“Consider me a poetry slut with a lot of lovers in the form of poetic styles. I’m especially hot for poems that break rules.” Amanda Earl, AngelHouse/DevilHouse Press publisher, poet
National Poetry Month continues! With just under two weeks left, I want to keep the momentum of sharing incredible poets and connecting them to you, dear readers! Please enjoy my e-versation with poet and publisher Amanda Earl – co-creator/founder of AngelHouse DevilHouse Press. Amanda is a hard-working, dedicated, super-creative and talented human and writer. She is a powerhouse of poetry, if you will! And, what she offers by way of intelligence, challenge and disruption is truly remarkable and inspiring. AngelHouse/DevilHouse Press is tearing open what we typically see/hear/feel as ‘poetry’ and revealing the uniqueness that exists in the veins of the body we call ‘creativity’ in a way that few, if any, are doing.
Now, if you’re a writer, make sure you read about the many ways in which you can SUBMIT YOUR WORK! AngelHouse/DevilHouse Press publishes all different sorts of genres – with the care and love we all hope for in a press! Read on, friends – and happy National Poetry Month!
VS: What does National Poetry Month mean to you? As a poet? As a publisher? Do you think every month should be National Poetry Month! Your thoughts on the ‘culture’ of naming – ‘months’/’days’ – Ex. International Cupcake Day – pros/cons to this bizarre (?) thing we do!!
AE: It means publishing NationalPoetryMonth.ca, AngelHousePress’s contribution to the celebration. About a decade ago, my impressions about the celebration was that poetry published were similar in style. In particular, there were no visual poems, no asemic writing, no collages, no altered books, no typewriter poems, nothing except for poems that began on the left hand side of a page and read from top to bottom, left to right. Surely there were more possibilities in the Nation of Poetry than that.
I run Bywords.ca, which has a geographical limitation in that we can publish poems only by people with an Ottawa connection. I enjoy this and find it useful for promoting the poetry of a group too ignored by Canadian poetry publishers and promoters, but when given the opportunity to create something without geographical or other limitations, I took it.
Since 2009, we’ve been publishing poems, visual poetry, asemic writing, prose poems, collages, book arts, photography, cinema poems, audio poems, hybrid work and other pieces that defy categories from Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Romania, Scotland, Sweden and Tanzania . The first time I read someone’s comment on the AngelHousePress FaceBook page, “that isn’t poetry!” I was pleased.
“Genre isn’t the issue here, except that poetry risks becoming a mere genre when readers and writers expectations are too specific. […] Poetry readers should not be enticed to recognize The Poetic so easily. When they can or do, poetry becomes one of many fine luxury goods—organic red wine or unsweetened apricot jam. Poetry loses its criticality, loses its social pertinence, loses its power.” Donato Mancini, The Last Vispo.
As a poet, I have to admit that National Poetry Month doesn’t affect me much. There is often an increase in the number of poetry readings taking place in my town that I can attend, and a bunch in other towns I can’t attend. Occasionally I even receive invitations to read during National Poetry Month. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of reading on Parliament Hill, but overall, I’m already celebrating poetry 24/7, 365 days a year, both as a publisher and as a poet. I don’t need something to remind me about the importance of poetry.
I see National Poetry Month as another way of raising awareness about the ongoing existence of an art whose death has been declared over and over throughout the years. I hope that some kid scrolling through their Twitter feed, discovers some misfit poem that excites them and turns them on to poetry so that they can feel less alone and maybe make them realize that their weird scrawlings are also poetry…that would be great.
VS: “I wanted to be the misbehaving and disruptive angel in the house of literature and art.” (From https://entropymag.org/angelho usepressdevilhousepress/) How important is ‘disruption’ to the poetry world? Do you find that poets are motivated to ‘disrupt’ because that is the job of poetry? To disrupt?
AE: I think it’s important for artists –anyone really—to question convention and the status quo. Language has been co-opted by the propaganda machine to hoodwink us into electing officials who have nothing but self-interest on their agenda and the damage this self-interest causes is dangerous for humanity and the planet. To think carefully about language and its effect on people is certainly a key role for us all, but perhaps poets can take on that role because it’s already part of our nature and our training to do so.
