This is the twenty-fifth in Entropy’s small press interview series, where we ask editors about their origins, their mission, and what it’s like to run a press. Find the other interviews from this series in our Small Press Database here and under the Resources tab at the top of the page.
Interview with Nate Pritts, Founding Editor
How did H_NGM_N Books start?
The books division was an inevitable consequence of the regular activity that H_NGM_N had engaged in since the very beginning (2001). It started with the journal, which was first cheaply mimeographed and stapled before moving online. That happened because there were things I wanted to do with the journal (such as extend the reach + make content free + use art & color + have an infinite page count) that I couldn’t do within our existing form. It was like that with the chapbooks too—our first were printed and saddle stitched and later morphed into our current Portable Document Format series. In 2010, we felt an editorial urgency to support and help disseminate the whole organic vision of one poet in a substantial and tangible volume.
Or, put another way…
Which is to say that once you determine you want to do something, you need to find ways to actually do that little thing. H_NGM_N, as an entity, is a record of identifying objectives and overcoming them through guile and gumption and sheer indefatiguablity.
Tell us a bit about H_NGM_N Books. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
The website declares that H_NGM_N is a way of life, a type of attention and I stand by that. We’ve been running for almost 15 years now and our influences have shifted and shifted again, and our mission has undergone course correction and modification. As it all should.
Influences get processed and replaced or superseded, aesthetics can morph and grow and veer, missions can be accomplished or abandoned or fold into some longer quest. Those aren’t the things that reside in the heartcore of H_NGM_N.
H_NGM_N is an activity, a seeking-after, an assembly assembling.
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?
H_NGM_N tries to follow a predictable schedule of release but never quite seems to get the hang of it. Every year, you’ll get a new issue of the journal itself, typically in April. We’re trying to regulate the chapbook series so that you see new releases in February, March, May, September, October and November. The books are more sporadic, maybe somewhere between 5 and 7 titles come out per year.
If you’re looking for names, check out new and recent chapbooks by Sarah Certa, Daniel Moysaenko and Thera Webb. New books are releasing at a frenetic pace right now—Caroline Cabrera’s The Bicycle Year and Splendor from Emily Bludworth de Barrios and soon A New American Field Guide & Song Book by Ryan Collins.
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 H_NGM_N Books?
For many years, I ran H_NGM_N out of my own pocket, “losing” money—but who cares? It was a better use of money than a few drinks out at a fancy bar, or some new video game or set of DVDs. It was (and is) FUN / EXCITING / NECESSARY. For the price of a new winter jacket, I can keep the website running for a full year—so I wear the same old jacket year after year.
The books have enabled us to get to a place where the press now breaks even, which is to say that any money that comes in is used to fuel the press itself (allows us to make more books, or do the kind of outreach we need to do in order to support those books, and to keep the website running). We are always running close to the bone but, again, who cares? In fact, that’s one of the things that really energizes me about running a press: working to creatively solve the real-world “business” problems that develop, finding ways to sustain what you do. So we will fail, if we fail, because people stop buying our books or stop trusting us to publish their work. Until then, we keep on.
H_NGM_N doesn’t accept bail-outs or bribes, doesn’t need its heart to be kickstarted.
Are the missing letters what I think they are?
The missing letters are missing so that, no matter what you think they are, you can never be quite certain. I’ve said before that it presented a coded introduction to the aesthetic I wanted the magazine to embody—writing that would make the reader work, that would force the reader to become involved in the happening moment of the poem.
When I’m talking out loud, I tend to say it as [HANGMAN] but that’s because I need to say something. Look: you can work out all kinds of plausible possibilities, letters that make sense or which help create a past or present verb or noun. But in the end, it’s up to you…in that, you have to have faith in yourself. No one else can tell you what it is. There is no authority. H_NGM_N exists to remind us all that even among a chorus of voices and the battering/bantering of digital textspeak, there should never be any voice in your head that is louder than your own.