Interview with Amanda Earl, Fallen Angel
How did AngelHousePress and DevilHouse start?
When I began AngelHousePress in 2007, I planned it to be an outlet for my own experiments in text and colour. I put out three chapbooks, Marauders of the Fold, Postcards from the Museum of the Broken, and 8 Planets Speaking in Tongues in a limited edition of 26 copies each. However when a bunch of poetry pals (Nicholas Lea, Marcus McCann, Pearl Pirie, Roland Prevost, Sandra Ridley) and I started a workshop group together, we decided to publish our final results in a chapbook (Whack of Clouds, 2008).
I developed an appetite for designing and working with other people’s text. I already had some background in design, layout and editing from working on Bywords.ca, the Bywords Quarterly Journal and the John Newlove Poetry Award Chapbook Series with my husband, Charles Earl, a crackerjack designer, starting in 2003. I enjoyed the insight that designing gave me into a writer’s work and I also enjoyed working with the writer and producing something that could be shared with others cheaply and without a lot of bureaucracy.
DevilHouse, the transgressive prose imprint of AngelHousePress, began in 2014, after our attendance at a Meet the Presses Indie Market a year or two before. We had a table at the fair and I said to my husband, “Hey, Charles, what about DevilHouse?” It was just a name we both liked and we took our time thinking about what we wanted DevilHouse to be, how it would differ from AngelHousePress.
Tell us a bit about AngelHouse/DevilHouse. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
The name AngelHousePress came to me when I thought about the Victorian concept of the Angel in the House, a well-behaved woman who caused no trouble and provided for the smooth running of the household. I wanted to be the misbehaving and disruptive angel in the house of literature and art.
AngelHousePress publishes raw talent, ragged edges and rebels. What always intimidated me about poetry is that it is often seen as something pristine and perfect. While I can admire perfection, not only can I not achieve it, but it isn’t something I can engage with. The perfect poem or piece of art is on a pedestal. I am interested in text and art that rolls around in the dirt and plays.
For years now I’ve been fascinated by Lorca’s concept of the Duende:
The dark and quivering duende that I am talking about is a descendant of the merry daemon of Socrates, all marble and salt, who angrily scratched his master on the day he drank hemlock; a descendant also of Descartes’ melancholy daemon, small as a green almond, who, tired of lines and circles, went out along the canals to hear the drunken sailors sing.
—Federico García Lorca, “Theory and Function of the Duende,” in Poetics of the New American Poetry (Grove Press, 1973), p. 92.
I’m looking for writing and art that is urgent, that has tension and is influenced by the idea that death can happen at any time, so there’s no point in playing it safe.
DevilHouse has the same aesthetic except that we publish prose and we have a uniform style for the chapbooks: red covers, landscape orientation rather than portrait. We call DevilHouse a playground for the transgressive.
For our chapbooks, we publish a limited edition of 50 copies and we don’t do reprints. I admire those presses that print a large number of copies and are willing to do reprints, it’s just that for us, we want to focus on the ephemeral and give the writer a feeling of being able to risk and then either move on or republish the work in book form or other forms as they like. The writer always owns the work they make. I don’t want them to feel that we have an infinite hold on it. They can have further flings with us in future and love affairs via our online publications, where work remains online unless the contributor wishes us to remove it.
For both AngelHousePress and DevilHouse, the goal is to publish voices not often heard in mainstream literature, or if a writer or artist is well-known, work that takes risks they wouldn’t normally take. Barney Rosset of Grove Press is the patron saint of DevilHouse. I’m not sure who I’d choose for the same role for AngelHousePress.
