Interview with Joshua Edwards, Editor
How did Canarium Books start?
Canarium Books emerged from The Canary, a yearly journal that Anthony Robinson, Nick Twemlow, and I edited for about six years. We ended it because we were very short on resources (money, time, energy), but we were looking for ways to go forth with our enthusiasms and also to do something new. We’d kicked around the idea of a press, and when I was finishing up my MFA at the University of Michigan, I told our plans to some of the folks there. Amazingly, they offered editorial and financial assistance, and with that, Robyn, Nick, Lynn, and I put our names on a masthead and kicked things off with a short anthology, Canarium One, followed by the books of two poets whose work had appeared in The Canary, Ish Klein and Tod Marshall. That was more than six years ago, and as of spring 2015, we’ve published nineteen books by fourteen authors.
Tell us a bit about Canarium. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Canarium’s editorial vision changes with the ongoing conversation between the editors, which is increasingly informed by our growing list. We’ve been fortunate to publish quite a few first books, and the support of emerging poets is definitely central to our mission, as is the publication of works in translation. I don’t want to impose any framework on the individual collections, which together constitute a rather large aesthetic field, but I will say that I think they all grapple with language and history in fascinating ways. I’ll leave the rest of the adjectives for the critics.
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?
This spring we published books by Emily Wilson, Michael Morse, and Chika Sagawa (translated by Sawako Nakayasu). In the fall we’ll publish another collection by Ish Klein, and that will be followed by new books from current Canarium authors and a translation of a book by a contemporary French poet.
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
Right now, I’m most excited by the newer poetry presses, like The Song Cave and Poor Claudia. Publication Studio and Ugly Duckling continue to astonish. Also, I’ve been really interested in small photo book and zine presses from abroad, like The Velvet Cell, Antler Press, and Café Royal Books.
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 Canarium Books?
Finding the time and energy is one thing, but on the financial side, we’re very fortunate to have the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at UM as a sponsor. We couldn’t do it without their help. If we had to charge a reading fee or run a contest, we would most likely not publish books. That said, there are ways to make beautiful work without much money, and I’d like to think we’d be doing something else.