The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 12-JAN 13

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DEC 12-JAN 13 Issue
Books In Conversation

DEBRA DIBLASI and SAM WITT of Jaded Ibis Press with Liz Axelrod

Jaded Ibis Press holds an odd shaped, polished and engraved stone in a hand-carved painted slingshot. Like David, they are poised with ready aim to hit the big publishing houses dead square in the eye. Their creativity and innovation push the limits of “Indie Press” publishing to new levels.

In this email interview, Debra DiBlasi, Publisher and Sam Witt, Poetry Editor muse on their unique process, philosophy, aesthetic iteration and mutation, string theory in regards to publishing, new technological platforms, artistic vision, and shifting the segregation of narrative forms (literary, visual, musical, performance, etc.) toward integration:

Liz Axelrod (Rail): You named your press after the James Hurst story “The Scarlet Ibis.” That tale about two brothers; one fit, one crippled, revolves around the themes of pride, cruelty, love, redemption and death. Why did you choose that particular tale and how does “Jaded” come into the picture? 

Debra DiBlasi: “Summer was dead, but autumn had not yet been born when the ibis came to the bleeding tree.” I was nine years old when I heard the first sentence of “The Scarlet Ibis.” I experienced a spectacular epiphany regarding the distinction between ordinary stories and literary art. I recognized symbolism for the first time, how it could create meaningful maps within a narrative.  Such veracity had never appeared in the books I’d previously read, or in most people I knew, or in me. 

My fourth grade teacher, Miss Heberlin, read to us every day after lunch – not “children’s books” but rather serious literature with significant themes exploring the human condition. She traveled extensively and had witnessed, I suspect, terrible inequities in the world. Miss Heberlin instilled in us far more than rote learning skills by teaching us how to become better human beings – to empathize, respect and share – just as I try to do now in my role as publisher. 

I grew up. Lived. Sighed a lot. Ibis Productions became Jaded once I realized that the majority of books published, sold and read in the U.S. sought not to enlighten but to anesthetize and even stupidify – quite the opposite of Hurst’s story. Yet it is possible to be jaded and optimistic. You just have to quit complaining and take the reins.  Jaded Ibis essentially premiered at the 2011 Associated Writing Programs (AWP) Conference, within Table X (where the cool kids hang out.  ;-) 

By the way, the Ancient Egyptian god, Thoth, was the patron of writing and scribes, who were highly venerated in Egyptian culture. Thoth has the head of an ibis.

Rail: You take an in-depth and revolutionary role in publishing - bringing literature, art and music together in one package. How did you come to your unique model of publishing?

DD: The Jaded Ibis business model arose from an understanding of Systems Theory

A couple of decades ago I began studying Systems Theory after watching Mindwalk, a film based on Fritjof Capra’s book, The Turning Point. The film cleverly brings together a poet, a politician and a nuclear physicist who roam the ancient fortress of Mont St. Michel discussing quantum mechanics and its relationship to policy, art, nature and people (It’s important to note that the physicist is a female whose nuclear research designed for medical use had been abducted by the military). I read Capra’s book, and then his others, and then more on quantum theory and entanglement.

My first experiment in Systems Theory was my own fiction project, The Jiri Chronicles. It consisted of over 500 individual works of prose, poetry, visual art, music, video, audio, consumer products, and real-world interactions. It taught me quite a lot about the organic nature of creative systems and their interconnections. The universe is one great web built of interconnected webs built of interconnected threads that, when tugged or snipped, the whole design shifts. Thus, for every cause there is an effect – even if those effects take years or decades or centuries or millennia to manifest.

As someone who grew up in nature, surrounded by the cycles of life and its seasons, Systems Theory gave a name and broader implications to what I already understood:  If you chop down a tree, or dam a stream, or overgraze livestock, or leach crop soil, or kill wolves, or take the baby rabbit out of the mouth of a mother cat, there will be consequences. Build a suburb, slash-and-burn a rainforest, vote against education taxes, snap at a waiter, spit on the sidewalk…  It will boomerang, one way or another.

Yet, just as ignoring interconnections may cause destruction, utilizing them can create tremendous benefits to the individual parts and the whole.  By linking literary, visual, musical arts – and the newest technological platforms – we can expand audiences for all participants:  Readers and listeners learn a bit more about music; musicians and readers learn a bit more about visual art; and listeners and musicians learn a bit more about literature and its marvelous possibilities. And because artists and musicians are urged to respond to the writing rather than illustrate it, the reader-viewer-listener who explores all aspects of a project receives multiple perspectives on a single theme – a theme that may mutate into larger themes as the result of the aesthetic collision.

