Interview with Suzi F. Garcia, Executive Editor, and Sarah Gzemski, Managing Editor
How did Noemi Press start?
Carmen Giménez Smith started Noemi Press to bring books she couldn’t find already into the world, books she wanted to write and read. Noemi began as a chapbook press originally in 2002, but the press began publishing full-length collections of poetry starting with Sing, Mongrel by Claire Hero in 2009. In 2011, Noemi published its first collection of prose, Three Plays by Norman Lock. Since then, the press has continued to grow, publishing books in the Akrilica Series (innovative Latinx poetry) and Infidel Poetics (shorter critical works by poets in which they address the overlap between poetry and politics).
Tell us a bit about Noemi. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Noemi Press is committed to publishing poetry, prose, theory, and translation by diverse emerging and established authors to create a national audience for writers who might otherwise be marginalized by mainstream presses. One thing that differentiates us is that we see extensive editorial collaboration as an integral part of the process for our books. That editorial work has helped us promote emerging writers with the support and guidance to put out the very best book possible. We are excited by innovative writing, by people pushing the landscapes. We’re interested in interrogative writing that looks both to our poetic landscape, but also beyond, to find inspiration. We’re interested in voices that are complicating ideas of identity, beauty, and more.
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?
This fall, we are publishing Lillian-Yvonne Betram’s Travesty Generator, which is an experiment in bringing together social and technological sciences. As Douglas Kearney has said, “Lillian Yvonne-Bertram’s ominous Travesty Generator…[creates] a cyberBlues of permutating loops both automated and desperate.” Also this fall is Sarah Vap’s Winter, a lyric-memoir about porousness, susceptibility, interruption, encroachment, climate change, tenderness, and degrees of violence. Stephanie Sauer’s Almonds are Members of the Peach Family was the winner of the 2018 Noemi Press Book Award in Prose, and we’ll also have books from Leah Huizar (Inland Empire) and Susan Briante (Defacing the Monument, part of the Infidel Poetics series).
We hope to continue publishing work that pushes boundaries in new and exciting ways—Travesty Generator is largely in code, Winter is a meditative journey that never forgets “Drones are probably killing someone right now” at the top and bottom of each page—we’re not afraid to take design risks in service of work that really moves us and readers.
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.
More people are paying attention to small presses, which is so exciting. Small presses are putting out books that are being recognized on a national level, and readership of poetry (largely produced by small presses) is at an all-time high. However, at the helm it’s largely white, straight, cis publishers. It’s hard to find a place if you don’t fit into those categories. Part of this is that small press publishing is generally unpaid or underpaid. To ask an already marginalized person to take on that type of unpaid labor is difficult, and it creates this cycle. We need support, from readers and institutions, to continue to make strides in these areas.
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 Noemi Press?
Numbers at Noemi are always tight, and there are plenty of great conversations about contests and printing prices. Something that does get lost is how much it also costs for presses to submit their books for post-publication awards. We want our writers to be get the recognition they deserve, but some of these prizes cost so much to enter, that it can become prohibitive. It’s just another piece of the very expensive puzzle.