And right now, I’d like to see the establishment disrupted but I’d also like to see some comfort and hope offered to those who need it. ”With the truth so dull and depressing, the only working alternative is wild bursts of madness and filigree.” Hunter S. Thompson.
VS: What of poetry that is ‘charming’ and that touches on subjects of domesticity and motherhood and womanhood – can the ‘voice’ of the poem and the ‘topic’ of the poem unite to create ‘disruption’ even if it’s charming? I think what I’m trying to ask is do you ‘see’ poetry as a divided landscape? Where there are crops for certain styles, voices, etc.? How do YOU navigate this landscape?
AE: I think there’s room for all kinds of poetry and I’m always excited to read poetry by feisty bad-ass women. I always get frustrated when I hear derision toward such subjects. Such a dismissal is yet another patriarchal attempt to demean women and make what we do seem less important. I probably had a more prescriptive attitude toward poetry when I started learning about contemporary poetry in the early aughts. Before that my knowledge of poetry was limited to a few 19th century French symbolists and English Victorian morality poems. I would find a particular style that appealed and reject the rest. But I’m no longer monogamous towards poetry. Consider me a poetry slut with a lot of lovers in the form of poetic styles. I’m especially hot for poems that break rules.
AE: “We keep things small. I read only two manuscripts a month and one Close Reads manuscript a month. We keep things affordable. We don’t charge for online content and we won’t do fundraiser campaigns. We don’t apply for government grants, which cause the type of compromise we’re unwilling to make, such as publishing Canadian writers only and having to keep track of every dime and nickel we expend. We don’t charge reading fees.” (From Entropy interview.) I think this is the smartest, most honest and sincerely sound way of ‘running’ a press I’ve seen/heard. You know what you want. You know what you are capable of. You are not motivated by money or prestige or labels or fitting in. It’s freaking fantastic. It’s so refreshing. “There’s nothing more entrapping than money, the tender trap that causes a lot of compromise. I’m unwilling to compromise and I won’t be trapped.” (From Entropy interview.) Firstly, I want to thank you for recognizing this and sticking to your guns on not getting ‘trapped’. Can you share your thoughts on the industry and the connection between money and a poet’s self-worth…on recognition and a poet’s identity…you know – the biggies! How do you think AHP/DH is breaking these dichotomies – and truly raising a poet’s self-worth and identity beyond what the ‘system’ currently uses to measure it/them?
AE: Thanks. I’m careful about this. I respect the need for artists to receive money for their work. I understand that most artists in Canada are living below the poverty line and this is not acceptable. It’s not wrong to demand financial compensation for one’s art and I think it’s great if someone can earn a living wage from their art. At the same time, I think we have to be able to differentiate between established publishing practices and indie initiatives. The literary establishment in the form of publishers who receive funding (such as it is) based on long-standing reputations, and the funding organizations, such as the Canada Council for the Arts, have an obligation to pay artists for their work to ensure that Canadians have access to the art and that arts workers have an affordable existence.
The Indie world, however, without the support of governments and funds, and without buying in to conditions that funding requires, has no such obligation. I see small online literary blogs and magazines struggling to pay writers through IndieGoGo and other online funding mechanisms, and I try to help when I can. It’s admirable but it’s tough and in the long term, it’s hard to sustain. Also site designers and developers are often asked to give their work for free, but no one seems to complain about that.
For AngelHousePress/DevilHouse and our various online and print publications, we donate money and time to make it happen. We provide free work too. If we didn’t, AngelHousePress would not exist. But to add financial obligations to the list is just too damn much.
As far as the connection between self-worth and how many zeroes there are on a cheque, that seems to be an annoying and pervasive pro-Capitalist notion. I’m happy to exchange chapbooks at small press fairs and help others by offering a free close reading service for new women and genderqueer writers. Not everything is about money. Since June, 2016, I’ve read work by a baker’s dozen of emerging poets. I started the service because I was receiving, almost exclusively, manuscripts by men. I asked women poets I know about why they didn’t submit their work. For a few, it was a matter of not having time between taking care of children, parents and working full-time. But often the answer was that they didn’t feel like the work was good enough. I’ve been working on my own poetry since 2000 and editing others’ work since about 2003 or so, so I thought I could help out with that. I read up to five pages of their poetry and I offer constructive suggestions and support. It just helps to have someone in your corner.
