Saturday, February 20, 2016

Selling Rockford Poetry

About five years ago the publisher of The Rock River Times summoned me to a local bar to discuss a matter very close to his heart: poetry. I've know the owner of the region's only independent newspaper twenty-five years now, since he started the Rock River Times, which was then called The North End Times. Two of the things he cares about most are The Rock River Trail and poetry. We ran up quite a tab that night talking about all kinds of things and poetry, too. It turned out he was really interested in starting a poetry portal as an adjunct of his newspaper's website, and wanted to tie the whole thing in to writers and poets along the Rock River. It was a project with a wide sweep, but it seemed like a good idea at the time, and I agreed to come in an talk to him about it when we were both a little more grounded.

So, I did. And I brought a friend of mine who is a master of all things web related. We hammered out a plan to create the website and bought a domain name for the literary press we were going to publish the books under, and I was commissioned to populate the website with content, beginning with a history of Rockford poetry.

As many proposed projects do, especially the more ambitious ones, this one, although noble, never quite got off the ground. But it was a damn good idea.

Which is why I decided to do it myself. 

I wrote the recent history of Rockford poetry, interviewing a few dozen people who were there, and asking them to remember the who, what, where, when, and why of Rockford poetry over the past twenty-five years or so. When I did those interviews it occurred to me I run a literary press. True, for the entire history of Zombie Logic Press I had only only published my own books, but why couldn't I fill in that gap and publish books by Rockford writers.

So, I did.

Starting with the book I wanted to do the most, Iced Cream by Jesus Correa. Then another book by a local writer. But there was one book I knew I had to do. A book by a poet who has been in the area for a long time, and who was mentioned by more than person I had interviewed as the best local poet in Rockford, Dennis Gulling.

I had read a few times with Dennis Gulling in the early 90's when there was a strong resurgence in the poetry scene in Rockford due to David Enzminger, editor of The Mas Tequila Review, Richard Vargas, founder of the Outlaw Poetry movement Todd Moore, and myself. I think Dr. Susan Porterfield was in that mix, a serious academic poet and professor at Rockford University. 

For about twenty I have to honestly say not much has happened in the Rockford poetry scene, This will be the third book in the Rock River Poetry Series I am doing. I have a few other local writers in mind for the next few books. Most of them keep losing town, as is customary in Rockford, but it is still a fact that they did live here at one time, and will always be a part of that history.

The book I am publishing by Dennis Gulling is titled The Blood Dark Sea. It is a book of Outlaw Poetry, and Mr. Gulling is a protege of Todd Moore, and his Outlaw poetry credentials are impeccable. More than that, the poetry is magnificent. Each piece is like a 30's noir movie. I finished most of the editing this week and signed a quote from the printer in Minnesota. It is possible the book will be available in Mid March. 

I'd like to be better at promoting the books I make, but it's really hard and soul-crushing work trying to sell anything, especially poetry. Nonetheless, I feel really good about these books in and of themselves, and I hope to get a chance to do a lot more whether I ever break even or not. 


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