Culture, as a whole, also benefits through the evolution and generation of ideas. I’m trying to teach Jaded Ibis writers, artists and musicians how actively participating in the network – through online networking support of others, for example – expands the reach exponentially and consequently benefits their own projects.  I would further hope that they and readers see and care how book publishing can be much more than just a business, academic requirement, self-promotion, or masturbation.  Publishing can be an art form.  From here on out, Jaded Ibis publishing agreements will clearly explain the systemic aspect of our business model and expect everyone’s participation in it.

Philosophically, I’m dedicated to shifting the segregation of narrative forms (literary, visual, musical, performance, etc.) toward integration, to better reflect the multimedia way we live now and the reality of conceptual and environmental spaces. Nothing exists in isolation, though marketing reps and most editors would have you believe otherwise.  Likewise, labels and categories dumped on us by the publishing industry don’t really address deeper questions of form and genre, like all of the memoirs we’ve published that are, in one way or another, stretching and bending the definition of “memoir”.  Dawn Raffel’s The Secret Life of Objects is a collection of vignettes that explores family through the objects she possesses. Oprah picked it for her “2012 Best Summer Books” list, her “Memoirs We Love,” and her “Best First Lines of New Novels.” In the hilarious and tender Aunt Pig of Puglia, Patricia Catto uses poetic license to place herself in Italy so as to better understand her family’s eccentricities, superstitions and archetypical mythologies. Anna Joy Springer’s popular The Vicious Red Relic, Love, is a “fabulist memoir” that incorporates The Epic of Gilgamesh and a tinfoil elephant named Blinky into a beautiful and terrifying and frank story about a former girlfriend – HIV positive – who committed suicide.  And we’ve got more coming that really pulls at the industry’s seams.

Rail: What a thoughtful and revolutionary way to view publishing. Can you extrapolate a bit on how you plan to create more artist participation in your agreements and what aspiring writers might need to consider before sending a manuscript off to Jaded Ibis?

DD: We now have a Publishing Agreement Addendum that requires the writer, artist or musician to confirm their understanding of the structure, philosophy and practices of Jaded Ibis.  And I don’t put too fine a point on it: “If you are unable or unwilling to participate in our system, or if you feel our philosophy is at odds with yours, we strongly suggest that you withdraw your project from our consideration.”  We want to work with writers who are ambitious thinkers and fearless explorers, who are engaged in the process and project and eager to help us redefine publishing and the concept of “writer” in the 21st Century.  We want them to dream, dream big, and then let us try to bring their visions to physical and virtual life. 

Rail: You bring these visions to life in many formats. Each book is published in four editions - e-book, black and white paper, color paper, and fine art limited editions. Many of your books also have an accompanying music option. Jaded Ibis is also on the cutting edge of technology utilizing many different platforms for publishing. This question is for both Sam and Debra: How did you come about your aesthetic vision and can you speak about some current projects and their various formats?

DD: Our first CD compilation premieres January 2013 – with original pieces by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky, Megan Boddy, OC Notes & Lisa Dank, Resident Anti-Hero, Kristine Barrett Johnson, Ron Heckert (with Betsey Carney and Carlos DeLeon), Patch Rubin, Anna Joy Springer with Tara Jane O’Neil and Rachel Carnes, et al. – and now with interactive book technology we can finally integrate the soundtracks with the art and text.
Aesthetic iteration and mutation remain conceptual interests of mine, and I’m now also discovering how literature can be shaped and reshaped by some of the newest technological platforms. Thus, we’re trying to expand the number of editions we publish to include interactive technologies, and we’re looking for submissions specifically written and designed to integrate its delivery vehicle as part of the narrative meaning. Alexandra Chasin’s debut novel, Brief, was written, designed and programmed (with Scott Peterman) specifically to be an iPad app. The app version allows the reader to participate in a way that’s impossible in print, and the participation is directly related to a conceptual argument presented by the narrator, who is an art vandal. We’ll publish a print version, too, but the preface will discuss the distinctions between the two editions. Oh, and happily, we just sold one of the fine art limited editions of Brief for $8500:  a large snow globe containing a miniature artist’s easel and painting.  The “snow” is created of words from the novel, and the base contains a tiny print copy of the paper book buried in scraps of “vandalized” art.

Writer c.vance just adapted his print novel, We: A Reimagined Family History, to a multimedia interactive book (iBook), readable on the iPad. The full-color illustrated version of We was published last year, and the ebook and black-on-cream print editions come out this fall.  Although his print novel contains codes in the margins by which to read the book three different ways, it can be a bit clumsy – lots of flipping back and forth. In the iBook edition, however, the reader just touches the screen to change the narrative version. Also, the iBook contains an interview with c.vance, two book trailers, art created (by me) for We, and two haunting music tracks composed and performed specifically for the novel by Patch Rubin – plus links to additional information on the web. Everything’s now in one place, so that the interconnections between aesthetic layers and subsequent mutations can be more easily accessed, studied and understood.

We’re receiving increasingly more projects that are collaborations between writers and artists, like deviant artist Nick Patterson and bizzaro fiction writer Tom Bradley, or writers who’ve also created the visual art, like Roxanne Carter and her sensational Glamorous Freak: How I Taught My Dress To Act. It’s interesting that a number of these are now coming from prominent literary agents – like the Henfield Fiction Prize winner Halvor Aakhus who’s represented by Daniel Kirschen at ICM. His novel, Book of Knut: A Novel By Knut Knudson,  is a funny and wildly intelligent mixed media story about a mathematician who finds a novel (Book of Knut) written by her dead lover (Knut Knudson) and transforms it into an annotated mathematical textbook, complete with homework problems. Halvor was in Seattle for the MLA Conference and came to a party at Jaded Ibis offices. I showed him our books – especially the atypical color, dimensions, and formats like The Vicious Red Relic, Love, designed to be a guidebook – and urged him to reshape his color edition by considering every facet of the book as a narrative element. Halvor went back to Indiana and had his way with Knut, so to speak. The color edition is fantastic!  It employs quadrille graph paper for the background image of the pages, and crazy watercolors masking-taped to them. After c.vance’s interactive version came out, I told Halvor about it, and now he wants to adapt Book of Knut to that format. In addition to an MFA, Halvor has a degree in Mathematics and studied music composition at the Jacobs School. Because his book contains music annotations and real math problems, he will be able to design an iBook as a real textbook, with math quizzes and music audio, video and a host of other tentacles growing from his brilliant mind.

Brain Computer Interface is another technological area that interests me for its unusual literary possibilities. But that would take a book to explain, and I’m working on one now.

Sam Witt: I have noticed lately that we are getting some fantastic queries from folks who are already matched up with an artist and looking for a publisher working outside the accepted – and expected – business model. So the word is definitely getting out. We’ve got projects by Matthew Cooperman and Marius Lehene, as well as titles forthcoming by the poets Rosie Jenkins-Ballew and Carol Ciavonne.

Jaded Ibis has always had great books, but it is really starting to heat up now in terms of media attention and artistic reputation.  Again, I credit Debra and our artists and authors for that. I also have to say that the way Debra is bringing traditionally non-literary and technological influences into the mix is really appealing to a lot of people out there, both consumers and creators of literature and cultural capital. Most presses wouldn’t normally run their business model by the Forbes magazine website, for example. Some of the excitement is a consequence of creative quality; some of it stems from a cross-cultural interbreeding, and that’s exciting, too. I just think there are so many people out there who are sick of the old 2000 copies, hit all the libraries, let it go out of print, strictly material-and-ink version of publishing, with all the dull uninspired books that come with it. But now I am being obnoxious.

Rail: Jaded Ibis has taken “literature as art” to great new heights. That must be seriously gratifying. Was it difficult negotiating the process between the artist, and within the world of Apple, and on the e-commerce side?

DD: The process of publishing Chasin’s app-novel Brief has been a new challenge because there’s yet another learning curve. Scott Peterman (who programmed the app-novel) patiently and expertly guided the process of Jaded Ibis Productions becoming an Apple Developer. I also have to credit Apple’s support team for their knowledge, calm patience and niceness – surprising and rare these days. c.vance had single-handedly set up his iBook novel, We, on iTunes, and now we’re going to migrate into Jaded Ibis. I’m adapting to iBook an excerpt from my own collection Skin of the Sun to present at MIT in their Purple Blurb digital writing series where I’ll also be discussing Jaded Ibis Productions’ current and future tech plans. 

