Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Marthe Reed responds to Alejandro Butros on the 20th anniversary of above/ground press

Alejandro Butros was kind enough to interview me along with several other above/ground chapbook authors in honor of the 20th anniversary of above/ground press which is celebrating this Friday in Ottawa and launching four new chapbooks, mine included. The original article by Butros is over at Apt 613, however I thought I would share the full interview here, as he could only publish short excerpts from each of us.

What does the work of above/ground press mean to you?
 Most striking to me about above/ground is the diversely situated writers who rob brings into confluence: from Deborah Poe to Rae Amantrout to j hastain, from Fenn Stewart to Camille Martin to Stephen Brockwell and Kemeny Babineau. rob mclennan brings a wide-ranging eye and ear to this press, making conversations between Canadian and U.S. writers, between established and developing writers, across modes of poetic practice (visual, lineated, prose, etc.). above/ground is a meeting ground, a congress of poets in conversation, and I am honored to have been brought into that conversation.

Please share a memorable anecdote about above/ground press.
 For the past two years, rob has sent me chapbooks from above/ground to distribute freely at the annual AWP conference, and so I have found myself filling bags and wandering the halls, handing out chapbooks, leaving chapbooks on tables, and offering these chaps along with Dusie chapbooks at the Dusie-Black Radish Books book fair table. In Chicago, Laura Goldstein ferried above/ground chaps into the conference from her flat for me, though not all of them made it. Instead, she gave away the remainder through The Red Rover reading series, which she and Jen Karmin run in Chicago. Generosity, that is the essence of rob and above/ground.

 When did you first hear about a/g press?  How has it evolved, if at all, since your first interaction?
 I am relatively new to above/ground, first coming in contact with rob and above/ground press through the Dusie Kollektiv about 5 years ago and along the way slowly discovering the extraordinary work rob does, including the Dusie special issue on Canadian poets, and his Tuesday poet series at the Dusie blog.

 Poets are often overlooked by the press and publishers.  Given that this article will be written for an audience that is comprised mostly of non-writers, can you please explain how critical a publisher like a/g press is.
 Because of the breadth of rob's reach, that diversity of writers and poetic impulses that he brings into conversation, he builds and extends communities of writers, putting us into conversation with each other, introducing us to work we might not otherwise know --of particular value is the work he does through above/ground of facilitating connections across the border, putting Canadian and U.S. poets face-to-face, as it were.

 For those outside of Ottawa: Given that you do not live in the National Capital Region, I would be interested in hearing your view on the poetry scene here.
 I hail from Syracuse, New York, now, though only very recently. Before that I spent 11 years in Lafayette, Louisiana, where the scenes in Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans, and to a lesser degree Houston, were my immediate poetry world. What I know of Ottawa's scene, I know through rob mclennan's blog, his work with above/ground press, his 12 or 20 questions interview series, etc. rob seems, from my distant vantage, to be the heart and soul of Ottawa's poetry scene, so it will be great to be in Ottawa this week and get a feel for the place first hand.

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