Skip to main content

New Poetry Press--Birds, LLC

I haven't had a great deal of time lately to surf for new poetry 'stuff,' though it's one of my favorite websurfing pastimes, but I did find a new poetry press doing cool things recently. A group of friends got together and created a press for the purposes of both publishing and self-publishing, not uncommon these days, and probably the way the small press poetry ought to work, optimally. Besides being a great idea, Birds LLC began with a near-nuclear bang, as far as I'm concerned, as their first two books are by folks I greatly admire: Chris Tonelli and Elisa Gabbert. I'll let the interview with Chris stand in for most of what I'd like to say on the topic.

Or not. If you want to publish poems, fuck the contest circuit, stop slavering at the asses of the poets around, under, below and above you, and start a small press. There can never be too many. Your poems will find readers, though not without a lot of work on your part, but you'll end up with the tribe that is right for you eventually. Link to other small presses, buy their chaps, read their books, talk 'em up when you like 'em, and just keep at it.

Shake what your mama gave ya.

Okay, so I had more to say.

I'm sure we'll hear a lot more from these folks before many years pass. This text is swiped from the Constant Conversation, the blog of the Quarterly Conversation, where Carrie Olivia Adams interviews Chris Tonelli of Birds, LLC.

Tell us a little about the history of your press, where the idea came from, and what makes your press unique.
At the AWP conference in Austin a few years back, Sam Starkweather—one of the founders/editors of Birds, LLC—put BIRDS, INC. on his nametag as his affiliation . . . as a joke, and since then we’ve had this theoretical poetry entity called BIRDS, INC. And the more we noticed that there was a lot of poetry out there that we all loved that wasn’t getting anywhere on the contest circuit, the more we wanted to make that entity a book press. At the time, one of the other founders/editors, Justin Marks, had just started Kitchen Press and was putting out chapbooks in this vein, so we knew we had his process experience to lean on. Then, like a lot of things you repetitively joke about, they become real. And at some point last year we started getting serious . . . thinking about the manuscripts, thinking about the website, editing the manuscripts, etc. Sam and Dan Boehl (another founder/editor) figured out the business/financial side of things and we became an official company here in North Carolina. As it turns out, getting incorporated is harder than becoming an LLC, et voila! Birds, LLC. Which we kind of like better . . . sounds even colder and more business-y than Inc. Then Sam and Elisa Gabbert (Birds, LLC author . . .The French Exit) really worked on her book, and Justin and I worked hard on mine (The Trees Around), until we had finished, polished books. Justin got his unreal book designer, Joshua Elliot, on board and then signed on and worked with Friesens, and we had our covers/interiors and our printer. Matt Rasmussen (founder/editor) and I are working on distribution (Amazon, SPD, etc.) so we can get these books out in the world.
We’ll see what makes our press unique . . . I think it’s too early to tell. What we know we offer are good looking books, a real working relationship between an author and an editor, and the support authors need to promote their work. Too often friends of ours would win contests, and their publishers were so uninvolved in the shaping of the manuscript, in getting readings, interviews, reviews—in promotion in general— and too rigid in their approach to book design. All of which is stuff I simply just don’t get. If you love books enough to have a press, why wouldn’t you want to help the author edit them? Why wouldn’t you want to sell as many copies for you and your authors as possible? Why wouldn’t you want them to look terrific? It’s baffling the indifference a lot of presses have towards their own books. I mean, what’s the point?
One of my favorite recent publishing stories also began at that Austin AWP . . . There was this great reading at an outdoor bar, and one of the readers was Zach Schomburg. The thing I remember best was the title line from the title poem of his latest book: “you should say / no scary.” Anyway, afterward, Black Ocean publisher Janaka Stucky approached him about his manuscript. Long story short…we now have The Man Suit and Scary, No Scary. But besides all that, the part I like best is the extensive editorial processes the manuscripts went through. It was the first time I’d heard my contemporaries talk about that . . . having a real back and forth with an editor about the work they wanted to publish. Certainly Black Ocean [This is where I, the interviewer, should note that I help Janaka edit poetry for Black Ocean and Chris was formerly the online marketing manager] is in many ways an ideal publishing model—great books that look fantastic, a concerned and active editorial staff, enthusiastic promotion, etc.
Read more.


  1. wondering why you blocked me on facebook? is that some sort of fun game you "literary" types play? because frankly, I am not amused. Might as well stop following my blog..imagine a thumbs up emoticon wherever you want ....


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Ed Dorn's # 22 From Twenty-four Love Poems

                                               from Jacket The strengthy message here in #22 of 24 Love Songs can be summed up in two lines: ['There is/no sense to beauty. . .' and '. . .How/ the world is shit/ and I mean all of it] What I also like about this brief poem is the interplay between the title of the book and the subject of the poems (love/anti-love (which is not hate)): it's all a mass of contradictions, like love. And I have to say that the shorter poems of the Love Songs and the last book he wrote before dying (Chemo Sábe) seem to me much better and more memorable than the Slinger/Gunslinger poems. These (generally) later poems probably attempt less stylistically, but are more sure-handed, hacked from a soap bar, maybe. Easy to use, but disappear after use. In any case, Dorn is well worth the reading and re-reading, for me, though he'll never become one of my favorites. And doesn't every poet want that, dead or alive? ;-) #22 The agony

Mike James

 The River’s Architecture for Louis McKee, d. 11/21/11 The river has a shape you follow with your whole body: shoulder, footstep, and ear- those who know how to listen hear how river wind is like breath, alive in lung and line. Mike James makes his home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He has published in hundreds of magazines, large and small, and has performed his poetry at universities and other venues throughout the country. He has published over 20 collections and has served as visiting writer at the University of Maine, Fort Kent. His recent new and selected poems, Portable Light: Poems 1991-2021, was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His last collection, Back Alley Saints at the Tiki Bar, was published in April by Redhawk. He currently serves as the Poet Laureate of Murfreesboro, TN.

Jim Daniels

Half Days My daughter, thirteen, pale shred of herself, fought an unidentified infection in her spine as it softened her discs into disappearance. I’d unread that story if she were young and still listened to lullabies. After she got discharged, I set an alarm for two a.m. each night to shoot antibiotics into her port while she slept, her limp arm resting in my hand. Her return to school: half days—follow my dotted line smearing across months of sleepless breadcrumbs— at noon I idled high, anxious in the school driveway rattling off the latest test results in the zero gravity of fear. She startled me with the brittle thunk of the car door slam, then snapped at me for staring at her friends as they strolled across the street to the cafeteria, creeping them out, she said, embarrassed by illness like hard acne or a blooming hickey, wrong music or flakey hair, or the tacky middle-school jumper she no longer had to wear. I was there to drive her to