Welcome to Editor’s Corner, a new VIDAWeb feature, in which editors of diverse publications and literary projects weigh in regarding issues of gender, sexuality and racial disparity in our current publishing climate. Participating editors have been sent a series of questions to which they respond; however, editors are also welcome to comment freely on other related matters. For more information on Editor’s Corner contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, in our second installment, we feature Lisa Marie Basile, founding editor of Patasola Press. Basile is a published poet and is deeply involved in the New York City poetry community. You may find her at the annual NYC Poetry Festival or performing with The Poetry Brothel. You can find Basile’s poetry in publications such as Word Riot , PANK Magazine and many others. Read some of Basile’s work at Short, Fast, and Deadly, where she is this issue’s featured poet. Also, check out this 2010 interview with Basile at The Daily Femme.
On her press, her role and publishing philosophies:
Patasola Press’ primary goal is, simply, to publish stunning and courageous work by established and emerging authors. We want work that takes risks and overwhelms the reader. We are not interested in following trends or names. As a matter of fact, it sometimes seems that many presses are interested in publishing mediocre works by established authors, or “In” names. I’m less interested in the social scenes of writing. Of course, not every press does this, but it’s something that strikes me as a reality. And then, more often than not, many of those that are published aren’t female.
Patasola Press’ secondary goal is to represent the underrepresented, with a special — though not exclusive — focus on promoting female voices on culture and identity. We publish male writers, as well, of course. We are interested in translations (in several senses, both literal and open-ended—think Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl), work about identity and culture and, definitely work by female authors and about the female condition, sexuality and gender. We also believe it is essential to promote work about location. We’re interested in writing what makes us who we are, and we like that work to be daring and bloody and well crafted. I try not to let who I am as a person inform the work I choose; I try to learn from the work we publish.
The strength and uniqueness of a work determines whether or not we choose it for publication, but we certainly are drawn toward writing that explores female identity and sexuality in new ways. We’re interested too, in culture and ethnicity, or work that explores “Who am I?” in beautiful, abstract and conceptual ways.
We will publish up to 3 or 4 titles per year, but it all depends on finances and time. It’s a small staff—there are two of us now, including Alyssa Morhardt-Goldstein, who does our cover work. Sometimes we have assistants who will help out.
On the current publishing climate:
There is so much incredible poetry and work being produced by independent and micro-presses throughout the country. I think it’s important that we continue finding and promoting new poets; there is a lot of untapped talent, and it’s important to step up and work with them too.
I completed an MFA last year, and while I don’t have strictly positive things to say about the experience, I do know that there are so, so, so many talented, unique writers out there who just aren’t getting the exposure they deserve. These are people whose voices aren’t “popular” or much like what popular indie presses are doing. To ignore those writers is a disservice to the craft as a whole. Patasola Press wants to help reverse that.
Patasola Press is a small part of a small engine that aims to promote female writers. I think there are many of us who want to diagnose the issue, and certainly there is room and reason for that. However, the underrepresentation of women in literature is a yet another part of a larger issue. What is important now is to change the numbers and encourage others to do so too.
On publishing in general, I largely agree with poet Carol Guess, who said on anti-, that she dislikes “poems that offer neither significant meaning nor interesting sound, yet get passed off as “edgy’ because random is chic” and ‘famous poets who coast, sending out dregs and taking away space from new voices.” I couldn’t agree more. I’m so bored by the various incestuous cliques that refuse to acknowledge these points; sometimes they don’t even see it. It’s important right now, for presses to find a mission and not be seduced by the overall climate around them. We must always find ways to break the norm, and I don’t think that means edginess needs to sacrifice sincerity—but isn’t that another discussion?
Where women are concerned, I am happy to say that I interact with female editors and poets all the time. They are wildly talented and are publishing other amazing people. But it’s important that we all come together as a community, that we say “thank you,” and that we continue supporting one another. Like what we’re doing here.
I also—realizing I run the risk of being a soapboxer here—see a lot of bitchy, cliquey behavior at readings and lit events. That really needs to stop.
On VIDA’s Count:
When VIDA revealed its feature The Count, I experienced feelings of thanks and serious agitation. It was a major part of the reason Patasola Press’ mission was created. It was also astonishingly scary, and not at all surprising. It should make every editorial board reconsider their own biases, but more so, the literary community must find a way to encourage women to submit work. I did a reading once where someone asked me, totally innocently, why I would choose feminist presses (Hyacinth Girl Press and Dancing Girl Press) for my work. I suppose it is a fair enough question, but the underlying connotation is that “feminist” presses are othered, and that there is a limited understanding of why a feminist press must exist at all.
On A+ Lit People:
There are tons of presses that I love, but Dancing Girl Press has got to be one of my favorites. Kristy Bowen chooses gorgeous and well-crafted work, has an excellent and definitive aesthetic sense and works hard. She’s published more than 200 titles. She does it on her own! She’s published established and emerging female poets, and everything she does is as good as the next. Then there’s Hyacinth Girl Press, who has recently accepted my newest chapbook. They publish female poets whose work deals with science and mysticism, which isn’t something I read about often. I love that they have a specific focus and that they follow through, with strong female poets and a growing list. I also really respect Birds of Lace, for publishing such an eclectic and wide range of work, by females and males alike. Weave Magazine has always been one of my favorites. Their staff is extremely dedicated to their mission — I read poetry for them for sometimes, and I served as guest judge for a contest. They studied their submitter demographics and their publishing breakdowns, and I think they’re going to be a long-lasting, quality publisher. Grazing Grain Press, Noemi Press, Rose Metal Press, Alice James Books, Wave Books, Black Ocean, Deadly Chaps, Greying Ghost Press, Aqueous Books, Arktoi, Sibling Rivalry and Switchback Books are some of my other favorites.
Lisa Marie Basile received her MFA from The New School in Manhattan. She is the author of Andalucia (Brothel Books) and Triste (Dancing Girl Press). Her forthcoming chapbook, war/lock, will be released by Hyacinth Girl Press in 2014. Her work can be seen in PANK, kill author, La Fovea, John Hopkin’s Doctor, TJ Eckleburg Review and elimae, among other reviews. She is the founding editor of Patasola Press, and an assistant editor for Fifth Wednesday Journal. She’s also managing member of the Poetry Society of New York, which produces the Annual NYC Poetry Festival.
Melinda Wilson is Co-Editor of VIDAweb and Managing Editor for Coldfront Magazine. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Diner, Lumberyard, Verse Daily, WOMB, Burnside Review, Rattapallax, The Agriculture Reader, among other publications. She earned her MFA in poetry from The New School in Manhattan, and she now splits her time between New York City and Tallahassee, FL, where she is working toward her PhD in poetry at Florida State University.