The First Annual This Recording Small Press Awards
by Alex Carnevale
Since moving into my current apartment, I took it upon myself to build the best collection of books ever assembled in history. We are way short of our goal, but steady progress is being made. I bought a second but more interesting copy of Under the Volcano last week; I am really into this packaged trilogy of flash short stories that McSweeneys put out, as I have no desire to take it out of the wrapper. Something deep within me forced me to assemble everything David Antin has ever done. I could sell you the collected Diane Williams but then I’d have to kill you. Leonard Michaels now has a personal shrine in my home with epithets and astroglide near it. Charles Olson is a god in this apartment, and a bevy of other purchases would probably make Pauline Kael white with envy if she ever came back to life and slept on the floor of my apartment. I don’t do dead people, I do books. Herewith the best small press books of the year.
I hope these songs aid your journey as much as they have aided mine.
“Made in the Dark” – Hot Chip (mp3)
“The Brainwasher” – Daft Punk (mp3)
“Kids With Guns (Hot Chip remix)” – Gorillaz (mp3)
Best Overall Small Press Book of 2007:
The Drug of Art, Ivan Blatny
A crazy Czech poet who died in England in 1990, Blatny resembles his other exile poets featured in Ugly Duckling Presse’s Eastern European Poets series in his translated brilliance, while featuring a style all his own. This UDP project deserves a Guggenheim. Only a book this nuts needs four translators.
review in The Nation.
Wind is Wind and Rain is Rain, Brynne
Did it really come out in 2007? I don’t think so, but when it comes to this brilliant chapbook, full of mystery and childlike whimsy, you won’t even care. Jen Tynes and Erika Howsare, the founders of horse less press aren’t telling. Purportedly written by a young girl, probably written by someone else, it doesn’t matter. This is one of the great small press things to come out, ever, and it needed to make this list. Amazing cover by Kate Schapira, buy it now.
Best Chapbook Design:
Who Could Present the Sensational First Evening of the Night, Julia Cohen
From a very promising poet, a gorgeous chapbook from H_ngm_n.
Why I Am White, Mathias Svalina
Svalina is one of our most prolific major young poets, with the talent to support his output. Last year’s The Present Work from Matvei Yankelevich and the extraordinary people at Palm Press was one of my favorite designs of recent years (plus the poetry was amazing, it’s Matvei after all), and the attention-getting cover here is a close second.
Best Small Press Magazine:
String of Small Machines
I loved what they did with this so much I bought a bunch of copies to give to friends. Simple, yet timeless. The Frank Sinatra of small press mags.
Worn, a fashion journal
Never much of a fashionista myself, I love the design and barely understand the content. My sources in the fashion industry tell me that this Canadian journal is the bomb.
No: A Journal of the Arts
With Ashbery and Rosmarie Waldrop, it’s difficult to go wrong.
Buy No. 7 here.
I love the minimal design here, and the work is fabulous. Kudos to Chris Edgars and Jordan Davis.
Best Up and Coming Small Press:
Untoward just came out, buy it up now.
Gina Myers’ best of list.
Jennifer Rogers’ terrific press has new Clayton Eshleman book you’ll want to check out. Pray HWP never dies.
Scott Pierce is a big talent and I will keep ordering his books until either one of us dies.
plans for 2008
Best Graphic Novel/Comic:
Lost Girls, Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie
This classic three-part epic on the erotic histories of Alice, Wendy, and Dorothy is a $75 treasure that will bankroll your childrens’ college educations. It is also the most fabulous graphic novel of this year or most others. Alan Moore, he of Watchmen and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, wrote the text for Melinda Gebbie’s fabulous illustrations. Then they got married. If you gave this to someone, they’d marry you too.
We Are On Our Own, Miriam Katin
Going outside the small press banner for a second, it seems like most of the best graphic novels are written about oppression. This is the There Will Be Blood of the Holocaust. Wild artwork, great story, We Are On Our Own is a keeper.
Chance in Hell, Gilbert Hernandez
I’ll do a big Gilbert Hernandez post at some point. Palomar is one of my favorite graphic novels ever, and the entirety of Love and Rockets is worthy of the Medal of Honor. With Gilbert the comic books themselves are the best part, as he’s at his best with small stories. This was the exception. Brilliantly executed.
Be sure to check out Yet Another Comics Blog. I have resisted doing a top comics post for awhile because I am not at all an expert, but now I think I am ready to pretend that I am.
I Have Imagined A Center/Wilder Than This Region: A Tribute to Susan Howe
edited by Sarah Campbell
The hugest Susan Howe fan I am not; the biggest Cuneiform Press fanboy I will remain into infinity. Kyle Schlesinger & co. make gorgeous books, and this is a special collection for a poet that many admire. I would and did buy this for the title alone, but the variety and quality of the writing therein makes this worth a purchase even if you’re not into titles with line breaks.
NB: Cuneiform also did this fabulous Bill Berkson book that I shall never tire of.
Buy through here.
A collection of the best of this idiosyncratic press that usually prefers staples. A bound edition seems to suit them fine as well.
Complete Minimal Poems, Aram Saroyan
Ugly Duckling Presse
Usually it annoys me when small presses focus on reprints as opposed to new work, but not when it comes to the eternal genius of Ugly Ducking Presse. Here’s you’ll find a long overdue collection of volumes of poetry sought by collectors. Saroyan is the son of William, and his funny minimal poems recall Queneau, or if Tao Lin‘s toes wrote poems. This collection is indispensable, my plan is to only give it to one woman, but I may well hand out a few before then.
Anthony Banks’ British magazine with great fiction, poetry and art. It’s worth importing if you can’t find it here.
Best Chapbook Series:
Octopus Press Chapbook Series
So many fabulous aspects of Zach Schomburg‘s classic chapbook series. Anything that has work by Jen Tynes and Erika Howsare is by proxy a sequence of intellectual inspiration and merit, but the diversity of the series and the care in making the design between books similar but also distinctive is what stands out here.
An absence of collaborative work in mainstream publishing is one of the major ways the industry has failed its readers, and nowhere is that more evident in Brandon Shimoda and Phil Cordelli’s ongoing effort. Their latest release, found in a Black Sabbath vinyl with accompanying booklet, redefines original packaging and creativity in the form, taking “Projective Verse” to a satisfyingly literal new level.
Best Full Press Subscription:
The standard in full press subscriptions, Ugly Duckling Press found a new home this year and subsequently embarked on their best annual output ever. I think I will probably do a separate post to describe all the important contributions that Ugly Duckling has already made on my life, but their full presse subscription is sooooo cheap and so utterly amazing that you’ll be kicking yourself in twenty years if you didn’t at least try to subscribe. They are the golden mean in the quality and sheer output of what they do, and we can only pray to a God we never believe existed that they go on producing this phenomenal books until the sun in the sky goes dark.
jAy Millar’s (not a typo) one man show in Canada is a medley of eclectic titles, and he deserves a far broader audience. Kemeny Babineau’s chapbook VBD Wordlist, for example, continues to blow my mind.
If you seriously think that book culture has abandoned you, you are now realizing that it is you who has abandoned book culture.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He’d like to thank publications that found a home for his work this year. If you want to send him freebies, you are more than welcome to; like most Sicilians, he can be bought. You can e-mail him here.
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
Will on Gertrude Stein.