Rose Solari's Interview in The Kenyon Review Shows Us What it Means to be a Literary Citizen
Kristina Marie Darling from the Kenyon Review sat down with ASP Co-Founder and poet, Rose Solari to talk literary citizenship, ASP, and editing as a career.
The Kenyon Review recently published an interview with ASP's own Rose Solari concerning several different operational and philosophical aspects of the modern independent press. One of the questions that the interviewer, Kristina Marie Darling, posed to Rose inquired about the notion of "literary citizenship," and, specifically, how it "shapes [the] editorial decisions" of a small press.
Literary citizenship is defined by the Monmouth College literary blog, The Wright Stuff, as
"To engage in literary citizenship is to be a part of this community, which involves the crucial acts of buying, reading, reviewing, and promoting books in order to support aspiring and professional writers, as well as encouraging a reading culture."
Rose Solari's answer, on how publishers, specifically independent ones, can foster an environment of literary citizenship, went like this:
I’ll start with the personal side: I grew up fascinated by the stories of the various communities of writers, editors, and publishers that, by working together, change literary history. For example, I’ve often wanted to teleport myself to New England in the 1800’s, to sit in a room with Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson, with Thoreau and Hawthorne and the Peabody sisters, and just listen as they bat ideas around, advise each other, read and discuss each other’s work. Creating that kind of community of mutual respect and support is my ideal, and is the foundation of my ideas of literary citizenship and of Alan Squire Publishing.
It is also extremely important to our vision at ASP that we think vertically as well as horizontally – as we cast our net, we think about depth as well as breadth. I gave a keynote speech on this topic a couple of years ago at one of Maritza Rivera’s inspiring annual Mariposa Poetry Retreats. The title was “Nurturing the Beginners, Honoring the Elders,” and it was, in part, about not getting stuck in your own age group or peer group, but continuing to support and invest in writers of different ages and backgrounds. Our literary culture has a big problem with ageism, and we try to fight that.
So while ASP is committed to bringing new, young voices into print, such as Elizabeth Hazen and her gorgeous first poetry collection, Chaos Theories, we are also deeply committed to publishing older writers. I am particularly proud of our Legacy Series, which honors writers with a long history of indie publishing who also have significant track records of mentoring other writers. We’ve done three of these career-spanning collections so far — The Richard Peabody Reader was the first, followed by Other Voices, Other Lives: A Grace Cavalieri Collection and, forthcoming this fall, Linda Watanabe McFerrin’s Navigating the Divide: Selected Poetry & Prose. It would be hard to find better, more committed literary citizens than these three writers. We at ASP sought them out and engaged them in part as a thank-you for all they’ve done for other writers. Gratitude is key to literary citizenship, in my opinion.
As for book publicity, we are still learning a lot, every day. In the past two years, we’ve added three staff members, each with expertise in various aspects of PR, social media, research, and event planning. Grace Cavalieri being named Poet Laureate of Maryland the year after her Legacy Book came out gave us a big boost so far as visibility and reputation. And of course, there is no one more deserving of any such accolade than Grace.
Next year will be our tenth year, and we are still actively growing and nurturing our networks. Some of our best, most generous support has come from other writers and publishers. And we’ve gotten a lot of insight and education from Andrew Gifford, founder of Santa Fe Writers Project, with whom we have partnered up. SFWP has been around twice as long as ASP, and we have definitely benefited from Andrew’s wisdom and his willingness to share it.
And of course, as a writer, I try to live out my literary citizenship in part by writing blurbs, judging contests, serving on grant committees, and teaching. We all know the amount of jealousy, backbiting, and outright cruelty that can poison a writing community. My motto against that, taken from Liam Clancy of the Clancy Brothers, is “No fear, no envy, no meanness.” Good words to live up to.
Rose Solari is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, The Last Girl, Orpheus in the Park, and Difficult Weather(re-issued by ASP in 2014); the one-act play, Looking for Guenevere; and the novel, A Secret Woman. She has lectured and taught writing workshops at many institutions, including the University of Maryland, St. John’s College, Annapolis, The Jung Society of Washington, and the Centre for Creative Writing at Oxford University’s Kellogg College in Oxford, England. Her work as a journalist includes numerous freelance assignments, as well as positions as a staff writer and editor for SportsFan Magazine and Common Boundary Magazine. Her awards include the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, The Columbia Book Award, and an EMMA for excellence in journalism. She is currently a member of the Advisory Panel for the Centre for Creative Writing at Oxford University’s Kellogg College.
More from Rose Solari
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