Interview with Kristina Marie Darling, Editor
How did Noctuary Press start?
Noctuary Press started in 2012, shortly after I enrolled in the Ph.D. Program at the University at Buffalo. I was inspired by a seminar I took with Myung Mi Kim. She was really the first one who prompted me to think about the politics inherent in literary gatekeeping. In other words, those who decide what is published occupy a position of power, shaping the body of literature that is available to the larger community. More often than not, these individuals simply reinscribe existing power structures, as well as the limitations we impose upon literary texts.
The categories that these cultural gatekeepers use to organize and disseminate literature, too, are extremely limiting. So much of the time, publishing assumes that creative work fits neatly into “poetry,” “fiction,” “nonfiction,” etc. And bookstores, distributors, and online vendors rely on (and replicate) these reductive and limiting categories. Texts that fall outside of the established notions of genre are frequently overlooked, and much of this work is exciting, challenging, and rewarding writing by women.
Noctuary Press is an attempt to expand what is possible within the channels of dissemination we have established for literary texts. We publish perfect bound trade paperbacks, which are available through Amazon, SPD and author events. But the texts we publish exist in spite of, beyond, and across genre boundaries. I hope that Noctuary helps carve a space for hybridity within the larger cultural machinery that exists in literary publishing.
Tell us a bit about Noctuary. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Our mission is to create a “record of what passes in the night.” We seek to document and make permanent writing by women that exists outside of conventional genre categories. More often than not, these kinds of texts, because they are not legible in the way that most would expect, are othered, excluded from publishing, and withheld from an appreciative audience. With that in mind, Noctuary Press is a kind of intervention into a publishing landscape that orbits around very conventional ideas about genre.
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’re thrilled to be publishing a collection of lyric essays by Julie Marie Wade. It’s called Catechism: A Love Story, and will be out just in time for AWP 2016. Emma Bolden’s medi(t)ations is also in the works, and will be hitting bookstores online (and in real life!) any day now. Our 2016 catalogue also includes a new collaboration from Carol Guess and Kelly Magee, as well as exciting hybrid texts by Virginia Konchan, T.A. Noonan, Anne Champion, and Sarah Sweeney.
What about small/independent press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
I’m especially excited by the fact that independent presses are democratizing publishing and helping the literary landscape become increasingly diverse. Before, when there were relatively few cultural gatekeepers, it was much more difficult for women, writers of color, and other historically marginalized groups to have a voice in publishing. With the advent of web-based, DIY, and print-on-demand technologies, pretty much anyone can become a cultural gatekeeper, and it’s easier than ever for individuals to send work out into the world that excites them. I’m heartened by the fact that the power is now in the hands of many, instead of remaining in the hands of the few. As small presses continue to multiply and proliferate, I look forward to seeing my own aesthetic and editorial preferences pushed, challenged, and interrogated.
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 Noctuary Press?
Noctuary Press is supported in part by a grant from the English Department at SUNY-Buffalo. The grant was especially useful in getting the press off the ground. We used the funds to cover costs for the cover designs, printing, and layout for our very first titles. After that, sales started to pick up, and our books have since been taught in courses at the Rutgers Center For Cultural Analysis, Western Washington University, and the University of Denver. For those who are interested in starting a small press, I would definitely recommend looking into grants and other opportunities early, since this is when you’ll need the help most.