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  • Scenes:Dancing Girl Press: an interview with Kristy Bowen
  • Kristy Bowen

Could you briefly describe your press’s history?

The dancing girl press chapbook series began as a print offshoot of an online journal I had founded in 2001, wicked alice, devoted to publishing work by women authors. Amazing things were just beginning to happen on the web in terms of online publications, but I was also very much enamored of the solidity of paper and ink, so in 2004, I decided to branch into print. I was also beginning to make forays into book and paper arts on my own, so I was excited by the possibilities of combining those intersections with what we were doing. By early 2004, I had lined up our first author, the late Adrianne Marcus, who was kind enough to take a chance on her book, The Resurrection of Trotsky. I basically started with some cardstock and a saddle stapler and went from there. It took a while to figure out layout templates, printing logistics, trimmers shipping, etc, so it was mostly trial and error. For the first few years, we were funded mostly out of pocket, but by 2007, we were humming along quite nicely and breaking even. That was the year we more than doubled the number of books and moved the whole operation out of my dining room and into a studio space (one that also creates a number of art, paper, and crafty ventures for our online shop alongside the chapbook offerings). Since then, we issue about 40-50 titles a year, all of them handmade and mostly open-run editions.

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How would you characterize the work you publish?

Our initial goal was really to foster the proliferation of women’s voices in the conversation that is contemporary poetry as much as we can. Stylistically we do that in a number of ways, but all of which sort of make sense together. The press’ aesthetics definitely leans toward more innovative/hybrid work as a rule, but occasionally a more traditionally lyric chap catches my attention. I always joked that my only ban was rhyming poetry, but we’ve published a couple of more out there books that wander into such territory. I suppose mostly what I’m looking for is a certain rogue spirit to a manuscript. Authority, Cohesiveness. Daringness. Projects that take risks and own them. We also love to publish work that has visual or book arts elements. Including projects that toe the line on the concept of “book” or “chapbook.” We’ve published projects that were envelopes of ephemera, boxes of letters, decks of cards.

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Who is your audience, and in what ways are you trying to reach them?

As a feminist press, the charge has occasionally been leveled that we are publishing largely for an audience of women, but our sales records are actually split right down the middle, which means our books are getting into just as many male hands as female. I think because we publish such a large swathe of books in a given year, we reach a pretty wide band of readers of all persuasion. Poetry of course is a small readership in the grand literary scheme and perhaps indie/micro presses an even smaller readership, but we like to think that our tendrils reach wide and far, both by word of mouth and things like social media, where we have a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter. Our distribution is pretty much entirely via web sales, so we rely very much on these things, as well as occasional reviews, to direct traffic to us and get books into hands. Our authors also do an amazing job spreading the magic in terms of their own online marketing and readings.

What is your role in the publishing scene?

I think, above all else, I really see dgp as a curator of work that more people should be reading, and most importantly, work by women that should have an audience. As I mentioned above, it’s about adding those voices to the contemporary poetry scene and attempting to restore balance...