every submitter could elect to receive one of our chapbooks. We believe that money both ruins and rules the world, and we’re at its tentacled whims just like everyone else. That being said, all our books are fairly cheap—$7 or $8 depending, shipping included—and one of Dikembe’s goals is to put great literature into the world at a reasonable price. And we are a utilitarian press, in that our books look great but they’re also meant to be read; we use a tape binding on each and print on perfectly thick and readable but not fancy paper. So we’re all about attempting to get books into readers’ hands without charging a proverbial arm and leg.
Talk to me about Dikembe Mutombo.
Dikembe Mutombo is and always will be the guiding light behind our press.
As our website states: “Who is Dikembe Mutombo? He is both man and myth, witch and wizard. Dikembe Press takes as its inspiration the multitude of achievements Dikembe Mutombo has made in the field of contemporary poetry. Our press is proud to bear his name.”
I mean, what other contemporary poet amassed 11,729 points, 12,359 rebounds and an astounding 3,289 blocks over the course of their career? Only Mutombo. Mutombo stands and wags alone.