Gramma Press to be distributed in partnership with Black Ocean

Black Ocean and Gramma are pleased to announce that as of January 31, 2019 all titles currently in print under Gramma Press will be distributed in partnership with Black Ocean, and backlist Gramma Press titles will be republished in the future as part of the Black Ocean catalog. We are excited to work together to ensure that Gramma’s authors and books will continue to enjoy long careers as part of a complementary and established independent press, with a catalog that includes Zachary Schomburg, Nathaniel Mackey, and Elisa Gabbert, whose book The Word Pretty was recently reviewed in the NY Times.  

As part of the arrangement, Black Ocean will be responsible for Gramma’s author promotions and tours, as well as their books' printing, editorial, and design needs. This will include reprints of all Gramma’s backlist titles as appropriate, with third printings of (v.) and Soap for the Dogs available later this year. Gramma's other projects, including the Reading Series, Monthly Gramma, Weekly Gramma, and their gallery space in Seattle may continue in various future iterations with Black Ocean, but are, at the moment, on a long hiatus.

As part of Black Ocean, Gramma’s titles will continue to be available through Small Press Distribution, at your local independent bookstores, and on Black Ocean's website: For publicity, events, or other inquiries, contact Carrie Olivia Adams, Poetry Editor and Publicist:

Gramma would like to thank everyone who has been a part of their project, and together, we hope that you will continue to follow and support Gramma’s authors at their new home with  Black Ocean.

Q & A with Joe Hall, author of Someone’s Utopia

Dana Guth — How would you define “labor,” the subject matter of this book? How about “utopia?” What do you see as the relationship between the two concepts? What drew you to them as subjects? (Or, Why now? What was the impetus?)

Joe Hall — Labor holds the world together. Labor: what people have to do to sustain their lives and the lives of others. It can be productive or reproductive, physical, affective, paid, unpaid. Not that there aren’t labors of destruction and cruelty. Though the state incentivizes these kinds of labor, that’s not the kind of labor most people do.

Silvia Federici: yes. Wages for housework, wages for all of it. Making a meal, operating a drill press, teaching children not to be cruel. A boss sending a worker home with shitty feelings because that boss treats that worker as an emotional trashcan is a kind of wage theft. Home healthcare workers in New York city aren’t paid for the hours they spend sleeping at their clients homes during 24 hour shifts. As if sleeping in a stranger’s bed, subject to being woken up to work at any moment isn’t a part of the work. Cuomo’s Department of Labor made sure they didn’t get paid. Opponents of the national prison strike argue that what inmates are forced to do is not slave labor because they are paid (pennies on the dollar, swallowed up by the prison) and that most inmates don’t make products for the market but rather work to maintain the prison. They’re drawing on people’s biases toward productive labor by excluding workers in kitchens and laundry rooms, workers pushing mops, from the category of actual labor. It’s real labor, forced and unpaid: slave labor. Capitalism runs on regular exploitation and superexploitation, mostly of people of color and women.

“Utopia”: Medieval Utopias were utopias of rest and pleasure. Meat grew wings and flew into open mouths. Peasants slept, feasted, and fucked. Not so bad! Later, Utopias were sincere attempts to reorder society, often on the lines of representation and hierarchies of work. They sought to do away with those hierarchies or provide more enlightened hierarchies. This sort of utopic thinking was sometimes a safe way to articulate radical political thought and a source of violence, a propeller of colonial schemes.

So why have I squeezed labor and utopia through my poetry organ? Why now? This project started in 2008, the year of the financial crisis. It came from years of toggling between two worlds: a working-class world and a middle-class world. I spent 4 years in high school at a plant nursery working with people making the minimum wage or close to it. In 2002 I worked at a shipping plant during my holiday break from college. Then after I graduated in 2004 I worked on production lines at an industrial printing press. I’d spent a lot of time with people working 2 jobs to pay the bills. My friend Rebecca, who loaned me VHS tapes, would fall asleep smoking cigarettes during her breaks.

One of the guys at the printing press had been doing repetitive line work his whole life. He seemed bewildered by how it had happened to him, that he’d got old in it and was still struggling to pay his bills. He worked 50-hour weeks for decades in dim, dust clogged industrial cavern and it hadn’t got him anywhere. I met a lot of people who felt trapped and worn out and wasted by shit work. I mean they got by with a certain kind of dignity or even sangfroid. But they told me they weren’t living the life they wanted. Not even close to it.

Then I’d go home to my extremely comfortable suburban home.

I’ve had a couple of well-off people try to convince me that certainly many people are happy to work hard, and shouldn’t I be trying to dignify labor and laborers. I find this to be a very weird response. They should try working on a conveyor belt or scrubbing toilets or working in a day care or just filling out applications for assistance then filling out more applications and waiting in lines to keep that assistance for even a year. It sucks. Why should anyone have to do it for more than a few hours a week? Why should anyone be paid less than a living wage to do it?

Anyway, five years after, after the peak of the financial crisis, I was living in a trailer park while adjuncting creative writing and literature classes. My roommate and I couldn’t afford to heat the place over 50 degrees. The head of the department told me I wouldn’t have work the next semester while he was pissing. The teacher who got me the job told me I was lucky for the opportunity. I totaled my car. My neighbor set his trailer on fire. Our landlord shit in our toilet and didn’t flush out of spite. I was falling as I was rising. I had more respect from people because of what I did and less money than I did loading cars with bags of manure. Where before I was a tourist in the world of low wage work, now I was living it fully. It was my life. And this life told me something was profoundly wrong with the conditions of low-wage workers and educators in America. I wanted to write about it, to keep learning about labor.