I always respond to every query and every manuscript we receive. If the manuscript is in keeping with our guidelines, which are published on our site, I let the person know when I will get back to them and I get back to them within that timeline. I try to treat writers as I like to be treated as a writer. It’s really disenchanting to send out a manuscript, after having queried and been told to send it, not to receive an answer from someone or to have to keep sending e-mail as if you’re begging to be published. No writer should be made to feel as if they’re desperate and what they’re offering isn’t appreciated. It’s an honour to consider work by people.
VS: I love the idea of offering a space for any poet/artist to challenge her/him self to play and disrupt her/his OWN voice and style. I’m super inspired to start writing something completely NOT ME – because i don’t do that enough…and I always feel intimidated to veer away from what I ‘know’. How can we disrupt ourselves?! Some tips? Inspirations?
AE: 1. Don’t pay attention to all that advice about write only what you know. Be willing to learn and explore what you don’t know.
2. Ignore people who tell you that you have to find your voice. Find voices. Try out different styles and genres. Who said a poem has to be autobiographical? Try other genres, such as sci fi or fantasy.
3. Write under a pseudonym. The act of a different name can inspire a new way of thinking, especially if you’re in a rut.
4. Write a form poem, such as a villanelle or a haiku. Learn the rules. Do it properly. Then figure out ways you can play with it to make it more fun.
5. Create a list of writers, artists, filmmakers who question the status quo. The more you engage with art, the more you’ll want to play.
6. Go back to your own poems and turn them into unpublishable poems. There’s a freedom with not being concerned about publishing your work. You can either keep these poems to yourself. Submit them or self-publish them. Look for quirky and indie publications that are willing to publish playful pieces.
7. Do some writing exercises or workshops, such as those by Bernadette Mayer: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/library/Mayer-Bernadette_Experiments.html or Stuart Ross’s poetry boot camp workshops.
8. Go through literary journals on your shelves. Edit the poems to make them weirder, less obvious. I often do this with poems from Arc Poetry Magazine, a beloved journal. I cut off beginnings, move the end or middle to the beginning, for example. A lot of people are stuck in chronological order. Read your poems for structure and change the structure into something less expected, less obvious.
9. Care less about surface meaning when you read and write poems. Read other people’s poems and try to figure out the tone and feeling of the poem via its sound, imagery, line breaks, stanza breaks and punctuation.
10. Work in different media: get some paint and spill it over a surface or make a collage. Play for the sake of play.
11. Stop listening to that little voice that insists on perfection. Make an imperfect mess.
12. From Darryl Joel Burger, “treat yourself like an exile with a secret.”
VS: AHP uses many different media to communicate: blogging, chapbooks, sound (podcast), essays – what style is the most challenging to get submissions? Meaning – are you looking for more essays/rants/manifestos? What would you like to see/get more of?
AE: More essays, etc. Yes! Visit AngelHousePress.com Essays for more info. Also more prose manuscripts for DevilHouse by writers who are not men, and more interview answers for the DevilHouse 6, our attempt to explore the concept of transgression in creative work. Visit DevilHousePress.com for more info.
VS: For your own writing process – take us through what you need to write a poem.
AE: I need to not be bogged down with a bunch of things to do and appointments, so first of all, I need a things to do list and a calendar. I use TickTick.com and the Google calendar. I am highly organized because I do a lot of things, but the organization has to come from me. I don’t work well creatively when I have other people dictating my schedule. I don’t work well with others in charge. I am too impatient and too keen to wait for them.
Other than that the standard stuff: a thought, a sound, an image, a really good wank, conversation with a kindred over Lagavulin or Lapsang souchong, my husband’s delicious crepes, a long meander in interesting weather, sex with a beautiful stranger, Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral or Ghosts I-IV, a wander through an art gallery or a sculpture garden, a long train ride, reading something really great, such as Kaveh Akbar’s Calling A Wolf A Wolf. Essays are really helpful too. I love Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses.
I always have a journal with me and although I have my phone alone when I’m out, I avoid looking at it if I’m on a walkabout. Listening is the greatest inspiration of all.
VS: Do you think that poets/artists should be political? Why or why not?
AE: I don’t know how not to be political, especially in this era. As soon as you put a word onto a piece of paper or on the screen and add other words, it’s a political act. Some artists do this in an obvious way, while others have a more subtle approach. I’m allergic to the word “should.”
