As the co-founding editor of Gap Riot Press, what sparked your interest in entering the world of small press publishing? Why is it important and what did you hope to achieve when you set out on this endeavour?
Gap Riot started, as the best things always do, in conversation. In the early months of 2017, Dani Spinosa and I were discussing how too often, writers of formal or experimental poetry in Canada (including ourselves) had to go through a white man to publish a chapbook. So, we wanted to change that up a little and provide a space for writers to publish experimental, formal, political, feminist, and/or genre-blurring poetry that wasn’t governed by a dude. We sought out to break down cliques and barriers in the poetic community, and open more spaces for people to practice the poetry we love, with the hopes of bringing a community together in collective action in this work.
So, after months and months of batting the idea of starting a press around, we got one massive push from the late, great, incomparable, and dearly missed poet extraordinaire Priscila Uppal, who wanted a run of chapbooks made for the poems in her SummerWorks play, What Linda Said. We did those and then three more chapbooks by the most incredible first season we could have asked for: Adeena Karasick, Margaret Christakos, and Canisia Lubrin. And with the support of all these beautiful and fierce wimmin, we grew and grew into the unstoppable Gap Riot Press.
We’re always learning, and always challenging ourselves and others. Gap Riot was born out of the need for shouty, unapologetic, collective amplification. And, as white wimmin, we’re trying to do that in a way that decenters ourselves; for us, this work is about uplifting other voices and giving space to folks to try stuff on and play.
What exciting projects can we expect next from Gap Riot Press?
We just released our fifth season of chapbooks in the early summer featuring the luminous Terese Mason Pierre, Ashley Hynd, Zoey Morris, and Franco Cortese. We have some really awesome titles already lined up for our fall season, which will be out sometime in October or November. And, we’re thinking about the idea of an experimental poetry anthology, which will be fun!
We’re also looking to lean more into the creative, hands-on aspect of creating. But, we generally try to do something different each season, whether it’s a plantable excerpt of poetry, a wax-sealed ribbon, etc. Time doesn’t always allow us to add the most hands-on touch to our work that some small presses like The Blasted Tree and Puddles of Sky Press do, but we’d love to do more of that to make each publication that much more special, and really lean into that hand-to-object care we so love about small press publishing.
What has been the biggest surprise or learning experience you’ve encountered while running Gap Riot Press?
That the learning never stops! This is an ongoing project. We’re lucky in that Dani and I are best friends, and basically the same person, so we work really well together without much structure or headaches. But it’s tough work, especially with both of us working full-time, demanding jobs, and sometimes there’s a struggle to find balance and stay sane. Also, the small things: we learned this past season that our new website shop had a bit of a learning curve to it and so we weren’t charging the right amount of shipping, for example. We’re always learning, in big ways and small.
What is your process for selected authors?
We don’t have a formal selection process per se; our mantra lately is “burn it down, but make it fashion”—we seek to publish work that ignites, dismantles, unsettles, and does it with style. We get a lot of submissions, so we select work that moves us the most, that is necessary, urgent, responsive, and beautiful all the same.
You joined us last year for Small Press, Big Ideas: Roundtable to discuss the strengths and challenges of the small press scene. Since then, have you noticed any major shifts, growth and or new challenges? How would you describe these strengths and challenges in today’s pandemic world?
When it comes to small press, there is always growth! That’s been one of the most amazing things for me to experience while putting together the small press map of Canada for this year’s festival, is seeing how much the community continues to grow year after year with new people, new ideas, new modes of production. It’s awesome and inspiring to see.
In terms of the pandemic, we’ve seen a spectrum of effects across the small presses we’ve been in contact with—some are experiencing a lot of growth and success, others have reported incredible loss. One of the biggest drawbacks has been the absence of small press markets across the country, which a lot of presses rely on for sales and exposure. Fortunately, for us, it’s been mostly smooth sailing. People have been mostly staying home, and wanting to read books, so our most recent season was incredibly successful. We sell most of our work online these days anyway, and promote through social media. We also had an online launch for our fifth season, which worked out beautifully because one of our authors is American, so we could include them in the launch. While we miss in-person launches and readings and markets so much, we’re also trying to think about the upsides and possibilities of the virtual world, creative-wise and accessibility-wise, now that we’re in it for the foreseeable future.
Why do you feel it’s important to focus on Canadian poets?
Is it that important?! I’m somewhat kidding—it is, and I get why you’re asking this question, but historically, small press began with pretty small communities and geographic locations, which is great. But one of the awesome things to happen over the last decade, in particular, is the rise of a global community of small presses. Folks like Petra Schulze-Wollgast (psw) in Germany, and Joakim Norling in Sweden, to name just a few, are helping to grow and sustain this global community with their small presses. So, while we have such a rich history of small press in Canada, and while we of course like to support Canadian writers and publish mostly Canadian writers, we also like to connect and tap into that larger community of writers across the globe.
Any other independent publishers you admire, want to work with?
There is such a wealth of inspiring presses that it’s hard to limit those we admire to only a few. Honestly, if you run a small press, we automatically admire you because we know dang well that this is hard, exhausting, beautiful, sustaining work that you/we are doing only because we love it and can’t imagine not doing it.
To name a few, though: internationally, we’ve been blown away by the works coming out of Petra Shulze-Wollgast (psw), Timglaset, and Penteract Press, among others. On home soil, we take a lot of influence from bill bissett and his work with Blew Ointment Press; he fought relentlessly for the right to create and sustain communities through uncensored publishing and we owe a lot of our work today to his efforts. We’re also continually astounded at the ingenious creativity of The Blasted Tree, the gorgeous works of Baseline Press, and of course the indefatigable Rob Mclennan and his above/ground press, who has been a tireless mentor, connector, and community-builder for small presses and poets across Canada and beyond.
What are your hopes for the future in regards to Gap Riot Press and the publishing community at large?
MORE WIMMIN RUNNING THINGS. We love how many wimmin and women and womyn and femmes and nbs and queer friends are starting their own presses and publishing some really beautiful, urgent, and necessary voices and works. We need more of that. We can never have enough of that! And in terms of Gap Riot, we hope to just continue breaking, dismantling, burning down and building up to make more room for others to come in, play, experiment, fail, try again and grow.
You can reach Gap Riot Press online at gapriotpress.com, where you’ll find their shop, archives of work, and their online Season Five Launch Party. You can also connect on Twitter @gapriotpress.
Kate Siklosi lives, writes, and thinks in Toronto. Her criticism has been featured in various journals and magazines including Canadian Literature, JAST, The Walrus, and The Puritan. She has published five chapbooks of poetry, and her work has also been featured in various magazines and small press publications across North America, Europe, and the UK. She is the co-founding editor of Gap Riot Press, a feminist experimental poetry small press.