From dissatisfaction with a system that creates incredible inequalities in wealth, comes the utopic demand: equality, redistribution, actual representation, etc. I started to look at utopias, actual socialism and communism, some planned, some unplanned. I wanted to know how people tried to remake their worlds.

Now class and workers’ rights are on more people’s minds and people are getting at the problem through intersectional approaches. This is tremendous.

DG — What was your research process when writing this collection? What did you consume in preparation?

JH — My process is to write alongside texts, their unfolding. I read and read and flounder around.  I wish I could wait to fully synthesize and digest them, but I can’t. The act of writing is a countervailing force that I need to keep applying to stay alive.

I started with Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project. That was a mistake. I read utopic literature: Ovid, More, Fourier, the extremely messed up utopia of Nicolas-Edme Retif De La Bretonne. I read Gerard Winstanley and about Womanhouse. I read Marx and the literature surrounding the Oneida community—the pamphlets of John Henry Noyes, the journals of Tirzah Miler. I read about utopias in folk songs. I read Marx then Silvia Federici. I read Montesquieu’s “Of Cannibals” then Marxist anthropologists fetishizing communitarian indigenous groups then Bernadette Mayer’s Utopia. I dutifully read Frederic Jameson’s Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. I read Heriberto Yépez’s The Empire of Neomemory and realized I had to throw a lot of my reading away and read what I was reading more deeply, with thicker context. I read more Federici, Sara Ahmed, Audre Lorde, the Colectivo Situaciones, the Precarias a la Deriva, Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo on domestic workers (thanks for this whole sentence, Judith Goldman!). I began to see labor in a more expansive way, beyond low wage work, into no wage work, beyond exploitation toward superexploitation.

While I was doing this, I did interviews with family members about their views on and experiences of work. They started with a list of questions they could use to prepare. I recorded us talking then transcribed those interviews. Why family? If I was going to work with the words of others, I wanted to be accountable to those people. I couldn’t flee them; instead, I returned my drafts to them, asked for their feedback then for their permission to publish the poems. And they might still change their mind about them. That would be painful.

While doing this, to figure out my own documentary and archival poetics, I read Lorine Neidecker, Rukeyser, M. NourbeSe Philip, Mark Nowak, Craig Santos Perez, Susan Howe, Susan Tichy. Some of these I discovered on this big list Brandon Shimoda put together.

The first sequence came from a visit to Lilydale, a community of Christian Spiritualists, watching them to do these groups seances at an open-air pavilion and my own unsteady search to find a kind of self-talk that would lead me out of alcoholism.

Did I understand any of what I read? Not fully, sometimes not at all. But this is all in the mix, with my experiences. This book was composed during a period of long, intent seeking. This book feels incomplete to me, like part 1. I’ve since worked at a worker center and now work at a labor library. The seeking goes on.

DG — Setting is very important [in] this book. How did your physical surroundings impact your writing?

JH — I wrote Pigafetta is My Wife in the summer of 2007 lying in bed in Washington, DC.

I wrote The Devotional Poems walking through the woods in Indiana in 2008 and 2009.

I wrote this book for ten years—2008-2018—across at least five different apartments.

I hate to write this: it sounds so dramatic. But I wrote this book in some of the blankest, loneliest places in my life. The interviews were great. They brought me close to family—but putting the words together was difficult.

3 places:

1) In a home surrounded by trailers in St. Mary’s county Maryland, 2009. Half of this home was boarded up. It would have been condemned in a less corrupt county. I was separated from Cheryl then, 600 miles apart and adjuncting for pennies at a small college. This had me living with a friend in a structure that was uninsulated. We put plastic over the windows and kept the heat at 50 to afford it. We wore hats and jackets inside and dragged around space heaters. I started writing Someone’s Utopia looking out of this cold house onto the Potomac river (“across the river houses enter water / in it cold flames in debt rent enters water”). A flock of swans bobbed on the water twenty yards outside of my window. The walls were bare. I was cold and inconsolable and wrote from there.

2) In 2013 I didn’t realize I was developing a drinking problem. I was on the road doing something like 25 readings in 36 days, coast to coast. I had a very good time and also a drinking problem. I was lugging the draft pages of Someone’s Utopia around, doing reading after reading of The Devotional Poems, pounding those poems out until they were just words, drinking to smooth out any social friction and to siphon off the energy reading generates. I can remember driving up Rt 1 in California, squeezing around all those sloped turns. I started to think of my MS, the hundreds of lines that would be the Amnesia poems and this rhythm came into my head—the rhythm and its variations that would drive those poems. So, I stopped every hour or two to reedit that fifty pages, rewriting them in a notebook, throwing out anything that wouldn’t fit that rhythm, folding poems into each other, and then folding them again. The two longest editing sessions were in a diner then a motel in some small beach town. When I was done, I didn’t go to the beach; I went to a convenience store to buy beer then watched TV. It was so strange, how intent I was in that two-day span driving up the coast, how mentally dead I was for weeks driving around after.

3) Then I wrote “Greetings” on the floor of our apartment in Buffalo later that summer, trying not to have a drinking problem. I shouldn’t say I was alone for that. Cheryl and I were very close. But I was new to myself and Buffalo and feeling very raw.

So, place was important to these poems. Being out of place, out of sync.

DG — Do you have a writing routine?

JH — There’s no routine. The shape of my day keeps changing—jobs, moves, weather, psychic weather.

Though the writing process, the first-drafting, is beautiful.

I see words surface in my mind, singular or in phrases.

I let them float there. If they feel right, I write them down.

It happens with a kind of ease, outside of strong intention. I don’t know where a poem is going or where it will end. It’s not my poem. I just try to follow it. Lucille Clifton taught me that: don’t listen to what I want, listen to what the poem wants to be. I feel like I’m opening new sense organs. It is delicious.

Arranging a manuscript--editing. This is awful. When you proceed by intuition finding a final structure or even a title for a poem to coordinate it all is difficult, involves carving paths across the calcified mass of those new old organs.

DG — What is the experience of performing these pieces like for you?

JH — I’m grateful to Myung Mi Kim for sending her students to the Robert Duncan archive. Duncan thought the body was a hive for souls, the soul a swarm of bees. One is multiply-souled. I think bees might pass between you and ones you love. When you die, the members of the hive are not the ones you were born with. Something like that.

For me, writing is calling out, saying there’s room in the comb. Or finding that voice I’ve neglected.

In reading, my body should be an instrument to communicate these multiple voices.

Reading these particular poems is interesting because they many are made from interviews and journals. I’ve shied away from reading those. What’s important about them is the difference of these voices, and I haven’t been able to capture that difference in reading them.

I mean, it’s also a big book—162 pages—2 books, really, written in several modes. I used to want to give short kinetic readings where I would try to bowl over the audience. This is the first time I’ve wanted to do something different—to read for an hour to people on couches in a dark room. Maybe I’d be in a booth, reading into a microphone.

Or to just record a reading of the whole thing, so it can be listened to more ambiently, the tides of the book going in and out.

Anyone out there want to help?

With a little less compression in the space of performance, I could coax more bees out of the hive.

This being said, I love performing and have had the great privilege of doing it a lot.

DG — Was there one passage or poem that was especially difficult to write?

JH — O no, I’m afraid my answers are becoming miserabilist! Still, this is a great question.

“Talk Piece: Mary” took years, partly because I wanted to work on it with my mother, get her feedback and final approval. She didn’t mess around with her comments. One result: the strikethroughs. I published the non-interview parts of this sequence as “Songwork 1-8” in Nate Slawson’s journal. I thought I was done! What’s in Someone’s Utopia is nothing like it. That’s due to these conversations with my mother.

I was also afraid I was projecting my wants and feelings onto my mother, my idealizations of motherhood and subsequent judgements of her through my selection and pairing of texts. It took a long time to put down. Most of all, I wanted to recognize and frame her multiple labors: she built a damn house with her hands while raising kids, all of it unpaid and all of it, she says, too much of a strain on her marriage. I wanted to get it right.

DG — What are you hoping readers take away from this collection?

JH — I began this collection with a question to myself and my loved ones: can you describe your work experiences? It ended up filled with voices of people who worked really hard, some were rewarded, but most told me something else: that their life of work left them worn out, wasted, confused, and/or toxified. It was not their means to happiness, it was the obstacle.

My own story has been that of pursuing what I loved: college teaching and writing and discovering that its wages couldn’t even heat an apartment.

This collection is also about the violence of utopic thinking, the despair that is its beginning and end points.

Of course, it’s poetry—excess of meaning, mystery, polyvalence, etc—but really I would love if people walked away from this more able to recognize the formal and informal work that makes their world, to recognize the viscosities that work creates in workers, to recognize that the work of works of women and people of color are often hidden or erased. I would love it if it would lead them to demand for themselves or others in their own contexts things like shorter hours, a living wage, and compensation for unpaid labor, to fight the neoliberalization of their institutions (I’m looking at you tenured professors). Better pay for affective and reproductive workers! Socialized childcare!

You know, a horizon of liberation from the tyranny of wage labor. For everybody.

A boy can hope right?

These poems won’t do any of these things. Not even remotely. It’s a strange document composed with what I had on hand. It is both excessive and not enough. Not representative of the whole.

Still, I would love it if we could work (it’ll be local and seem to small and feel too unrecognized for narcissist poets like myself) toward good enough (in the sense Winnicott uses it) relations of labor (a long way to go), institutions, states (until they can be abolished!).

Because top-down utopic thinking—here’s a perfect universal system, lets institute it—is Trojan-horse like. It seems good and almost certainly leads to violence and despair, almost certainly leads to the retrenchment of f-ed up hierarchies.

DG — What are you reading these days? Are you working on any new writing?

JH — Working six days a week at a labor library and a bookstore. I can’t escape! It’s really a stick in the eye of my poetry!

For months I have been watching a calamansi plant flower and fruit. One is now yellow-green. It’s thrilling.

I am trying to write some poems that reflect a kind of leftist municipalism. I wonder what a municipalist poetics would look like. I think most people would find it boring or inscrutable unless they lived in that municipality which may be the point.

I am mourning moving from Buffalo and not being able to participate in the small way I was in projects there.

But I am reading. A few months of unemployment opened a space to read marvelous books: Raquel Salas Rivera’s Lo terciario / The Tertiary (go read their interviews too, their emphasis on poetics of solidarity); The Asian American Literary Review Book of Curses, Signal: A Journal of International Political Graphics and Culture; my fellow Ithican Marty Cain’s Kids of the Black Hole, Iron Moon: An Anthology of Chinese Worker Poetry; Sean Thomas Dougherty’s The Second O of Sorrow; Alexander Pope’s Dunciad; Jake Reber’s ASMR: Artificial Seductive Machine Reading; Rosa Alcalá’s MyOTHER TONGUE; Jill Magi’s Labor; Ghayath Almadhoun’s Adrenaline; Tim Liu’s Luminous Debris; Colette Arrand’s Hold Me Gorilla Monsoon; adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy; Samuel Delaney’s Trouble on Triton; Joanna Russ’ We Who Are About To; Allison Cardon’s What was the sign you gave.

