Speaking of community, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to get this blog to include contributions from other people. I’ve always hoped that it could be a resource for others engaged in similar activities, but perhaps it can also be a channel of communication for that community as well. My first thought on how to do this was to do simple profiles of other small presses and makers of artists’ books. But then it came to my attention that someone else is already doing that, has been doing it for awhile, and is probably doing a better job than I would. I haven’t given up on that idea completely, but I need to figure out how to steer it in a different direction.

And then, of course, there could also be interviews. And there will be interviews—in fact, this post is the first one (Really! Keep reading!). I thought it might be interesting to do the interviews with groups of people, asking one question about a particular topic. As usual, I’m doing everything on the fly, in the morning before I go to work, so I haven’t quite refined the system to have received multiple answers that I would post all at once. I’m excited about this first one, so it’s going up now. Here it is: a question about community, directed to Adam Robinson, the proprietor of the great Publishing Genius Press in Baltimore, MD.

NewLights: Publishing Genius is based in Baltimore, MD, and frequently publishes work by Baltimore writers. Does Publishing Genius make it a point to publish work by local writers and artists? And why? And are there other activities around publishing that you see as important for fostering local community?

Adam Robinson: Initially, I didn't have any intention of publishing writers local to my community. In fact, I didn't realize until last year that a significant portion of PGP books were from Baltimoreans (7 out of 18, basically). Then, when I did realize it, it came as no surprise. It made sense, not because Baltimore has a particularly rich literary community (which, as you know, it does), but because I seek out like-minded people, and I become friends with them, and I pay close attention to what my friends do. I do feel like it's one of my goals to promote my community's culture, and interestingly that is another way of expressing myself, personally. By publishing Megan McShea's book (forthcoming), I'm saying, "This is who I am, or what I want to be like." However, does this foster local community? I mean, it bolsters Baltimore's writers outside of the community, but I'm not doing a great deal to get the books into the hands of this city's residents. But one aspect that I think does foster the community, something that you pointed to in your blog post, is bringing in outsiders for the event, and showing them around town. Taking them to the amazing local literary hotspots like Atomic Books and Normals. Introduce them to people by hosting readings and encouraging the exchange of ideas. And not just that, but publishing and reading translations, I think, has been on my mind a lot lately. Because it's an important question: what is a community. There are worlds within worlds. Before I'm a Baltimorean, I think, I'm an artist. That links me with other artists, regardless of location. So I want to know what my fellow art citizens are doing in Spain and Iraq and Singapore. This last bit is perhaps more ethereal than the practicalities influencing your question, it's basically where PGP has been since starting out -- that the literature community takes priority over the municipality -- and yet 40% of the books are by writers who live within 10 miles of me.

Hopefully there will be more of these soon, hopefully they can be presented together. (Of course they can.) If this is a question that you’d be interested in answering, please let me know at newlightspress-AT-gmail-DOT-com.

No comments: