The 2018 Event Horizon of Micro Press Poetry Publishing in Australia

5 December 2017

Flash Cove, edited by Fitzroy’s Michael Farrell, is a classic ‘little magazine’ that is seven issues into life. The contact is Gmail, the website is nonexistent. Production is a DIY staple and stationery affair, and copies can be had from the editor, Collected Works Bookshop or poet Leah Muddle’s clothing shop. This is the type of hand-to-hand, on-the-ground dispersal of poetry that is altogether too rare in Australia, but not without recent (Pete Spence) and storied (Pam Brown) activity. Recent Flash Cove contributors include Alison Coppe, Chris Edwards, Jahan Khajavi, Alice Savona, Corey Wakeling and Mark Young. Speaking of the irascible Mr. Spence, his Donnithorne Street Press has traversed this DIY vector for years, and his current effort, Have Your Chill, is now on issue two. More, please. Consult Nicholas Pounder Rare Books to mine the available publishing history therein. Too, John Hand continues reprints of the recently resuscitated Bulky News Press, with new works by Marty Hiatt, Chris Brown and Andrew Pasco. All of this activity is on the event horizon, and oftentimes feels, refreshingly – because if its ephemeral nature – gravity-proof vis-à-vis the singularity.

Lurching over to Western Australia now, I need to mention Shed Under the Mountain Press run by activist, naturalist poets John Kinsella and James Quinton. Like Flash Cove’s most recent issue, the publications coming out from this project are not zines as such; they’re cleanly typeset, run about fifteen to twenty-five pages, and showcase the work of one poet or one collaborative effort. Title, cover image, poems, some front matter, a pull quote here and there – even ISBNs are registered for these. Says Kinsella on the press’s intent, ‘Shed Under the Mountain Press is an anti-capitalist venture. No cash changes hands outside the printing bill covered by us. One hundred to two hundred copies are printed – the publisher retaining thirty to give away, and with some kept in our archive – over time, but with seventy going to the author to distribute as they see fit. The author can sell or give away copies, but the publisher makes nothing from it. Our chapbooks are printed on recycled paper. PDFs are also made available – there are no limitations on their being shared.’ The publications that I have seen are more formal than I first anticipated, though not at odds with the anti-commercial and alternative distribution direction: together, publications I’ve read and the press’s intent, plant these publications just beyond the event horizon.

I will end this grand celestial tour in Sydney, by way of A J Carruthers’s and Amelia Dale’s Stale Objects dePress, also known as SOd press: Experiments in radical poetics. That it is, and unique in the band of Australian publishing I’ve looked at here. Like its clear influence, Gauss PDF of Oakland, California, SOd Press is a Tumblr. website that delivers free publications to anybody interested in accessing them. Publications range from fifteen to 240 pages. It’s refreshing to see a press agnostic to extent concerns; books are as long as they need to be, an author’s paradise and a conduit for experimental works to enter the public sphere without twenty laps through editorial development and compromise. As publisher of Cordite Books, I do very much engage in the editorial process and I’m a strong supporter of it, but I also acknowledge that a national publishing galaxy requires operations like SOd Press. Plenty of decisions are happening here, but they’re founded in the curatorial. Although the site’s sponsored ad pop-ups are annoying and seemingly antithetical to the press’s values, one can argue that a publisher like SOd reflects a publisher that has wiped out nearly all overhead costs and, like Shed Under the Mountain, has diffused the ‘noise’ to allow a more raw vein of poetry out into the world and nothing more. All up, SOd Press straddles the event horizon, and the byproducts of doing so just are. Its publications from Holly Isemonger, Catherine Vidler, Dave Drayton and Amelia Dale have attracted international attention, which being free and online fosters so well. Like most of the publishing concerns I’ve noted, SOd Press’s author stable is predominantly regional, in this case Sydney, but the press is internationally minded and read, and is morphing into more of an international affair.

Sydney is also home to the venerable Red Room Poetry, which publishes work that ranges from bullseye singularity, The Disappearing, to the outer reaches of the event horizon, with Candy Royalle’s work produced with the Wollongong Illawarra Roller Derby or Jane Williams’s poetry with the Hobart Bell Ringers as examples. Here, too, flickering on and off, is Potts Point Press with a series of broadsides, most recently a Judith Beveridge poem. The Australian poetry broadside is not extinct, but it’s damned rare.

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