Designing the Tomaž Šalamun series

The first in our series of Tomaž Šalamun's posthumous publications shipped this week, and I am immensely happy with the beauty of this edition. When Tomaž and I first started talking about his publication with Black Ocean, it was before he realized how sick he was. As his illness worsened, and we arranged to make Black Ocean a home for his writing beyond his own time with us, the weight of that responsibility really began to sink in. After Tomaž passed away, with multiple titles lined up over the next few years, I decided I wanted to publish them as a series that would honor the phenomenal impact he's had on contemporary poetry around the globe. I knew I wanted it to be special, and for a special project I needed a special designer--so I contacted Abby Haddican, whom we had already worked with on Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics. Abby picked up the assignment and ran with it; not only designing multiple covers along the same motif, but also creating a custom typeface to be used outside and within. To complement her design we added details like the gold foil stamp clothbound hardcover inside the dustjacket, and matching black-and-white headbands along the spine. It's this kind of loving attention to detail that keeps me passionate about publishing books. I hope you'll celebrate this new book with us, and welcome the future books from Tomaž Šalamun and Black Ocean every year for many years to come.


Tomaž Šalamun, 1941 – 2014

Dear Black Oceanographers,

It is with great sadness that we observe the passing of Tomaž Šalamun today. Tomaž touched many poets through his support and generous spirit, and many more through his incredible body of writing. He was a tireless advocate of young and emerging voices, and he leaves behind an incredible legacy of both words and actions. Back in July we announced our excitement at becoming the future home for him in the U.S., and so it is with a renewed sense of purpose that we commit ourselves to sharing the work of this visionary poet. With over 30 collections of poetry written in his lifetime, we will continue publishing translations of Tomaž's poems well into the future. In the meantimeworking with him, his wife and his translators over the past few monthswe have made near-term plans for his next three books:

2015 - Justice (trans. Michael Thomas Taren)
2016 - Andes (trans. Jeffrey Young & Katarina Vladimirov Young)
2017 - Druids (trans. Sonja Kravanja)

We are thinking of his many colleagues, friends, and family members today, and how we are all learning in new ways what this great man meant to us.  It is a gift for us at Black Ocean to honor his life's work for many years to come.

Let's Make Black Friday Count

In the interest of taking meaningful action after the Ferguson ruling, I would love it if everyone used their resources to affect social change in some way this week. Whether you take time with your loved ones to discuss the socio-political climate or take to the streets in protest, everyone has their own way of meditating on what justice and oppression really mean to us--and how we can collectively realize equality and consciousness. Toward that end, I would advocate for not buying anything this Black Friday, and instead donating that money (perhaps in someone's name as a gift) to an organization that works towards equality and justice. However, I also realize that many people want to give tangible gifts so I'm making this offer:

On Black Friday Black Ocean will donate the net proceeds from any purchases made through our website to the NAACP. If you'd rather donate to a different cause, then by all means just do so directly. This is the organization we've chosen to support this year, and moving forward we will donate all Black Friday net proceeds every year to a non-profit organization.

With much love,
Janaka Stucky

RIP Allan Kornblum 1949 - 2014

I learned today that founding publisher of Coffee House Press, Allan Kornblum, passed away over the weekend. Allan was a pioneer and mentoring force in the literary world for decades, working for forty years as a lover of books who taught himself business savvy to build a basement letterpress operation into a sustainable publishing house in the world of independent literature. Beyond that he was always eager to share his knowledge and experience with others, and even sat down with me once to offer valuable advice toward growing Black Ocean. Hundreds of indie presses come and go, but he truly created a legacy. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to share a coffee with the man behind Coffee House Press.

Around the Web in October

Quite the windfall of web press this autumn! We're giving you a veritable Octoberfest of all the buzz that's piled up since August. Without further ado, here's what's been happening over the last couple months:

Lauren O'Neal explores Jack White's move from music to publishing with Language Lessons: Volume 1 - an anthology of poetry and prose that features work by Black Ocean poet Joshua Marie Wilkinson and our very own publisher, Janaka Stucky:

"Because the book and associated materials are so self-consciously, ostentatiously analog — you certainly can’t download any of the words, sounds, or images to your smartphone — a delicious tension between the old and the new runs through them like a livewire."

Read the full piece over at on the LA Review of Books website.

Ilustration and design artist Abby Hadican shares the inspiration and thought process behind her design for the cover of Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics. You can see high-res images on her blog.

The Boston Globe featured a short write-up on the Privacy Policy anthology as a prelude to our Boston launch reading. It features a quote from our publisher, Janaka, along with how Andrew Ridker came up with the idea during a summer at Boston Review.

You can read Drew Kalbach's thoughts on the intersections of drone intimacy, data, poetry, and the concept of spectacle in his review of the Privacy Policy for Entropy Magazine:

"In this conception of the anthology, the personal weighs itself against the catalogued in a different kind of humanism. But it isn’t humanism, not exactly, because the human is constantly being pressed up against the incredibly inhuman, asynchronous networked reality of massive data collection."

Brian Foley was the featured poet for October at Take Down the Clouds. You can read a short interview with him here.

You can read a sample from Max Hjortsberg's drone poem (featured in Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics) on his blog!