When I taught at Kansas City Art Institute, I always did the writing assignments I gave students so I could know how well they worked and how they could be improved.  It’s the same with technology and publishing.  If I don’t use available systems myself, in a creative process, then I can’t know where the boundaries lie and how they might be bent or broken.  Granted, I’m not going to becoming a programmer; this dog is too old for that new trick.  But part of being a 21st Century publisher is knowing how to work with technology experts who are increasingly the liaison between publisher and writer.

At the other end of the spectrum are the fine art limited editions, physical manifestations of the book’s concept. When the oversized snow globe arrived for Brief, and then the miniature artist easel, I was as gleeful as a kid opening a new toy. And I felt the same when David Hoenigman’s bamboo scroll was completed and then accepted into a curated books-as-art exhibition in Seattle.  In a digital era, the physical object becomes more precious, doesn’t it – shouldn’t it?  I do wish, however, we could make the fine art editions faster; we’re hindered by time and cost, which are one in the same when you have a small staff and budget. 

Rail: In today’s world of fast throwaways, ever piling landfills and oceans full of swirling plastic mountains, it is imperative that we find ways to reduce our footprint, and by increasing knowledge of this issue through intelligent choices, we become stewards of a cleaner, smarter future. You state on the website that your business decisions are guided by an attempt to perpetuate literature that is intellectually, culturally, and ecologically sustainable. This must be a difficult and costly (though worthy) endeavor. How is it working for you as a press and what are some of the benefits and pitfalls of following this policy?

SW: I am certainly proud to be a part of a press that has sustainability at the heart of its publishing and distribution network, either through some of the subject matter our poets tackle or via some of our methods; especially the emphasis on electronic books and the other ways the press has been able to reduce our footprint. I will let Debra speak more about the actual publishing techniques, but the collaborative model — what she calls a publishing mashup — is more than simply a metaphor for such things. I actually think that such a dedication to environmental, cultural and intellectual sustainability has helped us forge an important and appealing identity, as well as lead us to a kind of poetry and fiction that is concerned, thematically and in terms of methods of production, with the whole drive towards sustainability.

I should mention here that we are beginning to advertise and solicit work for an anthology of ecologically engaged poetry based around the question of what poetry means in a transhuman, cyborg world. The working title is Fear of a Human Planet—The Ecological and Cultural Fate of the Human in a Transhuman World. I think we, as a race and a planet, are entering a radically new age that will be defined by entirely new concerns and urgencies. This is necessarily, I hope, going to produce incredibly new poetry, and we at Jaded Ibis are keen to position ourselves as a primary, relevant and even radically and appropriately new vehicle for such a poetics.

The pitfalls I see are only in not adapting quickly enough to this new world — unless you are referring to the ultimate pitfall of environmental decay, species extinction, the ravages of new pathologies, cities under water, and so on. But that’s an existential pitfall, I suppose. Outside of operating like writers and editors with our heads in the sand, I don’t really see a downside to such a focus on sustainability, both at the level of publishing and thematics.

DD: Most people think of “sustainability” as it relates to the environment.  Specifically:  reducing one’s carbon footprint in a perhaps futile attempt to stave off ecological disaster. Yes, we think so, too. But we believe that high art and culture also need to be sustained. And when I talk about energy, I mean everything from electricity lighting warehouses and shredding books, to fuel for shipping trucks, to trees cut down for shipping pallets, to human resources.

Trying to reduce our carbon footprint and sustain ourselves as publishers of new literature has its obstacles, and most of them come from the book review industry.  For example, it’s absurd that any press today must still snail-mail a physical copy or copies in order to be considered for reviews or awards.  Publishers Weekly still requires 3-4 print copies, Rain Taxi will not accept digital galleys, and a number of book awards require 10+ physical copies.  Why not simply – and rightly – allow publishers to send pdfs for the first reading round?  We produce beautiful pdfs of every title on our list.  If the book is accepted for review, we’re happy to then send a physical copy. American Book Review (ABR) – bless their heart! – recently instituted a new policy that allows publishers to send digital examples of books. They do this specifically to reduce costs for smaller publishers and, obviously, do their part in sustaining important literature. Whether intentional or not, ABR is also helping reduce publishing’s carbon footprint.

Jaded Ibis uses Print-On-Demand technology to publish all books except limited editions and digital.  This economically allows us to release a bigger list of multiple editions, and to pay our authors 40%, and artists 10% of our royalties. POD means that, except for review copies stated above, we do not have to print or ship a book until someone actually buys it, and we don’t have to warehouse unsold books.

