Welcome to our 8th edition of Editor’s Corner, a VIDAWeb feature in which editors and publishers explore complex issues regarding sex, gender, race and sexuality as they relate to their projects. In this installment, Kristina Marie Darling of Noctuary Press talks to us about genre, the problem with classification, visibility and women’s writing. Darling is a poet, essayist and critic. Learn more about her and her projects here.
For more information on Editor’s Corner contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On her project, role and publishing philosophy:
Noctuary Press is a small independent press that focuses on female writers working with cross-genre prose forms (such as flash fiction, prose poetry, footnoted texts, etc.). All too often, writing that is easily classifiable as “poetry,” “prose,” or “nonfiction” is privileged over exciting literary work that is not so easily categorized. Noctuary Press seeks to create a public space for women writers working across literary genres. We publish writing that does not simply challenge the notion of genre, but engages it in a meaningful way, assessing both the artistic possibilities and the dangers inherent in maintaining genre categories.
With that in mind, Noctuary Press strives to open up a dialogue among writers, reviewers, and readers about what constitutes a literary genre, the purpose of genre categories, and, perhaps most importantly, the politics of genre categories in the literary community. We focus on female writers because these efforts to define, label, and categorize literary texts often reflect larger power structures in the literary community and in the academy. In most cases, only those texts that fit the established genre categories are perceived as “legitimate.” Noctuary Press hopes to create a space where efforts to question, engage, and revise existing notions of genre are considered not only legitimate, but exciting, rewarding, and worthwhile endeavors.
For me, the name of the project, “Noctuary Press,” says it all. A noctuary is a record of what passes in the night. In other words, it’s a nighttime version of a diary. With that in mind, Noctuary Press strives to create a record of, and bring visibility to, women’s writing that takes place at the peripheries of existing genre categories.
All too often, writing that doesn’t fit neatly within an established genre category is left unpublished and, as a result, is not documented or canonized. This is often because cultural gatekeeping mechanisms are predicated on normative ideas of what writing in a certain genre should or ought to be. Noctuary Press strives to offer writers an alternative gatekeeping practice, which opens up the possibility of creating a concrete record of cross-genre writing by women. Additionally, Noctuary Press strives to bring visibility to this writing by women by creating an alternative channel of distribution, thus allowing these texts to be disseminated to appreciative readers.
On the current publishing climate:
There’s so much cross-genre writing being published, but most of it is merely rebellious, and rejects the notion of genre without engaging with it in a meaningful way. Noctuary Press titles strive to not only critique normative ideas about genre, but also interrogate the gender politics inherent in the creation and perpetuation of these genre categories. Writing that doesn’t fit within these entrenched categories is almost always “othered,” and the writing that’s most frequently “othered” is women’s writing. With that in mind, Noctuary Press is very interested in the ways women work within the confines of genre to render these categories more inclusive. Noctuary Press only publishes women’s writing, but class, sexuality, and race do not factor into our editorial decisions. With that said, our definition of “women’s writing” is expansive, and includes all writers who self-identify as female.
On VIDA’s Count:
So much of the time, the underrepresentation of women in publishing is blamed on women, either for not submitting work as frequently as men or for their lack of aggression and/or networking skills. I think that this is completely wrong. I’ve always thought women were underrepresented in publishing because, to paraphrase Adrienne Rich, they refuse to write in literary forms that are hostile to them (i.e. traditionally male literary forms). But the channels of distribution are predicated on these entrenched forms, genres, and categories. So writing that doesn’t fit within their parameters becomes difficult to publish, disseminate, and situate within a critical discourse. There is so much work to be done. And I think that most of the work doesn’t have anything to do with women submitting to magazines more aggressively, or publishing all-women’s issues of prestigious magazines. I think that we (as writers, as editors, and as a culture) need to rethink our ideas about what constitutes “legitimacy” and “value” when evaluating writing for possible publication.
On A+ Lit People:
Birds of Lace Press, Dancing Girl Press, Patasola Press, Switchback Books, and Sundress publications are (and have always been) a source of inspiration for my work with Noctuary Press.
This spring we’ll be publishing new books by Eva Heisler and Kristy Bowen. In these collections, you’ll find bed barges, algebra word problems, and so much more. Stay tuned.
Kristina Marie Darling is the author of twelve books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan(BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and (with Carol Guess) X Marks the Dress: A Registry (Gold Wake Press, forthcoming in 2014). Her writing has been honored with fellowships from the Corporation of Yaddo, the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation.