Interview with Marty Cain, Co-Editor
How did Garden-Door Press start?
We’ve been around for about a year now. While we began to actually make books in Ithaca, New York (where we currently live), we originally came up with the idea to start a chapbook press while we were living in Oxford, Mississippi, where I (Marty) was getting my MFA. During the time we lived there, we were really excited by the grassroots literary communities that surrounded us, both in Oxford and in neighboring places in the South—in Fayetteville, Memphis, New Orleans, etc. While many folks in these communities have affiliations with university writing programs, there’s reading series, presses, and journals that thrive without (and against!) academic institutions. For example, in Oxford, Kina and I were part of a team of folks who organized Trobar Ric, a reading series started by Tim Earley that’s been thriving for ~10 years now with no university affiliation. This spirit—of DIY culture, of forging communities in “outlier” places—is the driving energy behind GDP. I’d taken book arts classes in my MFA; Kina had been doing chapbook layout for Big Lucks. Starting a chapbook press felt like the next logical step!
Tell us a bit about Garden-Door Press. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
This is our mission statement:
Garden-Door Press believes in process, in excess and overgrowth, in homegrown language watered by tears of the neighbors, in elevated beds that destroy property values. It believes in the DIY ethic. It believes in poetry as a site of resistance. It believes in ruralness. It believes in artifice, in hands and the handmade, but also in the internet and its fragmented power. It refuses to divorce affect from intellect, and is interested in experimental aesthetics that foreground the BODY, IDENTITY, and DELPHIC MESSINESS.
Our influences include: punk music, sustainable agriculture, Final Fantasy VII, our two cats, our friends, drinking in backyards, pizza / bookmaking parties, etc.
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?
Our catalog, thus far, includes the following: Michael Martin Shea’s “SOON,” an essayistic post-confessional poem interrogating Deleuze and matters of the heart; Emma Laperruque’s Squeeze the Peaches, a hybrid memoir/recipe chap that recognizes cooking as an emotional archive; Nikki Wallschlaeger’s Pizza and Warfare, an interrogation of pizza as cheese-covered nexus for both local and global traumas; an excerpt of Helena Boberg’s Sense Violence translated by Johannes Göransson, a florid / anarchic / feminist reinvention of a Swedish ballad; and Evan Gray’s Blindspot (The Rest, a restless and variegated depiction of contemporary Appalachia.
Coming up next, we’re publishing two books that do wild, inventive things with the lyric: Candice Wuehle’s Vibe Check (forthcoming very soon), and Aditi Machado’s Prologue | Emporium (forthcoming Fall 2018). We also plan to publish a chapbook this spring/summer that we’ll select from our December open reading period.
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.
What we’d like to see in small/independent press publishing: fewer assholes and rapists in charge; more class consciousness; more of a focus on writers outside of (particularly coastal) urban centers; less of an obsession with gatekeeping and institutional approval; less narrowing of what literature can do and be. What excites us: the fact that there’s hundreds of new journals and small presses springing up all the time; the fact that many small presses with no institutional affiliation have a larger readership than university presses.
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 Garden-Door Press?
We believe that writing is labor, and accordingly, that writers should be paid. Thus, we don’t have any reading fees, and we pay our authors—not as much as we’d like (and it depends upon our financial situation at any given time) but we pay them. That being said, we both have jobs that give us a bit more of a financial cushion than (probably) a lot of other small press editors, allowing us to do things like pay our authors, so we don’t necessarily think that reading fees are unethical 100% of the time. In general, we’ve been able to break even on most of our books, depending on how we choose to print them. (We aren’t getting paid for our labor as editors/designers, of course, but we love doing the work anyway.)