Digital publishing has its own ethical problems, with questionable mining practices for raw materials used in computers and tablets ( ), overseas manufacturing in China that does not have the same ecological or human rights standards as the US ( ), and shipping products across oceans (although sea shipping uses less fuel than land shipping).  But I’ve been working with Createspace ( ) since 2008 and have witnessed their significant efforts to reduce economic and environmental waste, like recently creating an excellent digital book proofing system to reduce the need for printing and shipping multiple proofs until the final version is approved.  I’m eagerly awaiting their decision to use only recycled paper content and eco-friendly inks.

As for cultural and intellectual sustainability?  The role of Jaded Ibis is to create and make available an experimentation space – or “play space” – for a growing number of writers and readers who want to explore the boundaries of narrative and be the first to cross into uncharted territory. 

On Poetry with Sam Witt:

Rail: Some say we are in a poetry renaissance and some say that poets have a cultural and political responsibility inherent in their work. A common question asked of poets is to define the role of the poet in contemporary culture. How do you feel about this question and how would you define your role as both poet and editor?

SW: Clearly this is a difficult question because in the age you describe, our age, cultural and artistic activity is often defined and measured by its consumer “value” — not just in how many “units” are moved (I hate that phrase) but in terms of lemming-like trends and fashions, as well as a judgment not of true artistic quality but mere subject matter. Identity politics surfaces as a clear example, at its worst. Obviously this defines our own cultural moment, even in experimental publishing, so I’d answer your question first in this context.

One thing we are trying to accomplish at Jaded Ibis Press, in terms of both fiction and poetry, is to publish truly innovative and daring work that has relevance, freshness and newness, and also work that still manages to make people feel something, to produce a genuinely fresh sort of beauty that doesn’t entirely throw out literary tradition in the name of originality. I’d call that one of the roles of the poet today: to connect the experimental to the traditional in a way that doesn’t sabotage either. Too many “experimental” poets today throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak, and write outside of any sort of tradition. It’s as if all that matters is their need to be original and new, and I find that misguided, even immoral. Likewise, too many traditional poets rely too heavily on the tradition, which is just stupid. So one of the roles of a poet, it seems to me, is to find ways to balance the two.

Our currency as artists and editors, then, should be longevity, quality, freshness, and so on, not how spectacularly loud a noise we can make. And therein, it seems to me, lies the freedom and advantage of being involved in the production of literature in this day and age. If you combine skill and perspicacity with a willingness to wait sometimes, if you resist easy cultural modes, and find the celebrated cultural edge of violence, to adapt a line by the Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo, you can survive as a poet and as a publishing house. And survival as a poet and as a press, it seems to me, is all about having the freedom that today’s poet enjoys, even if that freedom can be awful: I mean, of course, the freedom from having to manage and maintain huge budgets, freedom from powerful editors telling you how to change your work to attract a larger audience, freedom from the hope of a consumer payoff. Maybe that’s also the role of the poet: to remind people that culture and art is essentially an extraordinary gift to them, not connected to or tainted by the exchange of money.

As far as whether we are in a poetry renaissance, that’s a complicated issue. Certainly there is an exceptional quantity of competent work out there, some that gets attention and some that doesn’t. Much of this has to do with the proliferation of MFA programs.  Yet we all know the hit poetry has taken in terms of its perceived cultural relevance, over the past 50 years or so. Nobody today is looking for Terrance Hayes, D. A. Powell or Natasha Tretheway to make the cover of Time Magazine. Ironically, I’ve heard that more people write and read poetry now than they did when Eliot achieved the kind of fame most poets nowadays could only dream of.  My conclusion is that, for editors, this landscape represents a huge advantage, along with the obvious frustrations. Most significantly, for us at Jaded Ibis Press, the fact that great poets don’t always get their due can be an advantage, because it means we have an embarrassment of riches to choose from!  If you look at our catalogue during only the second year we’ve been publishing poetry, you will notice some exceptional work that might not have been available decades ago. I know Debra sees the same with the fiction titles; she’s always telling me how delighted, surprised, and also horrified she is at the sheer quantity of what gets turned down by the mainstream “experimental” and non-traditional publishers.

