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A surveillance of small presses outside the Canadian border

By Spencer Gordon

 

Mud Luscious Press

As the ground freezes over and spring seems so achingly distant, we might benefit from another warm jaunt south of the border. This edition of Border Patrol examines the very-spring-like enthusiasm and cummings-esque exuberance of Port Collins, Colorado’s Mud Luscious Press, purveyors of perfect-bound novel(la)s, chapbooks and online lit.

J.A. Tyler, Mud Luscious’ Founding Editor and all around whirlwind of literary productivity (he’s the author of 10 books, review editor of Rumble and sits on the editorial teams of Dzanc Books, Monkeybicycle and Tarpaulin Sky), started the press in 2007 in a reversal of typical trajectories. Whereas many presses fold due to print costs and seek out the forgiving medium of online publishing, Mud Luscious Press began as an online quarterly. It was a way for Tyler to read more online literature before moving on to producing physical (and comparatively expensive) books. “It has really become the foundation of our press,” Tyler says of his ever-expanding e-mag, “letting us learn [about] new authors, see new words and accept new texts without the worry of budgets, publicity, design work and so on.” With the constant help of associate editor Andrew Borgstrom, the online quarterly now basically runs itself, says Tyler. “In our minds, there are very few (if any) drawbacks to publishing an online quarterly, and we imagine doing it until literally everything else falls apart.”

The next step for Mud Luscious was to add chapbooks, beginning in 1998 with Ken Baumann’s cardstock-printed and stapled poem “Y2K.” Since then, the crew has published 57 chapbooks, with 10 slotted for release in 2011.

Their next venture was a perfect-bound novel(la) series, inspired by and launched with Molly Gaudry’s We Take Me Apart in 2009. “The push to begin our novel(la) series (and our subsequent anthologies) came from reading Gaudry’s chapbook submission called ‘Parts,'” Tyler explains. He liked her work so much that he wanted more, and when he saw Gaudry comment on her blog that she was already writing more of it, he told her Mud Luscious was interested. “We told her we would publish her work as a book if she could write it as a book,” he remembers.

Tyler’s excitement and passion for Gaudry’s work is echoed in his descriptions of Mud Luscious’ most recent batch of books; his enthusiasm and love for what he promotes and produces is obvious and infectious. He calls Sasha Fletcher’s When All Our Days Are Numbered Marching Bands Will Fill the Streets & We Will Not Hear Them Because We Will Be Upstairs in the Clouds “wonderfully strange and surreal and rhythmic” and Ben Brooks’ An Island of Fifty “mesmerizing” without a trace of artifice.

“Our first three novel(la)s have taught me so much about words, so much about how to write with fury and damage, and our next three, Norman Lock’s Grim Tales, Michael Stewart’s The Hieroglyphics, and Mathias Svalina’s I Am A Very Productive Entrepreneur will do just the same, keeping Mud Luscious Press at the forefront of literature that expands you with its words.”

According to the press’ submissions guidelines, Mud Luscious is committed to publishing “aggressive and raw texts.” Tyler elaborates on these terms in an appropriately vigorous manner: “They’re words that you cannot stop reading; the books that you finish in one sitting and return to again the next day. And even more so, it means the texts that feel so beautifully broken and new, phrases that you have never seen rendered in such a way, sentences that read like wreckage, mangles of words that you cannot look away from.”

The next two years have already been stocked with titles that make Tyler “salivate as an editor, a publisher and a writer.” 2012 will include works such as Gregory Sherl’s The Oregon Trail is the Oregon Trail, Ben Brooks’ fourth book Upward Coast & Sadie and the re-release of CanLit underground superstar Ken Sparling’s debut book (previously published by Knopf) Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall. The following year will see the release of Sherl’s second book, Swallow, and Michael Kimball’s Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard).

Tyler and the press may have enough enthusiasm to keep the press going for years, but how about funding? “As for financial stability, we have always rolled every dollar earned into the next project,” says Tyler. “One book pays for the next. So as long as we continue to find books that appeal to readers, books that readers will purchase, we will have the opportunity to continue publishing great words. Every penny we receive goes back into the press for future books. Our online contributors are unpaid. We pay our chapbook contributors in a subscription to the series and contributor copies. We pay our novel(la) authors in a royalty percentage and contributor copies. We would love to pay our staff, but we only do so now in gifted books and subscriptions to all that MLP publishes.”

But alas — our tour is once again over. We return to our homes to wait out the ice, envisioning the first buds of spring and the arrival of true muddy weather. If you’re missing the action, you can revisit the lush fertility of Tyler’s vision anytime at Mud Luscious Press’ Spartan but navigable website, mudlusciouspress.com.

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