Some of our influences are
a Canadian magazine called Front&Centre, no longer in print, run by Matthew Firth and Bill Brown, two Ottawa writers and shit-disturbers.
above/ground press run by rob mclennan was also an influence for chapbooks. For some reason Ottawa, aside from being Canada’s capital, also feels like the indie lit capital with great micro presses like above/ground and Apt. 9 Press, and a lively literary community. This has been a great influence.
bpNichol, who was not only a writer but an artist, a sound poet, concrete poet, publisher, tv script writer, comic creator. He self-published much of his work before it was collected by others. I like the playfulness of his work and his independent spirit. I never met him, but I got the impression that he didn’t kiss anybody’s ass.
small magazines and publishing houses established in the 20s and 30s. They played an “indispensable role in launching new writers and spreading movements like dadaism and surrealism.” (Little Magazines and Other Publishing Ventures, The Paris Review.) Like these editors, I wish to be “zealous in the cause of literature,” but in my own case, I’d also like to be zealous in the cause of art in general.
contemporary poets such as Robert Kroetsch, Lisa Roberton, Nathanaël, Anne Carson who play with voice and genre in their work; Sandra Ridley, Christine McNair, Kate Greenstreet who create work that goes to dark places and doesn’t necessarily come out the other end. I’d love to receive work by the next Etel Adnan, Mina Loy, Hannah Weiner, or Leslie Scalapino. I’d love to publish more translations.
contemporary fiction writers such as Remittance Girl, M. Christian, Mark SaFranko, Heather O’Neill, who are writers who deal with taboos, unspoken subjects and marginalized characters.
artists and writers who lived and worked in Paris between the Wars. My mission is to recreate the creative spirit of Montparnasse between the Wars today. I’m influenced by renaissance artists like Jean Cocteau who wrote poetry, made films, wrote operas, and a whole host of rebellious and creative writers, thinkers, musicians and artists, such as Hélène Cixous, Leonora Carrington, Beatrice Wood, Djuna Barnes.
With that in mind, not only do we make chapbooks, but we also run several sites, host a podcast, an essay series, an interview series, a reading series, and run an editing service:
NationalPoetryMonth.ca, an annual online site that publishes poetry and visual poetry from contributors all over the world in April. I look for work that transcends boundaries.
Experiment-O.com, an annual pdf magazine that celebrates the art of risk via art, visual poetry, prose, poetry and hybrid works by contributors from all over the world in November/December.
The Small Machine Talks, a monthly/semi-monthly podcast that explores the poetry scene in Central Canada and beyond. Hosted by Amanda Earl and a.m. kozak and accessible via Soundcloud, iTunes and various podcast apps, such as Android’s Podcast Addict.
A Close Reading Service for New Women Poets, established in June, 2016. Women-identifying and gender queer writers who haven’t had a chapbook or book published are invited to send up to five pages of poetry to amanda at angelhousepress dot com for encouragement, comments and suggestions. They are asked to include their list of poets who’ve influenced them.
The Essay Series on AngelHousePress.com for rants, manifestos, interviews, reviews and what have you. From 2009 to 2017, we’ve published 36 essays (including a review or two) from writers and artists such as Phil Hall, Lily Robert-Foley, Marianne Apostolides, Gary Barwin and would love to publish more.
DevilHouse Revelations (The Six), an interview series which asks writers six questions about the nature and role of the transgressive in creative work. We’ve interviewed 20 writers, including Lynn Crosbie, Tom Walmsley, Mark SaFranko, Misti Rainwater-Lites.
DevilHouse Live, an occasional reading and performance series.
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?
AngelHousePress just published a chapbook by American writer, translator, editor, Jennifer K. Dick entitled Afterlife. It’s our first bilingual chapbook. In the fall of 2017, we’re publishing an excerpt from an experimental work by Sean Braune, a Toronto writer.
DevilHouse just published American writer Steven Storrie’s collection of short fiction, 4 pm in Los Angeles, and will publish a collection of flash fiction by rob mclennan.
Our latest DevilHouse 6 interview was with the YA author Marion Grace Woolley. She talks about the horrors of a place called Littledean Jail. She lives in Rwanda where she teaches fiction and has just read a lesbian and asexual character in local fiction for the first time. I’m thrilled about all our interviews. If you read them you’ll get a plethora of answers about the nature of transgression and a helluva wild reading list.
In November, 2017 we will publish the tenth anniversary issue of Experiment-O, which features 10 contributors from Canada, US, UK. I’ll give you a scoop. We’ve got some amazing artists and writers in the issue, including Faizal Deen, Elaine Woo, Jacqueline Valencia, Candace Makowichuk. It’s going to be a great issue.
