Ottawa, ON , Ontario
Amanda Earl (she/her) is a pansexual polyamorous cis-gendered white woman in her fifties with a penchant for whimsy, exploration, and connection with kindred misfits. She lives in Ottawa with her husband, Charles, the designer and layout artist for AngelHousePress and her darling co-conspirator in many a shenanigan. She’s been a published writer for twenty years and a publisher/editor for seventeen.
Tell us a bit about your press. How did you start? What is your mission?
Established in 2007, AngelHousePress published chapbooks for twelve years, but now focuses on its online publishing and crowd-sourcing activities. Our mission is to amplify and support the work of marginalized writers and artists, to publish raw talent, ragged edges and rebels.
I began AngelHousePress to publish my weird ephemeral works, then published the work of my poetry group, loosely called Ampersand. Already a chapbook addict, I wanted to be able to publish them myself, to barter and exchange at small press book fairs and to give writers a beautiful and professionally designed outlet for their work. Charles’ design skills really helped. We made limited-edition chapbooks of fifty copies.
Who are your influences, in Canada and beyond?
above/ground press, run by rob mclennan, the chapbooks, broadsides and also his online publications, such as the pdf magazine Ottawater and the print magazines Peter F. Yacht Club and Touch the Donkey, his interview series…all are an influence.
Book*Hug used to publish chapbooks and they were beauties, well-designed, with heavy covers I loved to fondle. The first chapbook I ever fell in love with was Jay MillAR’s the Small Blue (BookThug, 2003) with its recto verso volumes odd and even. Book*Hug, along with above/ground press was my intro to playful, experimental writing. I was a subscriber for several years, taking advantage of the contributor discount. I still cherish those chapbooks.
Most recently we’re inspired by what feels like a renaissance of visual poetry publishers, curators and creators. In the UK, two women curators and visual poets are showcasing stunning visual poetry through online exhibititions: Silje Ree through Mellom Press and Astra Papachristodoulou through Poem Atlas.
Timglaset Editions run by Joakim Norling of Sweden publishes visual poetry collections that have taken my breath away. Isn’t it lovely how many Canadian visual poets the press has published as well, and how many women?
What about small press publishing is particularly exciting to you right now?
Google sheets and docs – I hate to advertise for Big Brother, but the ability to collaborate on crowd-sourced resources is a game-changer. The more we share info and contacts, the stronger the small press community will be.
Presses, journals and any literary or art activity run by women, gender nonconforming 2SLGBTQ, BIPOC, D/deaf and disabled editors and curators. HA&L’s Canadian Dis/Ability Poetics Issue, Imaginary Safe House, which was also published in print, in Frog Hollow Press’s Dis/Ability series. I think we can do a lot more to amplify and support those traditionally left out of the mainstream literary white cis het dude canon. It is a priority for me to find out more and share whatever I learn.
Virtual readings – I wasn’t an early adopter, I admit. I’m nervous enough on video as it is, unless I’m naked and wanking with the fellas on Snapchat, but virtual readings are a great opportunity for people from all over to connect and to hear writers that we wouldn’t have had the chance to. Also many publishers are now finding creative ways to promote and sell the work of their authors through these readings and doing fundraising for important causes. I think a lot of small press publishers are much more engaged in community outreach.
How does your press work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large?
I keep on top of social media and try to make connections to amplify marginalized voices and support their work. Through the press, I’ve made shareable lists of visual poetry presses and journals, a map of women and gender nonconforming visual and concrete poets, a list of women and gnc publishers, editors and curators. I have lots of ideas for doing more, just not enough tentacles and time pausing ability to make it all happen.
Tell us about three of your publications. What makes them special, needed, and/or unique?
Experiment-O (est. 2008) is our annual pdf magazine that celebrates the art of risk). I wanted to feature more than just poetry and prose, to be amenable to hybrids and work that didn’t fit. I also wanted to publish folks from far and wide. Mailing costs in Canada are through the roof. Shipping complementary copies to France, Japan, England etc is expensive. I hated having to ask contributors to pay those hefty fees, and the alternative was to publish work only by North Americans. There’s a world of art, poetry, prose and weirdo stuff out there. I want followers of AngelHousePress to be inspired about it for their own creations. My own creative work is greatly inspired by work that is not being published in print. Work that people are sharing in their FB and Twitter feeds, for example.
NationalPoetryMonth.ca (est 2009) is our annual celebration of poetry. It began in 2009.
My main issue with national poetry month is that it has been just an institutional activity here in Canada and in the USA. Poems are by people from a specific geographic region. They begin at the left-hand margin, are often linear. I wanted to interrogate the idea of what poetry is, and I wanted to include visual poetry and even visual art. Genre labels can be limiting and I wanted NationalPoetryMonth.ca to introduce poetry fans and others to a wider range of possibilities. The more we explore and play, the more we learn and create.
The Map of Women and Gender Nonconforming Visual and Concrete Poets (est 2018). I wanted to challenge the oft-repeated statement that few women make visual poetry, and I thought this probably applied even more to nonbinary and gender queer visual poets. We now have 96 participants on the map.
How have the current multiple global crises impacted your work with the press?
Since all our publications are online now, we aren’t having as much of an issue as those who produce print publications, but the server that hosts our online sites sometimes slows down because everyone is online. I think this year’s NationalPoetryMonth.ca had at least double the number of unique visits.
E-mail communication has slowed down quite a bit and focus isn’t easy, but I feel even more driven to promote and amplify voices that we need to be hearing from.
I am greatly concerned for those in marginalized and oppressed groups. I am asking myself how I, as a white-cis gendered old broad can listen and get out of the way, make room for BIPOC, queer and D/deaf, disabled writers, artists, activists and thinkers, combat hatred, and use my time, money and abilities to support those in need. I don’t have much money unfortunately, but the small press community as one force can do a lot. I have love, empathy and a zany, out of the box imagination. Let’s put our heads and hearts together.
No Guns No Knives No Disco Biscuits
We Traced The Shape Of Our Loss To See Your Face
Hannah Rodabaugh (2019)