- A Midsummer Night’s PressAn interview with Lawrence Schimel
Could you briefly describe your press’s history?
A Midsummer Night’s Press started publishing books in 2007, although the press originally began when I was an undergraduate. There was a Vandercook letterpress in the basement of my dorm at Yale and I asked a few poets like Nancy Willard and Jane Yolen for poems and printed limited edition broadsides. When I graduated, I lost access to the press, but I still had a yearning to put books out into the world. And a few years later, that’s what I decided to do, publishing poetry collections in a small-trim size format that’s attractive and also non-threatening, making it convenient and appealing to carry poetry with you or sample a new voice.
How would you characterize the work you publish?
We publish in four imprints, each of which has a strong identity:
Fabula Rasa publishes work inspired by mythology and fairy tales. We’ve published books by Francesca Lia Block, Jane Yolen, and Rachel Pollack, among others, in this imprint.
Body Language publishes LGBT voices. We’ve published books by Achy Obejas, Rigoberto González, Julie R. Enszer, and Michael Broder, among others, in this imprint.
Sapphic Classics are reprints of important feminist-lesbian texts, which we co-publish with Sinister Wisdom magazine (in a large trade paperback format). Each book has new front- and backmatter to help bring these voices to a new generation of readers. So far we’ve reprinted Minnie Bruce Pratt’s Crime Against Nature (2013), Cheryl Clarke’s Living as a Lesbian (2014), elana dykewomon’s What Can I Ask: New and Selected Poems (2015), and most recently, The Complete Works of Pat Parker (2016), which includes all of her published poetry plus uncollected work from her archives, in addition to two plays and various prose pieces. At almost 500 pages, it’s our most ambitious project yet!
And our newest imprint is Periscope, which is devoted to publishing poetry in translation by women poets. We launched this imprint in 2014, because during the two previous years, out of everything published in the US in translation, from all languages and in all genres (fiction/poetry/ nonfiction), only 26% were by women writers. All the authors have published at least 2 books (so they’re not a one-book-wonder but are established in their own language and country) but have never before had a book published in English. We’ve published poets from Estonia, Slovenia, Spain, and Lithuania so far.
Who is your audience, and in what ways are you trying to reach them?
Each collection has its own audience, in many ways, although I think there is some cross-over among the readerships. We are a very feminist press, and are actively championing women’s voices across all of our genres; a lot of our readership also celebrates these women’s voices and will often search them out and read them across the imprint divides. We are distributed by SPD and also work with a number of independent bookshops who support the work we’re doing. Although our best response, probably, is via bookfairs, like AWP, the Brooklyn Book Fair, the Free Verse Book Fair in London, etc. Getting the books in front of the audience is so crucial, and given our small trim-size, lots of bookshops (even those few who do carry poetry) are reluctant to carry us. Although the stores that do will often put them right near the cash register to appeal as impulse buys, to very good response (Deep Vellum in Dallas and Women and Children First in Chicago have both had great success doing so).
I think a lot of our books have strong voices, and work as complete units rather than just a hodgepodge of poems brought together. Obviously, that’s the case for books like When I Was Straight by Julie Marie Wade (2014) or my own Fairy Tales for Writers (2007) (which are both book-length sequences) but I think it’s true even for other collections, such as Dialectic of the Flesh (2012) by Roz Kaveny, which was a finalist for...