For me as an artist, this question is far more sophisticated, because the lay of the land means that your best work isn’t necessarily going to be rewarded. That hits obvious nerves for any writer, particularly when so much unimaginative work does get rewarded. Why is that? It goes back to that notion of competing with the spectacle, engaging trends, rewarding subject matter that is familiar. That’s a one-way ticket to producing the kind of dead-end work that I see so much of out there today.

In the end, the gift of a difficult landscape, both for editors and for poets, is that it forces you to build your work — and promote other poets and fiction writers — in a way that teaches you to survive.  It would do us good to keep this as a guiding principle: What’s rewarded now is not necessarily what’s going to last. Remember that Ezra Pound called literature news that stays news. At Jaded Ibis, that’s the kind of work we are looking for. A tough landscape can create exceptional work, if you navigate it properly, if you look hard enough for the right book — as an editor — and if you survive and adapt, as an artist.

Rail: Many poets are upping the chance of recognition with social media and have blogs, tumblr accounts, post poems on Facebook and Twitter. As a publisher, do you think this dilutes or enhances the poet's chance of getting published?

I think new social media can be an exceptional advantage for poets, fiction writers, and presses such as ours. I can’t even imagine Jaded Ibis Press existing twenty years ago, without the resources you mention. That certainly goes for the marketing and distribution we’re able to do through social media alone. And it effects more than just distribution and marketing, because without today’s technology our publishing “mashup” wouldn’t exist, either. You could also forget about the sustainability aspect of the press if we were living in a pre-social media, pre-computerized world. The trick is to merge technology with genuine artistic innovation, something I think our press and our authors and artists do quite well. Just to give one last example, look at all the ways the experience of reading a poem is changing in this day and age. With voice-files, poetry videos, collaborations between artists and musicians and poets, and with sites like Youtube and Facebook, and online literary journals and bookstores, people around the globe have access to poetry that otherwise might have remained hidden in a print run of 300. These are the kind of things that really motivate us at Jaded Ibis Press.

Rail: Can you speak about some of the poetry on Jaded Ibis, Especially "Joyful Noise" and its use of media to create art, and   "The Color of Being Born” - how the poets were chosen, and the environmental awareness/education in the text and art. Did Michael Cadieux aid in the process, how much involvement did you have with that book?  And if there is a story involved or something you would like to highlight in reference to either of these books or any others, please do. 

SW: I was drawn to Mathew Timmons work in Joyful Noise precisely because of the creative method and surprising language, and also because Timmons managed to create beautiful lines and to find and highlight real human drama in the context of that method. One of my problems with the Flarf movement is that much of the poetry actually just bores me because often it doesn’t seem like a real human being is behind it. Timmons is able to move us beyond the freshness of the language and the centrally ironic fact that poetic content could be generated by a series of machines, and I noticed that right away.

In general, the poets are chosen in a rather traditional way. We set a submission period, advertise it in a variety of ways, and then spend the summer reading the work that comes in. I’ve also been able to solicit work from poets whose work I’m familiar with and respect. At Jaded Ibis, I think we have an advantage because of our focus on collaboration, which means that we’ve been approached by pre-existing partnerships of artists and writers. That’s the case with the collaboration between poet Matthew Cooperman and visual artist Marius Lehane in their project Still: Imago (forthcoming 2013).

As poetry editor I am looking quite strictly for work that satisfies our artistic and cultural portfolio and hasn’t entirely severed its ties to the past. That last concept is especially important to me as a poet, so it informs the work I do trying to find the best poetry books I can for Jaded Ibis to produce and promote. We live in an age of spectacle, to paraphrase a certain cultural critic. The mistake that a lot of poets and editors make is that they attempt to compete with the real cultural spectacles of our time — Hollywood, TV, popular music, political spectacles, and so on. As a poet and certainly as an editor, I am not trying to enter into such a competition. My motivations are remarkably predictable: to produce and promote poetry that is very good, and experimental, poetry that will last.

Specifically, I choose poets based on the quality of their work and their willingness to balance that artistic quality with the kind of experimental engagement in subject matter and form we seek. Poetry collections like Waiting Up for the End of the World: Conspiracies, by Elizabeth J. Colen, really jumped out at me in terms of its quality, its experimentalism, its subject matter, to name a few fine qualities.

Just to give one last example, look at all the ways the experience of reading a poem is changing in this day and age. With voice-files, poetry videos, collaborations between artists and musicians and poets, and with sites like Youtube and Facebook, and online literary journals and bookstores, people around the globe have access to poetry that otherwise might have remained hidden in a print run of 300. These are the kind of things that really motivate us at Jaded Ibis Press.

