Interview with Christopher Nelson, Editor
How did Green Linden Press start?
In 2008 when I was a graduate student at the University of Arizona, I interviewed poet Boyer Rickel about his brilliant book remanence, which had just been released. My intention was to publish the interview in the upcoming issue of Sonora Review, the U of A literary magazine that I was a reader for, but it turned out that there wasn’t enough room for the interview. I knew that his book was remarkable and I knew that our conversation about it was insightful, so I published it myself on a weblog I created for that occasion. In previous years I had conducted dozens of interviews while working on a documentary film about immigration and the border. I knew that I loved the interview as a form, so I used this as the impetus to start an interview series. I named it Under a Warm Green Linden after an image in one of my favorite poems, “The Day of My Death” by Pier Paolo Pasolini. With time—admittedly slowly—the project grew into the journal and press today, which publishes two digital issues a year, broadsides, chapbooks, reviews, and interviews.
Tell us a bit about Green Linden Press. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Like many readers, I have a near-fetishistic love of books—the physicality of them, the texture of the page, the smell, the demand they place on attention, the crisp and silent simplicity of text and white space. I am also enthralled by the potential reach of digital publishing—its searchability, its instantaneousness, it borderlessness. In honor of the qualities of the printed page, Under a Warm Green Linden has always had a sparse look: it is mostly black text on a white background. I’m also a visual artist and have studied and loved art history all my life, so I wanted it to be sparse but beautiful. To the degree that it is appropriate and possible, I want readers to experience the journal as a sort of art gallery as well as poetry magazine.
Green Linden Press is also a non-profit organization with a green mission to give a portion of our proceeds to reforestation efforts. In collaboration with the National Forest Foundation and the Arbor Day Foundation, we have planted over 200 trees.
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?
It is an exciting time at Green Linden. Our poetry chapbook manuscript open-reading period continues until March 20, 2019, and we have just published a chapbook by Erika Brumett called bonehouse, which has been praised by D.A. Powell as “an insane delight,” and Carolyne Wright describes the poems as “vivid, precise and inventive…informed by science and scientific lore both wonderful and weird.”
Forthcoming on winter solstice will be our sixth issue, featuring poems by Toi Derricotte, Lawrence Raab, Aaron Smith, and many others, an interview with Kristin Chang on her astonishing new chapbook, Past Lives, Future Bodies (Black Lawrence Press), a review of the potent and necessary new anthology from Kore Press, Letters to the Future: Black Women / Radical Writing (edited by Erica Hunt and Dawn Lundy Martin), as well as a new broadside of “Narcissus on the Hunt” by Jennifer Bullis, which draws from mythology and contemporary politics.
Our June 2019 issue will celebrate our 10th anniversary. It is taking an amazing shape; we expect it to be our strongest issue yet, featuring several broadsides by poets widely loved, including Carl Phillips and Pier Paolo Pasolini, who penned our namesake poem (translated by Lawrence Ferlinghetti).
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.
I believe that we are experiencing a sort of golden age of poetry and publishing, due in part to the confluence of digital technology, the popularity of writing programs, the spoken-word movement, and our unique zeitgeist. Much—possibly most—of that poetry is being published by small or independent presses. I’m excited by the outpouring of innovative and powerful poetry being written today and by the interest in poetry among the young especially.
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 Green Linden Press?
As is the case with many small press publishers, Green Linden is a passion project of mine. I have a wonderful advisory board and a couple of contributors of reviews, but most of the work is my own, and it is done while also being a full-time teacher. Because the work brings me joy, the demands never feel burdensome. More time and money, of course, would greatly expand the publications and programming we could bring to the world—and those are resources all editors and publishers constantly work to secure. But I am grateful for the many people who have been helpful and encouraging along the way, from readers of the journal to institutions like CLMP, Entropy, and the University of Arizona Poetry Center who have championed our work. To your question about who should pay for what, I would encourage readers and writers to buy directly from publishers and local bookstores who carry books by small presses.
What does the relationship between Under a Warm Green Linden, your online poetry journal, and Green Linden Press look like?
The two are very much integrated; in fact, I don’t really think of them as separate; for example, the three authors whose chapbooks we’ve published previously appeared in our digital journal, and several of the authors in Issue 5 were solicited for work because we were impressed by their chapbook manuscripts. Also, Green Linden Press publishes physical broadsides of poems that appear in each of the digital issues.