Elisa Gabbert's The Self Unstable was featured in SPD Book's Best of Press for October 2014*You can receive 30% off her collection through November 1, 2014

Zach Savich reviewed Ralph Angel's Your Moon (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2014) for The Philadelphia Review of Books: "The present, it turns out, is about more than right now. Your Moon brings us to that more. Brings might be the wrong word; we are already there." Read the full review here.

How is 'reporting' different from 'witnessing' in surveillance poetry? Andrew Ridker discusses in this interview with The Writing University:

"Working towards a definition of 'surveillance poetics' has been a fascinating process... Many of these poems take techno-governmental practice and language into account in the composition process. Perhaps a surveillance poem is one with a meta-awareness of poetry’s codes and observations, and one which manipulates this awareness into art."

The Heavy Feather Review gives their two cents on how the self is presented in Elisa Gabbert's The Self Unstable:

"By not shoving everything together, Gabbert admits that the only way to create a whole book (or a whole self, perhaps) is to weave together separate threads. In other words, the book’s standard-looking format might, itself, be a total meta move once you start thinking like the book is thinking. And that is the whole point of reading this beautiful thing." You can read the full review here.


2014 Open Reading Results

Dear Black Oceanographers,

After a few months of reviewing over 500 manuscripts we were able to select our new acquisitions. It was a long and difficult process and, as in years past, we are grateful for the opportunity to consider so many outstanding manuscripts. That said, we've decided to add these three titles to our forthcoming catalog:

STATIC & SNOW by Brian Henry (Fall 2015)
POPULAR MUSIC by Kelly Schirmann (Spring 2016)
THOUGH WE BLED METICULOUSLY by Josh Fomon (Spring 2016)

We're really excited to see all of these come into print! Please join us in congratulating the poets and welcoming them into the family!


We would also like to note a few honorable mentions that were extraordinarily hard to pass up:

COW OF SLEEP by Patrick Culliton
AMERICAN FLOWERS by Tyler Flynn Dorholt
DISCOUNTRY by Sean Patrick Hill
TONEWOOD by Karen Lepri
NO FATE by Thera Webb 

They say don't judge a book by its cover. And yet...

All material re-posted with permission from Abby Haddican. Original content can be found here.



Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics is a recent release by Black Ocean, an independent poetry publisher based in Boston. With my cover design, I wanted to convey the uneasy sensation of being watched; my solution was to create a decorative graphic design that shared certain qualities and proportions with the human eye. The idea for the back cover design–redacting contributor names–came directly from the client, Black Ocean’s publisher Janaka Stucky. The poems in the anthology are fantastic and well worth reading.


Study Questions for Practice on Mountains

Whoever's not reading David Bartone's heavenly first book is not my friend. Enemies! Answer these questions and you may find a place in my heart.

    Briefly describe the mercy seat as it appears to you in your mind.

    Is DB's relationship to intellectual history part of his problem? Part or all of the solution? Or something else?

    On p. 8: "I practically have a therapist in you," in which the you is You. What's the book's relationship to therapy, traditional (meaning what, by the way?) or otherwise (again, meaning what?) And what of p. 27: "I regret to accept a psychological truth to the lyric." Is lyric itself the therapy and if so, why regret it? Or is the question why not regret it? Or p. 57, which mentions becoming a better person and therefore echoes the catalog of poetic and moral (?) insecurities on p. 18? Later (p. 81) the writing of poems is likened to the injection of insulin, which rather plainly invokes a more physical kind of therapy, or it invokes something else, in which case, what? And the "old self" being "slipped into" on p. 84--well hell, here's the line: "I am slipping into this old self.//This old self we lug around with the pride of genetic banter."—is this old self the pre-therapy self, i.e. pre-book, pre-insulin, and if so, does the book thereby want to annihilate itself, and is that an additional thing for which therapy is needed, a second-order therapy, therapy for the therapy?

    On p. 10, some parenthetical knowingness. To what extent is it to be trusted? And for that matter, what's the book's relationship to trust anyway?

    Low-hanging fruit, perhaps: why wait until p. 11 to reveal the book's central conceit?

    In what way is "it is October 13, 2010," "it is October 20," "it is October 30" etc. etc. an improvement on O'Hara's trope?

    Do you believe DB ever held a walnut (p. 13)? Or was left in a booth (p. 24)?

    In the advice (p. 16) offered by friends of DM sound advice? According to whom or what mode of inquiry?

    Certain gestures reappear in section one, which you no doubt noticed. Flying, prayer, etc. So?

    Does DB wish to remove all distance between himself and the writing of his book? If yes, how successfully has he done so?

    If you had to guess, was the book written at home or on location?

    Say anything you want about how the book's purpose occasionally and suddenly is to allow language to discover itself via syntax or wordplay, i.e. "the etcetera behavior of language," p. 71. Or at least notice it.

    Is every lover also a beautiful reader?

    Odd how DB resists his urge to touch a cow or horse despite (apparently) living in some proximity to some of each. Odd because the rest of book seems to resist nothing else, is an effort to embrace all, to make the poet's arms longer.

    How is this book to be read? Certainly not at speed—the temptation to read it at speed is to be resisted, like the touchable horses and cows. So then: to sip it how? In order or at random?

    On p. 47: "I want to make classic beauty, to elope into it.//Elope from the sixteenth century French, abscond, run away." I assume the reference here is to courtly love and what some call the invention of romance. So DB here claims to want to get back beyond the sixteenth century and arrive back in ancient Greece, presumably? But the book is certainly in some ways very courtly? So is he lying there or?

    Part of that passage appears first as frontispiece, is it the first case of a writer having self-epigrammed? Or self-blurbed? Or more to the point, is it just a case of language leaking all over the place, to and fro?