Rail: As both poet and publisher, and with your press on the leading edge of the use of this technology, would you be willing to list a few of your favorite (both past and present and not necessarily Jaded Ibis) poet's pieces that you have found online, that inform and excite you. Maybe just give us a couple of links you have bookmarked that you tend to visit when in need of inspiration or relief from exasperation?

SW: You mean other than porn? Let’s see, Lana Turner is always fun, edited by Cal Bedient, as well as The Diagram, which is Ander Monson’s journal. What else?  I like Slate, which is probably not what you were shooting for, and I love to trawl through political and news sites, like The Economist, The New York Times, and Washington Post. Nothing very exciting there, but it’s true:  I love Politico, Huffington Post, and that sort of thing, which hardly applies here. Yet, I think it is critically important to do what we do in the context of what’s actually going on in the world.  That seems to be what attracted me to Jaded Ibis in the first place. And not to betray my roots, but I really admire the Virginia Quarterly Review as a place for poetry and new journalism.  The Believer, McSweeney’s and The Rumpus are inspired sites for culture and poetry as well.

DD: Since I was originally schooled in the creative writing of poetry, studying under the late Larry Levis and Thomas McAfee, among others, I’ll recommend a just a few poems that I first read in the 1970s and still read with some regularity because I enjoy watching their meaning shift as I grow older: Lady Lazarus, by Sylvia Plath, Little Sleep’s Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight, by Galway Kinnell, If I Told Him: A Complete Portrait of Picasso, by Gertrude Stein, Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T. S. Eliot, and The Heaven of Animals, by James Dickey.

I should mention here that we are beginning to advertise and solicit work for an anthology of ecologically engaged poetry based around the question of what poetry means in a transhuman, cyborg world. The working title is Fear of a Human Planet—The Ecological and Cultural Fate of the Human in a Transhuman World. I think we, as a race and a planet, are entering a radically new age that will be defined by entirely new concerns and urgencies. This is necessarily, I hope, going to produce incredibly new poetry, and we at Jaded Ibis are keen to position ourselves as a primary, relevant and even radically and appropriately new vehicle for such a poetics. 

Rail: How do you go about soliciting the materials, do you have specific artists in mind, what is the submission process, what format would ultimately be the touchstone for the project and what is the tentative publishing date (if there is one).

SW: This project is just getting off the ground and we are only just starting to solicit work and come up with perfect prompts to generate fine writing from contributors. The submission process will include emails to poets we like, along with some kind of general call for submissions on the Jaded Ibis website, my own website, and Jaded Ibis Press’s Facebook page and Twitter

Much of the work of gathering material will be drudge work, I’d suspect, with a little bit of luck. We haven’t had any problems attracting exciting work at Jaded Ibis, so I should think the really tough part will be winnowing down and settling on the work that is most exciting and relevant for a project like this. We might consider reprints, if the poem is right, and free, of course, but this is not going to be a vanity project or something where we hit up the usual suspects for all the wrong reasons. We want the freshest, newest and best poetry from people who are addressing these issues. The tentative release date, for now, is 2014.

DD: We’re considering earmarking this anthology as our 2014 Giving Project. Each year we dedicate a large percentage of our proceeds from a book or music project to a worthwhile cause as a way to offset our carbon footprint. Our 2011 project, Blank, helped fund Vanuatu Pacifica Foundation, a charitable organization founded by renowned experimental hip hop musician Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky. This year’s project – a CD compilation of music soundtracks composed especially for our books – will help fund a Seattle-based environmental organization (to be announced). And our 2013 Giving Project – a book of stunning paintings by notable artist Michael Cadieux, with music soundtrack by Kristine Barrett Johnson – will help support both the Natural Resources Defense Council and the charitable organizations recommended by the musicians, actors, writers and others who will contribute their words to the Cadieux book.


Liz Axelrod

Liz Axelrod ( received her M.F.A. from The New School in 2013. Her work has been published in Yes Poetry, The Rumpus, the Brooklyn Rail, Electric Literature, Boog City,, and more. Her chapbook, Go Ask Alice (2016) was a finalist in the Finishing Line Press New Women's Voices Competition. She is currently an adjunct English instructor at SUNY Westchester Community College, Central New Mexico Community College, and The University of New Mexico.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 12-JAN 13

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