This is the forty-first 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 Geoffrey Gatza, Editor
How did BlazeVOX start?
BlazeVOX started off as a college project while I was at Daemen College, Amherst, NY in 1998. The school is near Buffalo so our contact with poets and poetry is vibrant. I wanted to start a creative writing journal but we only had a budget of $100. I took that, bought a copy of Dreamweaver and learned how to design web pages. I used this format for the college journal and it was a great success. In 2000 I started BlazeVOX as the online journal was gaining momentum. The goal of the journal is to present innovative fictions and wide ranging fields of contemporary poetry. Our main goal is to provide good quality poetry. The technology allows for a very low overhead in our operation. We moved into book production, as there was a real market for us to expand our horizons, and once the Print on Demand systems began, we hopped right on board. The technology had been awful up until 2004 but now is fantastic. We have published over 400 books and over 1500 writers in our online journal and other outlets. Our family of fine writers includes Amy King, Kazim Ali, David Trinidad, Bill Berkson, Anne Waldman, Clayton Eshleman, Lee Ann Brown, Tom Clark, Ray Federman and Gloria Frym, John Tranter, John Kinsella and many, many more. I think that we have succeeded in our aims and have been able to make a huge impact on the poetry world.
Tell us a bit about BlazeVOX. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
The main sources for the influences over BlazeVOX come from the city of Buffalo and the many literary resources this city has hosted. From the many luminaries that have taught at UB, such as Raymond Federman, Robert Creeley, Steve McCaffery and Charles Bernstein, these professors took poetry out of the classroom and brought it to the local scenes. They helped develop a vibrant community that frequents poetry readings, small magazines and presses. Also The Poetry Collection housed at the University at Buffalo Libraries is a major resource of inspiration.
BlazeVOX is a haven for undervalued writers to convene with readers worldwide, delivering the contemporary through books-in-hand and ebooks-in-a-minute. We have a longer mission statement, which states:
BlazeVOX [books] Mission Statement
BlazeVOX [books] presents innovative fictions and wide ranging fields of contemporary poetry. Our books push at the frontiers of what is possible with our innovative poetry, fiction and select non-fiction and literary criticism. Our fundamental mission is to disseminate poetry, through print and digital media, both within academic spheres and to society at large.
We seek to publish the innovative works of the greatest minds writing poetry today, from the most respected senior poets to extraordinarily promising young writers. We select for publication only the highest quality of writing on all levels regardless of commercial viability. Our outlets of publication strive to enrich cultural and intellectual life, and foster regional pride and accomplishments.
BlazeVOX [books] consciously acquires a collection of titles providing focus, continuity, and a basis for the development of future publications. Through the publication of works of significance, BlazeVOX [books] is committed to the dissemination of knowledge.
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?
|Ruth Danon||Limitless Tiny Boat|
|John Matthias||Five Verse Plays|
|David Trinidad||Notes on a Past Life|
|Diana Adams||To The River (fiction)|
|Marcia Arrieta||archipelago counterpoint|
|Michael Joyce||Biennial: Poems|
|Aaron Simon||Rain Check Poems|
|George Tysh||The Slip|
|Goro Takano||Silent Whistle-blowers|
|Kristina Marie Darling||Women and Ghosts|
|Liam Agrani||Volume Two, Selected Marginalia|
|Wade Stevenson||Flutes and Tomatoes: a story with poems|
New and Interesting Titles
|Such Conjunctions: Robert Duncan, Jess And Alberto De Lacerta|
|Susan Lewis||This Visit|
|Grace C. Ocasio||The Speed of Our Lives|
|Sophie Seita||Fantasias in Counting|
|Mary Kasimor||The Landfill Dancers|
|Wade Stevenson||The Color Symphonies|
|Chuck Richardson||Trust Me|
|Anne Gorrick||A’s Visuality|
|Jared Demick||The Hunger in Our Eyes|
|Cornelia Veenendaal||An Argument of Roots|
|Jan LaPerle||A Pretty Place To Mourn|
|Tom Clark||Evening Train|
|Luke McMullan||Dolphin Aria/Limited Hours: A Love Song|
|Kay Porter||Virtual Worlds Virtual People|
|Peter Siedlecki||Going with the Flow|
|Kristina Marie Darling||Scorched Altar: Selected Poems & Stories 2007-2014|
|Kristina Marie Darling||The Arctic Circle|
|Jared Schickling||Two Books on the Gas|
|Norma Kassirer||Minnows Small as Sixteenth Notes|
|Deborah Meadows||Three Plays|
|Stephen Bett||Those Godawful Streets of Man|
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
Most times, my job is very exciting by trying to bridge the work of good writers with the people who want to read what they publish. We showcase a wide range of writings, but mostly they all share something innovative. What that means is very hard to pin down, but it is very easily recognizable when read. Good, full ideas bound to beautiful writing always win the day. We receive hundreds of submissions for our journal and book proposals. It is thrilling for us to read so many new materials from emerging voices.
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 BlazeVOX?
Poetry is a way to lose money. Among its many positive points, this is always something to consider. The numbers in poetry are never good, even for a good book of poems; the numbers often do not justify the expense placed into them. This is why it is never good business sense to open a poetry press. Most of our books sell about 100 to 300 copies over the life of their print-run. Most of that is sold by the author at their events and some online through our online shop and then on Amazon. SPD sales happen but they are slow and steady.
I am a firm believer that quantity is the key to survival as an organization. We publish about 30 books a year and spread our costs over those titles to cover our expenses. This way if one title does well it helps the other fine books that do not sell so well. Some presses publish only four titles a year and if one of those titles does not meet its sales expectation then it can have serious consequences for that press. So our publishing 30 titles a year helps us open up what is possible and give chances to authors who might not have that instant sales appeal that other presses will be looking for in a manuscript.
We do not have a reading fee for our submissions and I do not like them. It places so much emphasis on a commerce that just doesn’t seem to be needed. But rising costs of everything involved in print production do warrant it. So I understand why many small presses employ it. People want to get paid for their time.
We got into serious trouble for trying something new in fundraising that raised a lot of eyebrows. On September 5, 2011 I was pilloried on HTMLGiant for BlazeVOX’s co-operative fund raising model. There were also charges of not being fully transparent in the way we presented our acceptance information. Within 24 hours BlazeVOX was being praised and most of the controversy died down and we received thousands of communications of support for our press and how we do business. We have ceased our co-operative funding model and are working on forming as a not-for-profit organization. Here is our statement about the whole controversy. It best explains what I hope to convey.
Here is a great deal of information on this from sources other than me:
So now we go about a more traditional way of raising money that seems to be working very well. These traditional methods included an online campaign and a direct mailing to donors and friends of the press. In the direct mailings we sent a letter informing people of who we are, what we do and how we plan on utilizing this funding. We told them how their donations would actually help worthy poets get a book published and into the world. Initially I had my doubts about how well this would work out based upon the cost of the program, however it was the most successful campaign we have ever had.
Recent BlazeVOX releases:
BlazeVOX on Entropy:
Interview with Chris Tysh, author of Molloy: The Flip Side
Poetry from erica lewis, author of camera obscura
Review of Rain Check Poems by Aaron Simon
Review of Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish by Anis Shivani