Interview with Joshua Marie Wilkinson on Swamp Isthmus

Swamp Isthmus is a book about the sad and wonderful clunkiness of being alive in a body that will soon be so much dust. Whatever we might try to glean from history from the materials available to us, we’re being blasted forward away from deeper understanding. Faulkner’s well-known statement that “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past” also loomed large. And I think the book’s propulsion forward yet backward looking curiosity—fraught with violence, upheaval, desire, etc.—is trying to account for both of those concerns: our lack of understanding history as its preeminent lesson, and that the past’s not passed—its dead are presiding over us.

I want my poems to goad at and fail at and long for something bigger, even if it’s steeped in impossibility.

--Joshua Marie Wilkinson, interviewed by Christopher Nelson

Swamp Isthmus on The Rumpus

What is it like to read Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s poetry?

It is like being caught in a flash mob of fine language and finding yourself swaying along. It is like twisting a kaleidoscope and watching the images swirl together, then split apart with deliberate and deceptive grace. It is the way I imagine it would be if I found myself suddenly lodged inside a snow globe, just as some gentle hand begins to tilt it upside down, and then all at once it is snowing, and the whole familiar world is made strange again—unsettled, unhinged, and perceptibly more beguiling.

Swamp Isthmus by Joshua Marie Wilkinson reviewed on The Rumpus by Julie Marie Wade

Get your copy here.

12 or 20 (second series) questions with D.J. Dolack


I don’t have questions in mind when I write or draft, or even edit really. I don’t feel as though I’m deliberately trying to scratch an itch or address some kind of question.  I guess it’s more about trying to build the mood of a situation or experience -- the notion that cannot be described. This is usually where words fail -- where language fails. But I enjoy trying to wring as much out of it as I can.

--12 or 20 (second series) questions with D.J. Dolack on rob mclennan's blog

Whittling a New Face in the Dark is now available from Black Ocean! Find it here.

Black Ocean and VIDA's The Count Ah Ah Ah!


Hello Black Oceanographers,

As Carrie wades her way through the phenomenal pool of submissions we received during our annual open reading period, my thoughts have returned again to VIDA’s count. Toward that end, I did a little research and threw together some statistics that I wanted to share.

In this year’s submission pool of 495 manuscripts, 67% came from men and 33% came from women. This is a fairly consistent breakdown with previous years.

Our catalog of current and past titles breaks down roughly along the same percentages:

  • 15 titles by men / 7 titles by women
  • 11 male authors / 5 female authors

In 2013 we will be releasing 3 books by men, and 3 books by women.

It might also be interesting to note that according to Facebook, followers of our page are almost 50/50 when it comes to gender: 52.1% women and 45.5% men.

Lastly, in this context it might also be interesting to note that our fantastic editorial staff (incl. Handsome) consists of 5 women and only 1 man—and 2 more female interns.

I haven’t drawn any conclusions with these numbers, or compared them to other indie presses. I simply wanted to share this info for the sake of transparency and to add to the ongoing public dialogue, which I think is an important one. If anyone would like to provide an analysis in the comments below, I’d be interested in reading it!


Place & Swamp Isthmus

A nice article on place & poetry featuring excerpts from and thoughts on Joshua Marie Wilkinson's Swamp Isthmus and Joyelle McSweeney's Salamandrine:

In these slight but heavy poems, Wilkinson turns history into those dangerous images over and over again.  Nothing exactly feels “at stake” in this book, but despite its slowness, its interest in weighing words rather than startling them, what we’re given still feels urgent and touched by historical burden.  Wilkinson refers to “corpulent history,” ending one poem with the lines “where the recording devices / click back on / to show us how sadness / works in a loop.”  Place is bound up entirely with history, with the dead wrapped in the muck at the bottom of that swamp.  I think this is one of the more interesting things to do with place, especially in poetry: to acknowledge that what makes place so ensnaring is the way it works as the ultimate archive of history: where the soil breathes the way the affects of the dead.

Read it here.

Check In with Joe Hall

Joe Hall, whose The Devotional Poems was released early 2013, is currently on tour, gracing readers across the US with works worthy of reverence. You can follow along on his blog HERE for dates and bits of awesome.