    "My love," says DB, "occurs both on and off stage, as it may." Obscene deriving from "off stage," (I think?) which we assume has occurred to DB, DB having written a book that seems to know everything. To what extent do you find it comforting to be in the hold of a book that makes this implicit claim, the claim having to do with the pose of knowledge? More to the point, perhaps: in addition to removing all distance between himself and the book, has DB at last and heroically also removed all distance between the pose of knowledge and actual knowledge, such a thing of course existing? Is the book itself, I mean, knowledge?

    Today, which was the third time I read PoM  I did not, this day, bite my fingernails for the first day in as long as I can remember. I suspect it will have similar physiological effects on you. List them briefly.

    Are you interested in the translations on pp. 61-63 or did you skip over them? Are you a student or a seeker or are you broken or whole and would, in having self-identified thusly, that help you understand whether you read or skipped the translations?

    Is the passage on p. 66 that begins "During the Q&A portion..." the saddest moment in the book, the most true, the most horribly true, the least true, or?

-- Michael Loughran

Around the Web in August

So August is barely underway, but the web is already buzzing with new Black Ocean news. Here's what you may have missed in the endless scroll of social media:

Micro-Reviews of Elisa Gabbert's The Self Unstable and DJ Dolack's Whittling a New Face in the Dark over at American Microreviews and Interviews:

"In this nonfiction collection of loosely connected lyrical fragments rarely longer than a paragraph, Elisa Gabbert’s observations, concise language, and complex questions about life and perception are unexpected and unquestionably inviting." Read the rest of this review here.

"That space between words, the absence of language in this darkness, can be more important than anything spoken. Dolack writes about the machines that churn inside us, pushing us forward even when we think we have nothing left to give." Read the rest of this review here.

Zachary Schomburg's The Book of Joshua made SPD's List of Poetry Bestsellers for the month of July! Not too shabby considering it only started shipping mid-month.

Nat. Brut Magazine featured a killer interview with Privacy Policy editor Andrew Ridker:

"Like most people, I had questions. How much of my information is available to the government and the public? Is a private life impossible to lead? How deep a rabbit hole is this, anyway? But nobody had any good answers. Not much has changed."

Read the rest of the interview here.




Privacy Policy Anthology Pushed Back to 8/18

We're sad to say that the NSA has delayed shipping for the Privacy Policy anthology until August 18th! Shame on them...

We've gathered up some fun links featuring surveillance poetics to tide you over until then. Good things come to those who wait, right?

Boston Review's Forum on Surveillance Poetics featuring poems by John Ashbery, Rae Armantrout, Cathy Park Hong, Roberst Pinsky, and more

PEN America featured four poems from the Privacy Policy Anthology as part of their symposium, "What's the Harm in Surveillance?"

Andrew Ridker had a great conversation with Privacy Policy poets Andrew Durbin and Ben Fama over at The Believer Logger - with a special bonus Erasure Poem from Dorothea Lasky

Nat. Brut Magazine featured a killer interview with Privacy Policy editor Andrew Ridker:

"Like most people, I had questions. How much of my information is available to the government and the public? Is a private life impossible to lead? How deep a rabbit hole is this, anyway? But nobody had any good answers. Not much has changed."

Read the rest of the interview here.

Study Questions for Century Swept Brutal

   I recently taught Zach Savich's, exuberant, singular, shifty fourth book to a class. To prepare them (me), I typed up a set of study questions, "Spark Notes for books no one will ever read" Zach called them, offering them up to the class as a sideways route into his book. I'm not sure if anyone read them or not.

    Afterwards, I got to dreaming about Zach Sav reading clubs, extraordinary citizens gathered at kitchen tables, answering my questions. You could locate one based on the quality of light issuing through the windows. And so I present them here to you, gentle readers, that you may yourself become extraordinary with others.

    OK, a rough feature: I'm calling it the mirroring effect, Zach I think calls it the echo effect although "echo effect" sounds more like something I would say he says rather than something he says, but whatever you call it, it begins in earnest (I think) on page 55. As well as the echo of "filling a book" in part one. And the tuning of strings. And the pockets and asters. And the naming of things. And the eye whites tattoo. Comment.

     On some level, or maybe in certain places is the better way to put it, the book is epigrammatic. The first sentence, for instance, or much of part one, or much of part one and parts of the rest. Is that right? But the actual definition of "epigrammatic" sometimes includes "clever" as a descriptor, which doesn't seem to capture what's going on in Zach's poems, does it? "Clever" seeming thin, satisfied, slight, and these poems are doing something else, aren't they? Although there is the line about standing between hot and dog, and there are some jokes. Comment.

    What would you say is the book's relationship to looking?
    To thinking?

    Here's a famous thing Auden said: "American poetry has many tones, a man talking to himself or to one intimate friend, a prophet crying in the wilderness, but the easy-going tone of a man talking to his group of peers is rare." So. To whom is Zach talking? And don't give us any of that poet/speaker nonsense please.

    Is "I wanted to be returned instead/to semblance" (p. 33) the center of the book?

    The book is chatty/figurative/descriptive but one at a time. Is that true?

    Something I admire about Zach's poems: whatever ones takes to be the "level of difficulty" or whatever, that difficulty is always gentle. Which balancing act seems on full display in CSB. The book, I mean, in the friendliest way imaginable, simply refuses to do or say anything but that which it desires to do or say. And the doing and saying, I present to you, is so controlled and consistent and warm . . . that the difficulty, if that's even what it is, maybe the better way to put it would be singularity of the book, it becomes a total pleasure. You're just encountering another's way of thinking, seeing, doing, phrasing. This is not a question.

