SPOTLIGHT: NOCTUARY PRESS
Noctuary Press is a small, independent press that focuses on female writers working with cross-genre prose forms (such as flash fiction, prose poetry, footnoted texts, etc.). All too often, writing that is easily classifiable as “poetry,” “prose,” or “nonfiction” is privileged over exciting literary work that is not so easily categorized. But Noctuary Press seeks to create a public space for women writers working across literary genres. The press publishes writing that does not simply challenge the notion of genre, but engages it in a meaningful way, assessing both the artistic possibilities and the dangers inherent in maintaining genre categories.
In a recent interview with founder and editor Kristina Marie Darling, we talked about poetry as recorded artifact, approaching white space as an editor, and the future of cross-genre work.
I’d like to start off by discussing one of the features you really highlight on your website about Noctuary: the idea of the press as form of record. What does this mean to you? Why did this idea appeal to you as an editor?
Kristina Marie Darling, editor: I’m very interested in the processes by which literary texts are canonized, particularly the role that publication and dissemination play in this process of canonization. More often than not, only a text that is published and distributed to audiences is perceived as “legitimate,” and it is this type of text that is remembered and preserved for future generations. The unpublished, undisseminated text becomes the illegitimate text. And these texts are usually forgotten. What we often forget is that the publication and dissemination of literary texts are predicated on very traditional definitions of genre, and texts that don’t fit within their parameters become difficult to distribute the audiences. These texts are frequently othered, cast aside. Noctuary Press is intended as a corrective gesture, an intervention, in which I hope to create an alternative channel of publication and distribution, allowing texts that don’t fit within traditional genre categories to be published, preserved, and canonized for future generations.
Many of the authors you publish have connections to the visual arts. Do you feel like that results in similar strategies in the texts themselves? If so, what commonalities can you draw?
KMD: That’s a great question. One thing that I’ve noticed with books in our current series is that the writers manipulate and undermine readerly expectations of narrative in really fascinating ways. Rather than creating linear narratives, which present a clear progression from one event to the next, many of the authors we’ve published use the poetic image as a source of unity within their work. Images appear and reappear, often in vastly different contexts than before. I believe that this use of the image, the ways in which it can be inscribed and reinscribed with new possibilities for interpretation, is certainly informed by the authors’ involvement in the visual arts. Kristy Bowen, for example, actively practices collage and assemblage, and these interests certainly manifest in her use of the poetic image, as well as the ways that she juxtaposes different types of found language.
What is your process of submission for books? How often in selecting manuscripts do you find yourself entranced by a poet you’ve never heard of?
KMD: Noctuary Press operates mostly by solicitation. But sometimes our authors will suggest a writer who they’d like to see as part of our catalogue. I’ve been pleasantly surprised many times by our authors’ suggestions. Carol Guess, whose book, F IN, was the first Noctuary Press title, forwarded me a manuscript by Eva Heisler. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of her work. Although I wasn’t familiar with Eva’s writing, I accepted the manuscript within a few days. I had to have it for Noctuary Press. I believe that this working relationship with my authors, and the input that they have with respect to the catalogue, is one of the things that makes Noctuary Press unique.
Considering the sample material and the books themselves, many of the books you publish have an interest in formal innovation. What do you love to see when you first look at the page? What shocks and impresses you in a work?
KMD: I love to see authors use white space in creative ways, work that makes the page ache with the absence of text. I see this interest in white space, absence, and erasure as part of our interrogation of genre. Traditional definitions of “poetry,” “fiction,” and “nonfiction” focus exclusively on the text and its semantic meaning. Text is rarely treated as visual in nature, although it almost always is.
Take me behind the scenes of how Noctuary got started. How does the process of making a book happen?
KMD: Noctuary Press started in the fall of 2012, although almost a year of planning had taken place beforehand. I was frustrated by what I was seeing in the publishing landscape. So many presses publish cross-genre work, but much of this work is merely rebellious, and doesn’t interrogate the notion of genre in a meaningful way. I wanted to fill this void in the publishing landscape, and am excited about the work that’s come my way.
Our first book, F IN by Carol Guess, is now available through our website and Amazon.com. I knew when I saw the manuscript that it was right for Noctuary Press. Once the manuscript was accepted, I sought the authors’ input about cover art, blurbs, and review outlets. The author is an integral part of the production process at Noctuary Press, and this is something that I’m very proud of.
If you could change one thing about the world of poetry what would it be?
To speculate wildly a bit, give me a brief description of the poetry landscape in ten years. Where does Noctuary fit in that landscape?
KMD: If I could change one thing about the publication landscape, I wouldn’t abolish genre categories, or discussions of genre. I’d simply want us to be more aware of the gender politics inherent in genre categories, to approach them more ethically, and to expand what is possible within the confines of existing definitions of genre. In ten years, I see our definitions of genre as being not only more inclusive, but more fluid, overlapping and intersecting more than they do now. Cross-genre work won’t be seen as a novelty, but rather, a necessary part of the publishing landscape. Noctuary Press will continue to serve as a forum for discussions of genre, its possibilities, and the gender politics inherent in our definitions of genre.
[You can check out some of the incredible work coming out of Noctuary by going to http://noctuarypress.com/]