The Devotional Poems is quickly finding believers. Recently reviewed in The Huffington Post, Seth Abramson writes, “It is a rare poetry, and a rare poet, who so accurately and with such conviction enacts the unwinding of a body and a spirit. One is tempted, therefore, to see in The Devotional Poems a sort of generosity, even martyrdom, typically absent in Confessional and post-Confessional verse.”

HTML Giant featured a transcription of a book club discussion of The Devotional Poems, in which the question of who will become the next scholar of Joe Hall is considered, along with notation, and effect. Maybe you want to hold your own book club discussion of Hall's work? Find it here.

FJORDS VOL 1 Wins Oregon Book Award in Poetry!

We are thrilled to announce that Fjords Vol. 1 by Zachary Schomburg (Black Ocean 2012) has been slected for the 2013 Oregon Book Award: Stafford Hall Award for Poetry. View the full list of winners HERE!

In selecting Fjords Vol. 1, Judge Mary Jo Bang remarked: 

Perhaps it’s the odd deadpan-earnest tone the speaker uses to address those large lyric subjects—love, death, and the changing of seasons (which is, yes, simply death by another name)—that makes these small prose poems so distinctive, and so convincing. Who would say “From the very beginning, I knew exactly what would kill me” if he or she didn’t mean for such a statement, which openly flaunts its implausibility, to speak figuratively about something much larger than itself. Each of these poems is more than the language with which it’s been constructed. Each is a seedling that is meant to become a full-fledged allegory not on the page, but in the reader’s imagination. Schomburg intuitively knows exactly how much, and how little, it takes to conjure a sense of the ever-puzzling world. He leaves it to the reader to make use of the material he provides. I for one delight in that freedom.

Haven't read Fjords Vol. 1 yet? Visit the catalog page here.

Black Ocean @ Mission Creek Festival

Mission Creek Festival is a week-long experience that takes over the venues and spaces of downtown Iowa City—creating an easily navigated nexus of music, literature, food and art.If you're going to be within 5 hours driving distance of Iowa City this week, you should try to make it to at least one of the excellent events we're participating in. Full schedule for the Mission Creek festival can be found at

Wednesday, April 3, 5:00 pm @ Brix Cheese Shop and Wine Bar The
Tuesday Agency Presents: Writing Industry Roundtable
Editors Roxane Gay ([PANK] Magazine) and Janaka Stucky (Black Ocean) join Trinity Ray of the Iowa City-based Tuesday Agency (Speaking agents representing Colson Whitehead, Ann Patchett, Khaled Hosseini, Jon Ronson & more) to talk all things writing industry, publishing, and public sphere.

Wednesday, April 3, 9:00 pm @ The Mill
Michael Zapruder's Pink Thunder
Pink Thunder is a record. Pink Thunder is a book of poems. Pink Thunder is an art show featuring the work of 23 poets, illustrated and hand-lettered, and all set to music. A collaboration between the poets (such as D.A. Powell, David Berman, Matthew Zapruder, Joshua Beckman, Matthew Rohrer, James Tate, Mary Ruefle, Dara Weir & more), and musician Michael Zapruder, Pink Thunder will be read and performed at Mission Creek Festival. Readings by Black Ocean Editor Janaka Stucky will accompany Michael’s performance. Iowa band Christopher the Conquered will open, and support.

Friday, April 5, 7:00 @ Foxhead, Clinton Street Social Club
Lit Crawl Iowa City: Round 3: Black Ocean & Spork Press
Featuring readings by: Feng Sun Chen, Amelia Gray, Aase Berg (in person all the way from Sweden!), Steve Roggenbuck, Rauan Klassnik, Thea Brown and Grant Souders.

Saturday, April 6, 11:00a – 6:00p @ The Mill
4th Annual Small Press and Literary Journal Book Fair (with New Belgium Beer)
Presses large and small, literary magazines in print and online, from all corners of the U.S., once again gather at The Mill to sell some of the most exciting books being published today. Publishers and Editors will be on hand from Granta Magazine, n+1, Cave Canem, A Strange Object, Milkweed Editions, Vice Magazine, Coffee House Press, [PANK] Magazine, POETRY Magazine, Sarabande Books, Dzanc Books, The Collagist, Spork Press, Black Ocean, Forklift Ohio, H_NGM_N, Rescue Press, Birds LLC, MAKE Magazine, Hobart, Perfect Day Publishing, jubilat, Canarium Books, Black Clock, draft: the journal of process, The Iowa Review, UI Press, Wag’s Revue, The Doctor T.J. Eckleberg Review, Autumn Hill Books, The Examined Life, Ninth Letter, and many, many more. And once again, New Belgium Brewery will be handing out a selection of their newest brews.

Pink Thunder Portmanteaus @ Rational Park, Chicago

Chicago Black Oceanographers--here are three events in celebration of Michael Zapruder's Pink Thunder, a new collection of songs featuring collaborations from 23 poets. Pink Thunder is a truely sensory experience, and if you can make one of these event, you can experience it to the fullest.

Opening: March 22, 2013 7-10pm 
Performance: March 30, 2013 7pm
Gallery hours: March 22-April 12, M-F (by appointment)

Rational Park is excited to host 22 portmanteaus, each containing a song from the album Pink Thunder—a collection of free-verse pop art-songs, including contributions from 23 poets, three engineers, and a few dozen musicians.

What began as a bus tour that brought together hundreds of American poets has been recorded and remixed into a potent collection of poem-songs. Pink Thunder features instrumental contributions from over forty musicians and poems from Noelle Kocot, James Tate, Bob Hicok, Mary Ruefle, D.A. Powell, Dara Wier, Joshua Beckman, and Valzhyna Mort.  The album was released on October 16, 2012 via The Kora Records.

Friday, March 22 from 7-10, we invite you to view and listen to each portmanteau. These unique pieces, which combine sculpture and sound, are equipped with headphones for your listening pleasure.

On Saturday, March 30, you’ll be able to follow-up your experience with a live performance by Michael Zapruder and friends at Rational Park. Watch the video for the song Florida

Tuesday, April 2 takes us offsite to presenting partners, Danny’s Reading Series.  At Danny’s Tavern, 1951 W. Dickens Ave, 7:30pm sharp, Zapruder will be joined by Billy Blake and the Vagabonds members, Kennedy Greenrod and Reid Coker. Each will perform a few songs from their recent albums, and then answer questions about blending poetry and songwriting. Hosted by Joel Craig and Fred Sasaki.

Rational Park
2557 W North Ave.

This event is being presented by Black OceanDanny’s Reading SeriesRational Park, and MAKE Literary Productions.

Enjoy the Europe Tour via Twitter

Black Ocean authors Brandon Shimoda, Zachary Schomburg, and Joshua Marie Wilkinson, along with Dot Devota, kicked off their European tour yesterday, while many of us dreamt of it from afar. Thankfully, you can get a little bit closer no matter where you are because this amazing quartet will be live tweeting their experience from the Black Ocean Twitter account using the hashtag #océannoir. Follow along, ask questions, and interact.

The tour continues to expand with new dates added. Here is the most recent schedule from Brandon Shimoda's blog (and some handsome photos as well): 

Clockwise, left-to-right: Schomburg, Devota, Shimoda, Wilkinson

March 12, New York, New YorkTriptych Reading Series @ Envoy Enterprises, 7:30 pm—with Dot Devota, James Gendron, Amy Lawless, Brandon Shimoda, Zachary Schomburg & Mathias Svalina

March 18, Paris, FranceSpoken Word Paris @ Au Chat Noir, 9 pm—with Dot Devota, Zachary Schomburg, Brandon Shimoda, Joshua Marie Wilkinson & various rabble …

March 19, Paris, FranceIVY Writers Paris @ Cafe Delaville, 7:30 pm—with Dot Devota, Paul Laborde, Virginie Poitrasson, Martin Richet, Brandon Shimoda, Zachary Schomburg & Joshua Marie Wilkinson

March 22, Mulhouse, FranceUniversite de Haute Alsace—with Dot Devota, Jennifer K. Dick, Zachary Schomburg & Joshua Marie Wilkinson

March 22, Mulhouse, FranceThe Book Corner—with Dot Devota, Jennifer K. Dick, Brandon Shimoda, Zachary Schomburg & Joshua Marie Wilkinson

