Interview with Tim Staley, Poetry Editor and Publisher
How did Grandma Moses Press start?
We started in my bedroom in the fall of 1991, Montgomery, Alabama. First we were Grandma Moses Records and we made tapes of young, local bands. The first band we recorded was the Mad Cows. Their album was called Udder Disappointment. We were using headphones as a microphone and it hung from the ceiling in an elaborate pulley system. The microphone plugged into a jambox. I sold the tapes in the parking lot of my high school for 2 bucks each.
We became Grandma Moses Press in 2001 when we moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico to go to poetry school. We sponsored performance poetry events sometimes. We published our first pocket-size chapbook in 2013. It was Parity by Joaquin Fore. We print all our chapbooks on an antique Xerox machine I inherited from a burning building. We published our first perfect-bound, full length in 2016. It was Acid & Menudo by Johnny Huerta. That book is Hispanic-hobo-moonshine-weed-
Tell us a bit about Grandma Moses. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
We are your poetry high ground. Sometimes we say yes. Our chapbooks are carried in City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.
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?
We just released a chapbook by Gayle Lauradunn. It’s called Duncan Canal, Alaska. It’s a chapbook length poem set in bygone Alaska. She is a Northern New Mexico poet and her lines are short and lack nothing.
In 2018 we will be publishing a chapbook by Chicago poet, Laura Manardo. Her work is jiving with our aesthetic and I’m excited to represent her voice which is weird, aquatic and sexual.
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.
City Lights Bookstore does not carry books that are published through Createspace or Lulu or any of those type of platforms. I respect them but that’s hard news. I feel like there’s a ton of poetry presses out there right now because of Createspace and Lulu and a bunch of their poetry is good, and it’s great to have so many people publishing poetry because it’s pretty cheap and easy now.
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 Grandma Moses Press?
I love poetry and it’s so central to my life it doesn’t feel like coping to manage a tiny press.
Grandma Moses Press is a behind-the-scenes partner with CactiFur.com. Cacti Fur is a fried poetry journal and that’s where we found Laura Manardo. We like the idea of recruiting poets from Cacti Fur. Cacti Fur is like our minor league, we monitor the speed of your pitches, and if you make us laugh that’s a plus. I think stand up comedy, the good stuff, is very close to poetry.