VS: I too love the culture of artists in the 20s/30s – the gathering of minds in Montparnasse in Paris. I’ve read at Shakespeare & Co. and was transformed as a poet! What do you think is missing from that time? Or – are we still gathering in art-filled homes and eating and drinking and pushing our art to the limits? What is your experience of the ‘arts’ and the role of the artist in this ‘now’?
AE: Since I didn’t live in that time, I can’t really say. I know I sometimes romanticize the Roaring Twenties, not thinking about the poverty that artists had to live in or the outrageous misogyny women artists experienced. That being said, what appealed to me about the era was the unbridled creativity as witnessed by all the unusual creations and publications that came out of that time, and what felt like was an attitude toward sex that seemed more liberal, in some ways, than our attitudes today. Some of the most interesting women were sexual and didn’t seem to be slut-shamed, but rather celebrated for it. But I’m looking at the era through my perv-coloured glasses, so who knows? I’m always excited by unrestrained imaginations and ardour, and I’ve even said I’d like to create a modern-day Montparnasse in Ottawa. Many people laugh at that thought. So do I. But I still want to.
I have a daydream of creating a subversive tea salon on Thursday afternoons chez moi. Those invited would bring along a creative work that inspires them and that they’d like us to discuss. The discussion would lead to other topics and eventually to my boudoir. I once wrote a story called the Afternoon Circle Jerk Society.
Recently I happened upon secret messages in a table drawer at a café I won’t reveal because I love a good secret, so I’ll just tease you instead. One of the messages contained a link to a group called Surrealist Ottawa (https://surrealistottawa.wordpress.com/). There are adventures to be had in the refusal to accept the status quo. And beyond Ottawa, there’s also space for whimsy. I’m all about whimsy, connection and exploration.
AngelHousePress publishes ragged edges, raw talent and rule breakers who push the boundaries of poetry. Prose is handled over at DevilHouse. AngelHousePress is a home for non conformists.The Angel In The House is a Victorian concept and poem about a very weak and mindless woman whose sole responsibility was to be charming. Perhaps you can see the irony. All ethnicities, all genders, all sexual orientations welcomed & encouraged.
I hope that by now you’re inspired to find out more about these presses, and all the fine things they offer/do. Here is a list:
Not only do they make chapbooks, but they also run several sites, host a podcast, an essay series, an interview series, a reading series, and run an editing service:
- NationalPoetryMonth.ca, an annual online site that publishes poetry and visual poetry from contributors all over the world in April. I look for work that transcends boundaries.
- Experiment-O.com, an annual pdf magazine that celebrates the art of risk via art, visual poetry, prose, poetry and hybrid works by contributors from all over the world in November/December.
- The Small Machine Talks, a monthly/semi-monthly podcast that explores the poetry scene in Central Canada and beyond. Hosted by Amanda Earl and a.m. kozak and accessible via Soundcloud, iTunes and various podcast apps, such as Android’s Podcast Addict.
- A Close Reading Service for New Women Poets, established in June, 2016. Women-identifying and gender queer writers who haven’t had a chapbook or book published are invited to send up to five pages of poetry to amanda at angelhousepress dot com (email@example.com) for encouragement, comments and suggestions. They are asked to include their list of poets who’ve influenced them.
- The Essay Series on AngelHousePress.com for rants, manifestos, interviews, reviews and what have you. From 2009 to 2017, we’ve published 36 essays (including a review or two) from writers and artists such as Phil Hall, Lily Robert-Foley, Marianne Apostolides, Gary Barwin and would love to publish more.
- DevilHouse Revelations (The Six), an interview series which asks writers six questions about the nature and role of the transgressive in creative work. We’ve interviewed 20 writers, including Lynn Crosbie, Tom Walmsley, Mark SaFranko, Misti Rainwater-Lites.
- DevilHouse Live, an occasional reading and performance series.
Amanda Earl is an Ottawa writer, publisher, visual poet and editor. She’s the managing editor of Bywords.ca and the fallen angel of AngelHousePress. More info is available at AmandaEarl.com or connect with Amanda on Twitter @KikiFolle.
THANK YOU AMANDA!! MAY THE SUBMISSIONS FLOW IN!! Keep sharing and celebrating and connecting with POETRY!