    Maybe the book is partly an inquiry into the range of possibilities of the poetic line. What's it discover there?

    Page 53 has a reference to the famous M.H. Abrams book The Mirror and the Lamp. Incidentally this reference occurs at the precise center of the book, but I am not going to overstate that particular fact. "I don't tell her/that's a reference," the poem says. Forget the fact of it being the spatial center. Is that gesture at the spiritual-aesthetic center of the book? (Later, on p. 104, maybe an echo: "I'm talking to somebody/just out of sight") Or is page 88 the S-A center: "In the distance,//a seaplane lands/on a rock. The horizon turns//me on on/me me on"?

    "Sun badge"! "Noon's canoe"!

    When the book is funny (e.g. end of part five, end of part six, p. 85), it is really funny. Yes?

    "My life moving/mostly in pauses"!


A big thank you to Michael Loughran for contributing this saucy study guide to our blog.  We suspect it will be the first of many.

Boston Poetry World Cup | Aug. 8 - 10 | Cambridge

Now that the fair-weather soccer fans have (finally) gone back into the woodwork, it's time to get excited for an entirely different (but no less exciting!) World Cup taking place in Black Ocean's backyard. Get ready for a line-up of epic proportions...


Boston Poetry World Cup Inman Square, Cambridge

Friday August 8th at the Lilly Pad

Saturday and Sunday August 9-10 Outpost 186

Free and Open to the Public (but we will pass the hat)

Millions of poets read for 8 minutes and then we go to penalty kicks



Return of the Web Roundup

If you follow our Twitter, you're probably up on all the exciting web coverage for some of our recent titles. But the internet is a big (and often cluttered) place, so it's possible that you may have missed a tidbit or two. Fear not, we are here to catch you up!


Micro-Review of Brian Foley's The Constitution over at Publishers Weekly.

"[Foley's] minimalism is fascinating in its ability to tonally blur the lines between a redacted version of America's most sacred text and the earnest last breath of a man with a lot of miles on him."

Review of (and Excerpts from) The Constitution on Rob McLennan's blog

"Foley does work to question what we might take for granted, as even his lines unsettle, shifting an appearance of sentences that break down into phrases that collide and accumulate, forcing connections that might otherwise remained impossible in such a short space."

Micro-Review of Zach Savich's Century Swept Brutal in Publishers Weekly.

"One gets the feeling that Savich's lyric 'I' lives with one foot in a dream world, the other stuck amidst the repetitions and signs of our day."

PEN featured four poems from The Privacy Policy Anthology as part of their week-long feature on surveillance


Thomas Ross reviews Zach Schomburg's The Book of Joshua in The Portland Mercury

"The feat of The Book of Joshua is to create a world by repetition: images become motifs, then symbols, and finally, reality."

Micro-Review of Aase Berg's Dark Matter in American Microreviews and Interviews

"Berg’s prose presents the reader with a relentless narrative that does not seek to comfort; rather, it seeks to create something from nothing, like a creature dragging itself from the darkness."

The Rumpus reviews DJ Dolack's Whittling a New Face in the Dark

"New York City is one of many anchors in the real that Dolack uses to remind that these non-narrative poems are specifically located, framed not only by time and space, but by particular moods and states of mind."

Ryo Yamaguchi's discourse on the intersection of poetry and HDR photography in Aase Berg's Dark Matter

"This is a visionary project, far more than a simple paean to the grotesque. It is poetry steeped in the Anthropocenic nightmare of industry and apocalypse. It is a book of love and its interlocutors. It is a work of art, a mimesis of the surreal whose efforts are palpable—imbued with the distinct feel of a work-in-progress that strives to, and succeeds at, attaining a new lexicon, a marriage of image and language into a hybrid materiality that, at its best, is exhilaratingly smart and wholly complete."

Zachary Schomburg, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, and Janaka Stucky get a shout-out in this Rolling Stone article on Third Man Records' forthcoming book, Language Lessons: Volume 1

The Believer feature a conversation with Andrew Durbin, Ben Fama, and Dorothea Lasky on poetry, surveillance, and the Internet


Black Ocean to Publish Tomaž Šalamun

We are delighted to welcome Tomaž Šalamun to the Black Ocean family! Beginning in October 2015 with the publication of Šalamun’s Justice, our humble press will be the permanent home of all Šalamun’s future English language collections of poetry in the United States. Šalamun (b. 1941) has been best known as one of the leading voices of the Eastern European avant-garde and is the author of over thirty collections of poetry in Slovenian and English. His work has received the Jenko Prize, Slovenia’s Prešeren and Mladost Prizes, as well as a Pushcart Prize.

Our publisher, Janaky Stucky, had this to say about Šalamun's work and future with the press: “Black Ocean has long been admirer of Tomaž’s poems, which have been a direct influence on the work of many of the authors already on our list. His work will compliment and engage with our growing list of books and authors. We are honored by Šalamun’s trust and look forward to a long working relationship with him.”

Zachary Schomburg Kicks Off Summer Tour


We here at Black Ocean are all anticipating the release of Zachary Schomburg's latest The Book of Joshua, which will be available July 15 as a special hardcover with white foil stamping.

Zach kicks off his book tour Sunday, July 6 at The Pine Box in Seattle, and will be touring across the United States for readings in houses, bars, and bookstores, and will even be featured in his first art reception along the way.

