Spotlight: Locked Horn Press (part 2 of 8)
In our first official meeting, the founding editors of Locked Horn Press (LHP) had a vigorous conversation about the direction of our inaugural project. This led to the establishment of our name and an acknowledgement of the drive behind our shared work: to publish themed companion pieces that are interventions in and of themselves, while sparking dialogue through their relationship with each other.
We began crafting Read Women: An Anthology with the understanding that we live in a contemporary age, and wanted to create a space for emerging/up-and-coming poets. We wanted to create an anthology that collected and honored the legacy of amazing female poets, and who we feel are poets that have either already impacted the contemporary literary scene or are just beginning to create momentum for themselves with their work.
Our second collection, Gendered & Written: Forums on Poetics, responds to Read Women: An Anthology by offering reflections from poets of various genders on, it turns out, their processes of engagement with writing and the world in which that writing takes place. It is worth pointing out that the English language itself is very limiting in its representation of gender. Many people respond to this by transforming the language itself, sometimes by revitalizing archaic linguistic origins, sometimes by invoking the specificities of other languages. At the same time, these issues are alive in daily communication and often show up even within attempts to address them: at one point we requested “favorite lines by women poets” and were kindly reminded by a contributor that we were excluding trans and two-spirited poets through our wording.
Not unrelatedly, the imperative monachre of Read Women points to an active choice that remains necessary in 2014. An early imagining of that anthology, before Gendered & Written fully became realized, hoped to include statements on gender and influences from the contributing poets. CM Burroughs offered:
I would exist in choke were I not able to articulate the female body; no thing is so urgent, present, manipulated, aggressive, and at stake! I generally have a distant relationship to the exclamation punctuation, but I use it here to express, doubly, that the body is a vulnerable creation. My art is to materialize the female form anew—again, again, a gain. I work so that all her states of being are thoroughly evoked and experiential.
Like CM Burroughs, several of the contributors to this collection are also anthologized in Read Women. Some LHP invited through recommendation from those authors and others we contacted directly, in a few cases without prior introduction. Although the writers included here are primarily of North American experience, multiple contexts within which poetry takes place unfold throughout this collection. The contributors span several generations and come from a myriad of backgrounds and experiences. While the process of editing the book inevitably gave us feelings of “how could we not have asked that poet?” and “if only we had more time”—and doubtless we will be nagged by variations of these themes for years to come—some of our favorite moments were in recognizing the names of contributors to Read Women and Gendered & Written in other writers’ responses to our questions. More to the point, the reflections here are at times substantial, contradictory, and moving.
In gathering the poets’ thoughts together in a single document, what we found was a remarkable conversation that blossomed organically—what were once isolated interview responses soon grew into what felt like a robust discussion. We didn’t have a collection of interviews, we had a dialogue.
So, despite the fact that LHP opened the doors to this discussion via individual and, albeit, private means, we soon found that these poets were speaking somehow to each other, regardless of the fact that they were not aware of their fellow contributors’ responses. As such, the presentation of the project shifted in relation to the dialogue we found unfolding. We curated responses to not only compliment one another, but more importantly perhaps, to also complicate one another, to enhance one another, and to digress from one another.
Rather than providing answers or making final judgments about the role gender plays in poetics, Gendered & Written aims to acknowledge how different poets, from their different vantage points, relate to gender’s significance, so to allow for multiple arcs of dialogue. As Melissa Sipin asserts, the literature that comes from that self is, too, always in conversation with others. This book, then, showcases a dialogue on what Sipin calls “this communicative thread and continuum” of writing. It is also, and perhaps more importantly, a book about how poets, who are also readers, feel about their writing—how they view it, perceive it and live it. TJ Dema notes, “I have lived familiarly with a certain degree of cognitive dissonance since I was a little girl. Not atypically I’ve adapted to accommodate myself […] I like to burrow and see how the roots work, why they compensate this or that way and to tug slowly at my own ideas.”
As a companion piece to Read Women: An Anthology, we at LHP hope that Gendered & Written will allow readers to revisit Read Women with a more keen eye, by understanding not just where the poets themselves stand on issues of gender in poetics but also as a means of understanding a part of what the larger conversation on gender in poetry is—to see the poems as products of a world in which gender has influence, whether that influence be deemed primary, significant or not. As many of the contributors point out, their lives and poetics are shaped by gender and by more-than-gender. This collection makes no claim of being the conversation; it is merely the beginning and continuation of something larger—a triggering of debate, of awareness, of insight. It is a building block for intellectual thought and contemplation that we hope will continue to blossom and evolve. So, please think of Gendered & Written as more case study than attempt at verdict, more collection of manifestos than factual conclusions, more palette of voices than single brush stroke.
Sara Eliza Johnson, in her poetic statement in Gendered & Written, reminds us that “poetry, like gender itself, is a dynamic.” We hope that the discussion opens doors for a much larger, more dynamic conversation, for an opportunity to engage with poetry and the world by opening up the forum to many voices—yours included.
To our contributors and Advisory Board, to Ilya Kaminsky for his mentorship, and to all readers, gratitude and light,
Locked Horn Press
(For part one of our Spotlight on Locked Horn Press please click here.)