In April, 2018 we will have a new NationalPoetryMonth.ca, which will probably be themeless; in 2017 we did a special themed issue, “A Celebration of Women,” 30 poems, visual poems, collages, videos. It was thrilling to showcase the talent of these powerful poets.
We used to ask, “What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?” We’re still interested in the answer to that, but we’re even more interested to know what you think needs to change.
Of particular excitement is the chance to get our calls for submission out to a diverse range of artists and writers and to make sure that they know they are welcome to submit. As much as we can contribute to promoting and publishing diverse and lesser heard voices, I’d like to.
I started the Close Reading Service for New Women Poets because we were primarily getting queries and manuscripts from men. I’m glad they’re sending us their work, but I really always wanted to publish a variety of voices, especially women and gender queer writers. When I talked to women poetry pals about why they weren’t sending out work, some of them answered that it was because they didn’t feel the work was strong enough. I figured I could help with that through the reading service. It’s been over a year and I’ve helped about a dozen women writers with their poetry, encouraging them and suggesting playful edits while steering them in the direction of welcoming and supportive literary journals and publishers who will welcome their work.
With the political turmoil, brutality, civil unrest going on in the world, especially in the USA, I feel an urgent need to publish the poetry of witness. Is text the right form for that poetry or should it be audio and visual? As a press, we haven’t explored much in that realm. We’ve published a few audio and visual poems via NationalPoetryMonth.ca. The main issue is always how do we get urgent work into the hands of the readers and how do we find lesser known and brilliant writers and artists? I’m always interested in recommendations and I scour both online and print sources.
I’d like to publish more poetry translations, more visual poetry, find more art by outsider artists that needs to be out there and in the hands of others who will be inspired by it. We publish both to promote great artists and writers and support them, and also so that other artists and writers will have access to inspiration possibilities. AngelHousePress and DevilHouse want to be your green daemon.
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 AngelHousePress/DevilHouse?
We keep things small. I read only two manuscripts a month and one Close Reads manuscript a month. We publish only a few titles a year. The design (both in print and online), layout and printing are the most labour intensive parts of AngelHousePress and DevilHouse.
We keep things affordable. All of our chapbooks are $10 or less. We pay out of our own pockets. We use our own printer or occasionally a commercial printer we trust. We fold and staple ourselves. Shipping and supply costs are not cheap but we save money where we can.
We don’t charge for online content and we won’t do fundraiser campaigns. We don’t apply for government grants, which cause the type of compromise we’re unwilling to make, such as publishing Canadian writers only and having to keep track of every dime and nickel we expend.
We don’t charge reading fees. It’s just another hassle to keep track of stuff like that and we’re not interested in paying money to a middle man such as a submission management organization. I also feel that it is a privilege to get a chance to read people’s work. Asking them to pay us for that privilege, especially when we’re not going to pay them, seems insulting to me. It takes a lot for people to share their creative work. Especially their eccentric and risky stuff. I’m not going to add yet another barrier.
The unfortunate consequence of the above is that we can’t pay our contributors in anything more than copies and exposure. It’s perfectly reasonable for contributors to want to be paid for their work and I respect that, but money isn’t the only consideration in publishing one’s work. With my own chapbooks, I often trade and exchange them for other people’s work. I wrote about this in a blog entry on my literary blog, “Outsider Art, Micropresses and Money.”
I’m going to avoid administrative time and cost as much as possible for myself so that I have time to work on my own writing, discover interesting writers and artists, and help other writers. I also work best alone and with my husband, rather than as part of a team. This means keeping things small and not getting into financial or legal rigmarole. I’d rather shut down than have to deal with money in any huge way. In a former life, I ran my own business and co-owned a business with employees, financial statements, the whole annoying and fiddly shebang. I’m not doing that again. There’s nothing more entrapping than money, the tender trap that causes a lot of compromise. I’m unwilling to compromise and I won’t be trapped.
The challenge then is to find fellow fallen angels with an urgent need to fly away from the mainstream and share their work with likeminded rebels, misfits and mavericks.