This is also a great opportunity to hear another Black Ocean poet Joshua Marie Wilkinson, who joins Schomburg for many of the following events. You can view the whole below (event information linked when available), and sync up your calendar with our Events page. Also follow Zachary Schomburg's Tumblr page for an updated schedule and news.

7/6 @ 7pm | Seattle, WA | OPEN BOOKS & APRIL PRESENTS @The Pine Box w/ Lauren Ireland + Mathias Svalina

7/8 / 7pm  | Missoula, MT | Poetry Reading @Shakespeare & CO w/ Mathias Svalina

7/10 @ 7pm | Salt Lake City, UT | House Reading @434 East Third Avenue w/ Mathias Svalina

7/11 | Denver, CO | Poetry Reading @Counterpath w/ Julia Carr + Sarah Boyer + Mathias Svalina

7/12 @ 7pm | Lincoln, NE | Poetry Reading, Rock Show, and Backyard BBQ @3609 S 18th St. w/ Alisa Heinzman + Mathias Svalina + The Churls

7/13 @ 7pm | Council Bluffs, IA | Poetry Reading @Prairie Crossing Winery  w/ Natasha Kessler + Janey Gibiisco + Scott Schwalenberg.

7/14 | Iowa City, IA | Poetry Reading @Prairie Lights Bookstore w/ Eireann Lorsung. 

7/16 | Davenport, IA | Poetry Reading and Backyard BBQ @2224 Iowa Street

7/19 | Chicago, IL | A Night of Poetry and Music collaboration @Constellation w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson + Kyle Vegter + Jeffrey Allen + more TBA

7/20 | Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, IL | Poetry on Stage @Pitchfork Music Festival w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson

7/21 | Pittsburgh, PA |  Regent Square w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson. TBA

7/23 @ 8 pm | Hadley, MA |  Poetry Reading @Flying Object w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson + Jane Lewty

7/24 | Boston, MA | Poetry Reading @ Lorem Ipsum Books w/  Joshua Marie Wilkinson

7/25-26 | Newport, RI | Newport Folk Festival - Third Man Records w/ Janaka Stucky, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Paige Taggart, Kendra DeColo, and Chet Weise

7/27 @ 4-4:30 pm | Governor’s Island, NY | New York City Poetry Festival, The Algonquin Stage as The Lawless Curatorial: Zachary Schomburg + Joshua Marie Wilkinson + Bridget Talone

7/28 | Brooklyn, NY | Poetry Reading @Mellow Pages Library w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson + Marisol Limon Martinez + Amy Lawless + Cecily Iddings 

7/29 @ 7:30pm | Philadelphia, PA | Poetry Reading @ L’Etage w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson + Amy Lawless + Cecily Iddings

7/30 | Washington, DC | DC Barrelhouse Presents Black Ocean and Octopus Books @Petworth Citizen Bar and Reading Room w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson + Amy Lawless + Cecily Iddings

7/31 @ 6pm | Richmond, VA | Poetry Reading @Chop Suey Books w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson

8/1 @ 8pm | Raleigh, NC | Poetry Reading @So & So Books w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson

8/2 | Columbia, SC | Oversound Series. House Reading @1202 Woodrow Street w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson

8/3 | Tallahasse, FL |  TBA w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson

8/4 | New Orleans, LA | TBA w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson

8/5 | Baton Rouge, LA | TBA w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson

8/6 | Austin, TX | Malvern Books w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson

8/7 | Marfa, TX | Marfa Book Co w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson

8/9 | Las Cruces, NM | House Reading @1007 N. Melendres  w/ Joshua Marie Wilkinson + Lily Huong

8/11 | Tucson, AZ | House Reading. TBA.

8/11 - 8/12 @ 10-12pm | Tucson, AZ | Workshop on the Short Poem. University of Arizona Poetry Center

8/13 @ 3-5 pm | Tucson, AZ | Artist Reception for Portrait Drawings @University of Arizona Poetry Center and after-party at Hotel Congress. Portraiture show will stay up through the month of August. 

8/14. | Los Angeles | TBA

8/15 | San Francisco | TBA. 

9/20 @ 7pm | Portland, OR | Bone Tax Reading Series @Anna Bannana’s  w/ Joshua Nathaniel Covington White

Pre-order your copy of The Book of Joshua HERE.


Micro-Review Monday: Russian Novels by Luke Bloomfield

Russian Novels
by Luke Bloomfield
Factory Hollow Press

There is a moment in the poem “Something Small and Precious” where the poet shows a decision being made. The poem paints a scene outside a “metal museum” of two people meeting, revealing their collections and capabilities to each other. When one “who assembles the world on the/ backs of whales” exits, the poem concludes with “Across the street there is a/ meatball factory child playing”.

By parading to the reader the choice being made, the poem chooses “factory” and “child” both, creating an effect not typically had, and it’s damn hilarious. More importantly, the strikethrough serves up a comment on the all-too-common superfluousness in surrealism. So much of what passes today for imagination’s outer limits feels nullifyingly indiscriminate and often disingenuous.

What differentiates Bloomfield’s surrealism is not only its intelligence and craft, but it’s care for humanity. Bloomfield is a true logician, potting imagination’s infinite variables into a soil of odd, but reasonable sense and insight. The poems come on unanticipated and sophisticatedly surprising; taking weird situationalism and exotic names and localizing them in a benevolent storyteller’s voice. And while it feels familiar, it’s not, and maneuvering in such fluency is no easy feat. Russian Novels reminds readers who come to poetry for surrealism’s potential that while possibility exists, it’s the humanity in making such things possible which gives us lasting company.

Brian Foley