Cobalt: Tell us a little about Copper Canyon. How did you get started? What do you publish, in a nutshell?
Copper Canyon: Copper Canyon was founded 40 years ago and is based in Port Townsend, Washington. We published poetry and translations, with an occasional work of prose. More specifically, we have committed to publishing contemporary poetry from new and established poets alike, in addition to translations, anthologies and reissues of out-of-print classics. You can find more about the history on our website. It breaks down who our founders were, who we publish specifically and a bit about our fundraising program.
Cobalt: How do you obtain the manuscripts that you publish, and how many of your authors are previously unpublished (no prior books, that is)? How many manuscripts are taken out of the slush pile?
Copper Canyon: This a great question, and one we get often. Michael Wiegers, our executive editor, frequently says “there is no one way to become a Copper Canyon poet.” He looks for writing that is exceptional: equal parts evocative and intellectual. Sometimes our poets are discovered through recommendations, occasionally we solicit specific poets, and though it is rare that a manuscript be pulled from the slush pile for publication, every submission that comes to our mailbox is read. I’m not sure the exact number of our authors who are previously unpublished, but between last year and 2014 we are publishing four “first book” collections.
Cobalt: Let’s suppose that you’ve just read a manuscript, love it, and are making that phone call (or sending that email) to the author. How does that conversation typically go?
Copper Canyon: Oh, this is a fun question! We’ve had some truly fantastic reactions when our authors are notified they are going to be published by Copper Canyon. Typically, Michael Wiegers calls or emails the author and what follows is a string of many exclamations points and warm welcomes from our staff and the CCP family.
Cobalt: What unique challenges and opportunities does the present market for poetry create for a publisher?
Copper Canyon: There are certainly many unique challenges with marketing poetry, but I see them all as opportunities. Since there are fewer venues that consistently review poetry collections, I practice a lot of side-dooring, which is a technique used by marketers and publicists to discover nontraditional venues who might be interested in the author and their work. For example, one of our new first-book authors, Kerry James Evans, has a collection titled BANGALORE coming out that touches on his time in the military. I’ll spend some time investigating media outlets that might be interested in his experience as a soldier in addition to his beauty poetry. I think its important to know the book inside-out—emotionally, intellectually and from a more formal sales perspective in order to market poetry well.
Cobalt: You’ve been at this for 40 years! Kudos. What are some of your favorite Copper Canyon books, and what are some of the exciting books coming out in the near future?
Copper Canyon: Thank you! Ah—the dreaded “what is your favorite” question! I’m tentative to answer with any one author or collection. We have a long history of elegant, timeless books and translations…it is very hard to pick just one. Our new season of books keeps in line with this history: along with Bob Hicok’s Elegy Owed, Lisa Olstein’s Little Stranger, Kwame Dawes’ Duppy Conqueror, Ed Skoog’s Rough Day, Fady Joudah’s Alight and Jane Miller’s Thunderbird which are all being released this season, we have two “first-book” collections coming out in the Fall / Winter 2013 season: as previously mentioned Kerry James Evans (Bangalore) and Roger Reeves (King Me).
Hmmm…there are also three terrific bilingual editions coming out: Rilke’s New Poems by Joe Cadora, Pinholes in the Night: Essential Poems from Latin America (Raul Zurita and Forrest Gander) and fungus skull eye wing by Alfonso D’Aquino (translated by Forrest Gander). Plus, three volumes of poetry from established poets Sarah Lindsay (Debt to the Bone-eating Snotflower – yes that is a real thing!), Jennifer Michael Hecht (Who Said) and the late Dennis O’Driscoll (Dear Life). Whew. Lots to be excited about over here!