AWP, Sustenance and the Righteous & Harmonious Fists of Dean Young

Dear Black Oceanographers,

Thank you for making this year the most “successful” AWP Conference to date. We managed to sell enough books to cover all our expenses, with some extra cash left over to buy a few rounds at the bar. It was great seeing old faces and shaking new hands. We literally sold out of With Deer—without a single copy to ship back—and Scape received an enthusiastic reception as well. Demand for our older titles was almost as high, exceeding our expectations on books that are now two or more years old.

Dean Young gave a great little speech before his closing reading at our event on Friday night (which packed the bar with roughly 200 people, causing the Fire Marshall to come and make them stop serving drinks) and talked about the declining publishing “industry” and the growing “tribe” of poets. In a nutshell: it’s not publishing that’s on the decline, but the big industry built around it—which was never designed for poets, who should revel in their growing numbers despite the doom-and-gloom predictions for the business around them. It was moving to see him step into the role of that night’s poet laureate unabashedly, but with humility. Bravo Dean. Other highlights of the night for me were of course seeing our own authors, Joshua Harmon and Johannes Göransson, read from their new books with us—as well as Claire Donato (who totally wrecked the house), and Shane McCrae. I highly recommend you check them out. Everyone was great, but these readers were new to me and thus an especially pleasant discovery.

Coming back from Chicago, I’ve realized how affirming going to AWP every year is—both as a poet and as a publisher. Attending to the table almost all day every day at the book fair is a tiresome job, but it’s not one without reward. Hour after hour people kept coming by to talk about one of our books they already had, or seek out books they wanted to get, and through it all appeared a common thread of admiration and gratitude for the quality of our production and the novelty of our content. That’s the type of encouragement that sustains a small operation like ours, and one you don’t get from just looking at sales numbers. We’ve all put in a serious amount of time and energy into this press in an act of faith and passion for what the end result would be. Thank you to everyone who stopped by the table, whether you bought a book or not, to tell us how much you enjoy our titles. It’s indescribably meaningful to hear first-hand about the impact our books have on people’s lives. We’ll see you again next year!