BIPOC, women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ2S+ folks, andor to experiment with the means, tools, and materials of production, andor to disrupt aesthetic convention and challenge readers, small press publishing has always played the role of disruptive and pesky sibling to mainstream publishing
"I don't know what it is exactly that draws some people to the obsessive little universe of literary small press publishing," writes Stuart Ross in his book Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer (2005), "but I suspect it's the same thing that makes others join protest marches, spray-paint graffiti on the marble walls of banks, and canvass for a progressive political candidate who has no chance of winning the riding. That is to say, small press is radical, idealistic, and a great way to lose money."
Whether to make space for and amplify the voices of equity-deserving communities such as BIPOC, women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ2S+ folks, andor to experiment with the means, tools, and materials of production, andor to disrupt aesthetic convention and challenge readers, small press publishing has always played the role of disruptive and pesky sibling to mainstream publishing.
For instance, when mainstream publishers in Canada were reluctant to publish Black and other racialized writers in the mid-sixties and into the eighties, an influx of independent, Black-run small presses emerged, including WACACRO, Khoisan Artists, Williams-Wallace, Sister Vision Press, and Domestic Bliss, to name just a few. It's thanks to these small presses and others that Canadians were introduced to writers such as M. NourbeSe Philip, Claire Harris, Dionne Brand, Lillian Allen, and Pamela Mordecai.
Or take bill bissett and his blewointment press, which championed queer writing and experimentalism but in the late 1970s was lambasted and threatened with censorship by Conservative MPs in the House of Commons for distributing "pornography" at the expense of taxpayers via Canada Council grants.
At its heart, small press is about experimentation and community-building—but perhaps most of all, it is about love. By creating spaces for many writers to publish their first works or works in progress, these presses make space for love and care for the craft and nurturing it in others. By resisting mainstream publishing practices that tend to privilege patriarchal, colonial, and capitalistic structures of production, these small presses respond with love and care for community. By emphasizing experimentation and craft over selling as many books or works as they can, these presses lead with love of the work first and foremost. There is little to no money in this work, and it is labour-intensive. Nonetheless, it remains labour undertaken by a fierce community who is hungry for creative engagement and exchange, and for amplifying the voices of others.
This Small Press Map of Canada includes presses from coast to coast and showcases the inherent variety and richness of small press production across the country, from books to chapbooks to zines to journals. It contains the early pioneers of small press, such as Stuart Ross's Proper Tales and rob mclennan's above/ground press, and also the new and emerging presses that are expanding the community and challenging it in myriad ways.
--Kate Siklosi, Co-Founding Editor, Gap Riot Press