March 23, Basel, SwitzerlandElaine MGK, Museum für Gegenwartskunst—with Dot Devota, Zachary Schomburg & Joshua Marie Wilkinson

March 24, Zurich, SwitzerlandCabaret Voltaire, 5 pm—with Dot Devota, Brandon Shimoda, Zachary Schomburg & Joshua Marie Wilkinson

March 25, Berlin, GermanSaint George’s, 8:30 pm—with Dot Devota, Brandon Shimoda, Zachary Schomburg & Joshua Marie Wilkinson, and special guest hosts Christian Hawkey & Donna Stonecipher

March 27, Amsterdam, HollandVersal/This Is Not A Reading Series @ Lost Property, 7:30 pm—with Dot Devota, Zachary Schomburg & Joshua Marie Wilkinson

March 29, Brussels, BelgiumInternational School of Brussels—with Dot Devota, Brandon Shimoda, Zachary Schomburg & Joshua Marie Wilkinson

Black Ocean Meets Europe

For our European friends (or worldwide travelers), catch Black Ocean authors Brandon Shimoda (The Girl Without Arms), Zachary Schomburg (The Man Suit, Scary No Scary, Fjords vol. 1), and Joshua Marie Wilkinson (Swamp Isthmus) on tour across Europe for the next couple of weeks! 

From Schomburg's blog, The Lovely Arc:


3/18, Paris, FranceSpoken Word Paris @ Au Chat Noir, 9 pm—with Dot Devota, Zachary Schomburg, Joshua Marie Wilkinson & various rabble …

3/19, Paris, FranceIVY Writers Paris @ Cafe Delaville, 7:30 pm—with Dot Devota, Paul Laborde, Virginie Poitrasson, Martin Richet, Zachary Schomburg & Joshua Marie Wilkinson

3/23, Basel, SwitzerlandElaine MGK, Museum für Gegenwartskunst—with Dot Devota, Zachary Schomburg & Joshua Marie Wilkinson

3/24, Zurich, SwitzerlandCabaret Voltaire—with Dot Devota, Zachary Schomburg & Joshua Marie Wilkinson

3/27, Amsterdam, HollandVersal/This Is Not A Reading Series—with Dot Devota, Zachary Schomburg & Joshua Marie Wilkinson

3/29, Brussels, BelgiumInternational School of Brussels—with Dot Devota, Zachary Schomburg & Joshua Marie Wilkinson.

AWP, Hometown Advantage!

This week is the annual AWP Conference, and for the first time in the seven years we've been publishing the conference takes place on our home turf, in Boston. To celebrate, we've got two phenomenal off-site parties planned around town and have reserved two tables at the 3-day bookfair (Tables AA7 & AA8). Please come toast with us, and experience the fantastic books, dancing, and live music we've lined up.

On Thursday, March 7, from 6p-8p we're co-hosting our first party: No Thousands: an Indie Press event (Part 1), with 1913, Action Books, Black Ocean, Octopus Books and Poor Claudia. Nine ground-breaking poets from around the world will be reading short samples from their latest books.

On Friday, March 8, from 8p-1a we're co-hosting our second party: No Thousands: an Indie Press event (Part 2), with Black Ocean, McSweeney's and Wave Books. Seven cutting-edge American poets will be reading short samples from their latest books. Following the readings will be a live music performance by Michael Zapruder, playing songs from PINK THUNDER. The night will close with a dance party curated by Soulelujah DJs Claude Monet and Worth Wagers--spinning Soul, Funk and R&B vinyl 45s deep into the night!

Both venues have a full bar, and our Friday night venue serves up a great dinner menu with a number of locally sourced ingredients.

We hope to see many of you there!

