Interview with Ken Hunt, Editor
How did Spacecraft Press start?
Spacecraft Press began in 2014, when I was having a conversation with derek beaulieu. We were talking about his No Press and about small publishing in general. Derek asked me if I had ever considered starting my own small press. I told him I had thought about it, but not seriously. After our conversation, I had decided to start the press, I had come up with a press name and a logo, and I had come up with a few people to solicit work from. Derek has that kind of motivating effect on people.
I derived the name “Spacecraft Press” from the title of my first book, Space Administration, which was published in 2014 by the LUMA Foundation as part of Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Kenneth Goldsmith’s 89+ project. Space Administration, an erasure of the first day of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, sought to advance its own idiosyncratic definition of the poetic process of erasure by using the term “spacecraft” to mean, literally, “the crafting of space”.
Space Administration sought to embody this “crafting of space” by applying additional constraints to the erasure process (a four-column grid to horizontally harmonize the errant words of each erasure poem while preserving their sequential order, the avoidance of mining out single-letters to cobble together whole words, the preference of certain words over others, etc.). I thought that “spacecraft” would be an appropriate name for my press, given the conceptual preference that I had in mind for it.
Tell us a bit about Spacecraft Press. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission?
Spacecraft Press seeks experimental poetry and prose that finds inspiration in the respective terminologies, practices, and methods of STEM fields; the press may also publish works that utilize technical language from philosophy and psychology. Spacecraft Press specializes in works that successfully experiment with fusing the respective conventions of poetry and prose with the aforementioned disciplines. Notions of such fusions are not new, but there is a lack of venues tailored specifically to works that aim at achieving such unconventional syntheses.
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?
I’m currently on a bit of a hiatus, since I’m working with two different presses to edit two of my forthcoming books, but I do have several chapbooks in the works. For example, I’m working on a chapbook of Anthony Etherin’s constraint-based poetry called “Chrysalis.” The chapbook will showcase a series of short poems in a kind of fold-out form that mimics the appearance of an insect’s cocoon. In terms of future goals, at some point I’d like to publish poems from several authors that I look up to (Adam Dickinson, Tracy K. Smith, Larissa Lai, Craig Dworkin, etc.). I don’t plan to move into longer-form publishing any time soon, but the possibility is not entirely off the table.
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.
What I like about small publishing is the flexibility and freedom. I can print 12 chapbooks in three weeks when I have the time and submissions, or I can print two chapbooks in 4 months if I’m particularly busy with other obligations. I can experiment with odd designs and paper types at my leisure. Most of all, I can select works that I personally enjoy reading and that I feel have been overlooked and provide their authors with an opportunity for their work to reach a wider audience.
I think that smaller publishers need to look into outsourcing printing more than they typically have. For example, Anthony Etherin, through his small press Penteract, has been printing exquisite books (80-100 pages) using a third-party printing service. Penteract’s anthologies are produced in this way and their overall quality makes then stand out.
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 Spacecraft Press?
I cope by keeping costs down, for the most part. I’m careful about what printer I use, where I find paper, etc. You’d be surprised what you can find at thrift stores for next to nothing. I don’t think any kind of pay wall is the way to go; at the most I’d consider starting a Patreon, but I feel like even that puts unwanted pressure on what is essentially a fun hobby for me. I do this ultimately because I love contributing to the formation of communities of likeminded authors, finding new people and works, and the process of designing and printing. I sympathize with those with greater publishing aspirations, but keeping my operation manageable so that I can continue publishing despite other life obligations is a priority for me.
I don’t keep too strict a record of “numbers” for Spacecraft Press. As I said, this is more of a hobby than a small business for me, so I may not be the best person to ask about finances. In general, if I’m making slightly more than it takes for me to buy my materials, then the time I spend making chapbooks is worth expending, despite what kind of a return I’m looking at.