Over a glass table and several glasses of wine, the collective at What Books Press was born. They are cultural workers, made up of professors, poets, filmmakers, and, as bloguero Daniel Olivas mentioned, a haunting and famous L.A. artist, Gronk.
Poet and professor at LMU, Alicia Partnoy said the Glass Table Collective were fed up with non-responding publishers and ego-filled editors when they decided to form their own publishing company, What Books Press.
The non-writers in the group, Partnoy’s husband Antonio and artist Gronk add dimension and perspective. Alicia says, “Gronk and Antonio keep us sane because they are not writers.” Their logo is a piece by Gronk, a book stranded on an island. Partnoy says What Books aims to save those stranded books.
The story of how the group came to be and the friendships they’ve formed is at the heart of What Books Press, a labor of love in itself. Colleagues at What Books Press and LMU, professors Gail Wrongsky and Alicia Partnoy, have grown their friendship over the past ten years, so much so that both poets have translated each others work.
When Alicia decided to translate Gail Wrongsky’s So Quick Bright Things, poems about A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Alicia learned more about Shakespeare from Gail as she bemoaned the awful Argentine translation she had studied. She sat in Gail’s Shakespeare class at LMU in order to soak up the surrealist poems in conversation with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The result is a whimsical bilingual text, worth reading even if, heaven forbid, you’ve never read the Bard. The bilingual book features Gronk’s Neue Sachlichkeit, mixed media on paper on the cover. The cover depicts a blue cake, red candles and a devil figure behind the cake. Gail knew immediately when she saw Gronk’s images that she wanted that as the cover for So Quick Bright Things.
Gronk has told the collective they have full use of his images for the covers of What Books Press. When the East L.A. born artist was creating his first book, he chose not to do a splashy coffee table book, but rather have his book look like a book of poems or fiction. The enigmatic artist may have an intimidating scowl, but he laughs a lot and lights up when he talks about his work. He describes his book, The Giant Claw, as his uncensored visual diary. Each drawing says something and Gronk challenges the reader to find the humor in his work.
What Books publishes poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, and the visual as represented by Gronk. For now their books are print on demand and there is no submission process; instead they invite selected authors. The future of What Books Press looks very bright with more anthologies and the publication of books by contest winners. The current goal is to make the books in hand more accessible to readers.
More Readings and Information Panels from What Books Press at Beyond Baroque, February 18 and at the ALOUD series at the Los Angeles Public Library, panel moderated by Susan Salter Reynolds March 22.
Excerpt from Gail Wrongsky's So Quick Bright Things, What Books Press 2010.
A Cultural Thing
We Latinas want
sharp profiles and visible
says the queen. The moon's
asbestos and so on. Blood
spattered on the windowpane.
through the cracks in his
Eagle warrior mask for
a glimpse of something infinite---
Una Cosa Cultural (translation by Alicia Partnoy)
Nosotras Latinas deseamos
perfiles definidos y un misterio
dice la reina. El asbesto
de la luna y todo eso. Sangre
que salpica el cristal de la ventana.
Teseo espía a través
de las ranuras de su máscara
de guerra un Aguila en
busca del destello de algo infinito---
There are also some exciting poetry readings and panels this weekend, including the prison poetry panel featuring
Robert Juarez, Rolando Ortiz, Hugo Machuca, Melinda Palacio, and Luis J. Rodriguez at La Palabra reading series, Avuenue 50 Studio, 313 N. Avenue 50, Highland Park, 323, 258-1435.
On Saturday, January 22 enjoy a full day of poetry and short stories. Afternoon Poetry Reading at the Pasadena Public Library, 999 E. Washington Blvd from 3pm to 5pm features Michael Cluff, Frank Mundo, Sojourner Rolle and more.
Thelma Reyna reads at the Jose Vera Fine Arts & Antiques, Saturday, January 22 at 7pm, 2012 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, 90041.