Inside the Mind of Rauan Klassnik

Two recent interviews with Rauan Klassnik, in which he talks about The Moon's Jaw, Twitter, decadence, the charm of churches, and parade floats.
with Drew Kalbach at The Actuary HERE
You see, I can make small pieces. Sometimes those small pieces come decently formed into units, but sometimes also it takes a lot of work to make the units right. Then i have to arrange and sequence those units. This is what i’ve come to, what my brain/DNA/blah, blah has bequeathed to and imposed on me. My work’s evolved within this statuesque (ie, Holy Land is spare and pared down, also, but it’s also quite different from the new book) and i’ll have to see where i can take the stones and stony in my new book.
and with Paul Cunningham at Radioactive Moat HERE
Yes, my poems are filled with death but they are filled also with bright, vivid and lively striving against that death. So, yes, life, decadent, and rotting, increasingly so. But, life. I have no problems with artists trying to impose on things, impose on their subjects, the words, their images, their readers even. In the end, really, artists are trying to enslave their subjects and their audiences. For a period, anyways. But I do feel like some artists are using the wrong chains and electrical boxes, the wrong chocolates and flowers, the wrong starvation, coaxing and rape techniques. The wrong sweet nothings. Certainly I am not real big on socially PC bullshit. Bringing that stuff to your art doesn’t seem, to me anyways, like a good idea.
Order your copy of The Moon's Jaw here.

Wednesday Around the Web


Dear People of the Future,

With your lightning powered aggregators, your nanomembranophones, your hydrolytic isomer skin-suit apparatus, it will require an imaginative leap wider than the great San Andreas Canyon that separates The People’s Republic of California from the once great nation of the “United” States to conceive of the cultural landscape in which Michael Zapruder’s Pink Thunderwhich I recommend you ingest via light pulse array, was created.

And Rauan Klassnik is hailed "the Jim Jones of Poetry" for his latest Black Ocean title The Moon's Jaw, reviewed on Vice by Blake Butler:

Rauan Klassnik’s new book, The Moon’s Jaw, follows in the black trough of his first, appending the space there with something perhaps even more strangely pregnant. It’s full of knives and silk and peacocks and breast milk and ghosts and fetuses and orchards and wounds and girls and suns. It shifts continually between horny and cruel tones, meditative and exacting tones, stiff and puffy images, swallowed up somewhere in the space between all bodies, where nature mutates and crushes you and grinds against itself forever.

And in the realms of the real, the BASH reading series continues with its 8th installment on February 8 with Darcie Dennigan, Evan Glasson, and Christie Ann Reynolds in Brookline, MA. More info HERE.

PINK THUNDER: What You've Been Missing

Contemplating your next read/listen/poetic experience? In his December review on Huffington Post, Seth Abramson writes, "Without question, if you are yourself a poet and you decide to purchase only one poetry collection in 2013, it should be Zapruder's Pink Thunder" and goes on to say that "[i]f an objective correlative could be said to exist for the myriad phenomena of the present Golden Age of American poetry, it would be Pink Thunder. In short, it's a genre-mixing, community-driven, performance-oriented, collaborative project that represents everything that's right with American poetry and everything American poetry is fast becoming."

Pink Thunder also heads Boston Globe's Best Poetry Books of 2012 list, described as a "curious experiment and a beautiful document." And you'll learn more about the history of the project itself in this review from the LA Times: "...if Pink Thunder has a message, it’s that the relationship between poetry and music is more elusive, more conditional, than that of traditional lyrics in a song. This is the best thing about the project, the way Zapruder uses his music to mirror, or echo, his own reading of the material, and its emotional effect."

If those reviews aren't enough to intrigue you, here are a few sneak peek images from Pink Thunder. You can still grab a copy with the limited edition vinyl directly from us: /pink-thunder

A Special Gift List


There are gift ideas for your dad, lists for techies, even handmade holidays, and at long last, there are"suggestions for holiday presents to win over your crush & delight your weirdo poet friends" thanks to a special HOLIDAY CRUSH post on the POETRY CRUSH blog. At #2 on the list, you'll find Black Ocean's own PINK THUNDER, our latest excitement from Michael Zapruder--a beautiful object of a thing that comes with a book and a CD (or if you're one of the lucky first 250 orders, a special edition pink vinyl!). J Hope Stein explains: "What I love about this project is the pursuit to find connections with other disciplines and poets.  It’s good for poetry and it’s a really groovy listen.   & In the songs themselves you can feel a highly sensitive being."

Don't feel bad if you end up snagging this one for yourself, there are a number of other great things on this list for your poet friends including the movie Once, some cool jewelry, and some antiques and oddities. If Pink Thunder is at the top of yours or a loved one's list, just make sure to order by the 17th  to receive it by Christmas.

Check out the HOLIDAY CRUSH list here:

and order your PINK THUNDER album and book here.