This is the second in a series of small press interviews Entropy will be conducting into the indefinite future. We’ll ask editors about their origins, their mission, and what it’s like to run a press. As we continue the series, we’ll be creating a small press database containing all of these interviews and more, available here and under the Resources tab at the top of the page.
Interview with Harold Abramowitz and Amanda Ackerman, Editors
How did eohippus labs start?
eohippus labs started when my friend, frequent collaborator, and co-editor, Amanda Ackerman, wrote a pamphlet-length work entitled Theory of Language. Amanda and I were students in Matias Viegener’s Experimental Writing Workshop as graduate students at Calarts, and he gave us the amazing assignment to write our own theories of language. Amanda’s was so great that I had to start eohippus labs just to publish it.
Tell us a bit about eohippus labs. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Initially, eohippus labs started in order to publish work that we admired that we didn’t think would get written to begin with. We were convinced that some of the best writing from writers we knew happened outside of their normal writing forms and practices, e.g., in conversation, in emails, in rants while driving, etc. We then began commissioning these works as they occurred or as we encountered them, and we published them as our Tract Series of pamphlets. From there we began to think of all sorts of projects and have asked writers to write experimental greeting cards, innovative prose chapbooks, and more. eohippus labs is also involved in a variety of literary endeavors that do not actually include physical publishing, but instead things like performances, conversations, and stealthy literary interventions.
Our aesthetic is lo-fi. Classic lo-fi. Or rather whatever we can produce that looks and feels good relatively quickly and inexpensively from out of our pockets and out of our homes. Some of our influences are Onitsha market pamphlets, radical writing and art collectives like Critical Art Ensemble, The Bernadette Corporation, BELLADONNA*, and The Pines, Synthpop in all of its manifestations, pamphlets and pamphleteering. The list goes on!
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?
In 2014, eohippus labs collaborated with the Poetry and Politics imprint and produced what is our largest scale project so far: Acts + Encounters, a collection of 13 statements on poetics and community by an incredible group of poets from all over the country. Acts + Encounters was published as 13 individual pamphlets housed in a gorgeous laser cut and custom designed silk-screened slipcase. At one point there were 10,000 sheets of paper in my living room! After that we collaborated with Les Figues Press, Insert Blanc Press, and Poetic Research Bureau and co-curated an amazing two-day homebrew literary festival called Open Press. For the rest of the year, we are going to be working on putting out some new print publications: Two Essays by Elizabeth Hall is next.
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
We love that there is so much incredible work being done right now in such a rich and wide-ranging variety of genres and forms by so many talented and committed writers and editors. We feel very lucky to be part of the conversations, literary and otherwise, taking place right now. We also love that there are so many small scale publishing projects coming and going at any given time. There is a lot of energy around small scale publishing right now, so one project definitely inspires, spawns, and begets the next one, and so forth.
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 eohippus labs?
Depending on how you want to characterize it, eohippus labs is, to this point, strictly a labor of love or a community service. Amanda and I provide the material and labor costs of making the books. We don’t charge our authors anything and only “pay” them with copies of their books. Sometimes we charge for our books and sometimes we trade or give them away. Generally, the books have paid for themselves. But this is definitely not a profit-generating endeavor.
Harold’s theory of language from Matias’s class, as yet unpublished, was called “Eohippus: A Theory of Language.” In part, it was about how the ice age creature eohippus is mistaken as a forbearer for the modern horse, which it is not – it is only a distant relative. The concept of mistaken identity seems to resonate well with what we are doing. We are also interested in the idea of thinking of language in terms of time – resuscitating that which has been extinct, materializing the possible, or publishing as a process of co-adaptation. And eohippus was cute. Heptodon is cute too. Maybe we’ll have to start a Heptodon series!