This weekend marked the latest installment of Meet The Presses‘ Indie Literary Market. It only sems fitting that we spend a bit of time learning more about this Toronto-based collective devoted to promoting micro, small and independent literary presses.
This collective has come together in the spirit of the original Meet the Presses event launched in Toronto in the mid-1980s by Nicholas Power and Stuart Ross. Meet the Presses organizes a variety of curated public events, all focussing on independent publishers of fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. The collective includes members Gary Barwin, Paul Dutton, Beth Follett, Hazel Millar, Nicholas Power, Stuart Ross, Eric Schmaltz, Jess Taylor, Jacqueline Valencia, Ally Fleming, and Leigh Nash.
Collective member Stuart Ross took a few minutes to answer some of my questions, so that we could all learn more about the collective, the bp Nichol Chapbook Award, and more.
HM: What is the main reason you joined the Meet the Presses collective?
Stuart Ross (SR): Nicholas Power and I ran a monthly literary mini-fair/reading in 1985 called Meet the Presses. In 1987, we organized the first Toronto Small Press Book Fair, on a larger scale. I was involved in running the fair for three years, and then passed it off to other hands, who passed it off to other hands over the years, etc. In 2008, dissatisfied with the organization of the Fair, I contacted some other writers and publishers, including Nicholas, and we relaunched Meet the Presses as a volunteer collective that would, among other things, run the annual Indie Literary Market, a modestly sized, curated book fair for micro and small presses. So, in short, Meet the Presses came into existence to fill a gap in the Toronto-and-area small press scene.
HM: In your opinion, what role does Meet the Presses have in establishing and promoting Canadian literature/poetry?
SR: I don’t know that Meet the Presses establishes literature, but it provides a forum for selling/displaying/promoting work that often isn’t carried in bookstores. So, especially for the micropresses, I do think we are a motivating factor in their publishing. I know a lot of publishers and mags that create publications in the week or two leading up to the Market. Also, we aren’t an “open-for-anyone” event: we choose presses and magazines we think are doing interesting and important work. So hopefully we are helping to nurture adventurous writing.
HM: How does the collective go about curating the annual Indie Literary Market, in terms of the participating publishers?
SR: Each year, two collective members are responsible for drawing up a list of invitees. They ask for input from the other members, but they make the final decisions. We instituted this method last year; there were just too many excellent publishers to choose from. It may be that we’ll need to find a bigger venue in the future.
HM: The establishment of the bp Nichol Chapbook Award is quite an exciting endeavour. In what way does this type of award help a poet and his/her work?
SR: It helps financially. $4,000 is a pretty good purse. It also helps the winner, and the other finalists, but recognizing their work, publicizing their work, and just generally offering encouragement in a world where encouragement is hard to come by.
HM: Lastly, any other recommendations for books published by local micro, small, and independent publishers that we should be reading and supporting?
SR: Aw, I can’t specify any particular books. We all have different tastes and aesthetics. We encourage people to come to the Market and look at the tables. If you like something someone is doing, and you can afford it, please buy it. When you find exciting micropress work, blast it out on social media, tell your friends about it, tell the author and publisher you liked it!
I could not have summarized things better; like Ross, I encourage you to support local writers and share their work. I enjoy finding out what other bibliophiles are enjoying, too.
ADDENDUM: The Meet the Presses Collective announced that Lissa Wolsak (Vancouver,British Columbia) has won the 2015 bpNichol Chapbook Award for Of Beings Alone: The Eigenface, published by Nomados Press. Of Wolsak’s winning collection, the judges remarked: “This is a wonderfully lucid narrative that takes the reader through the web of perception. Wolsak’s delicate precise language shapes the text – and leads us through both solid and sense worlds. Such a strange and effective articulation of the mysteries of existence.” This is the richest annual literary award for a poetry chapbook. Congratulations to Wolsak and the Meet the Presses as well!