Spotlight: Pittsburgh’s Low Ghost Press… Local Publisher
Pittsburgh’s Low Ghost Press will be launching two poetry collections on July 23rd at East End Book Exchange — Ally Malinenko’s Better Luck Next Year (Low Ghost Press #6) and Jason Irwin’s A Blister of Stars (Low Ghost Press #7)!
We recently caught up with Low Ghost Press publisher and editor-in-chief Kristofer Collins to find out a little bit more about the press and its forthcoming publications — which Collins was kind enough to let us excerpt right here on Littsburgh.
As Collins mentions below, Low Ghost publishes limited run editions, so we’re looking forward to picking up these new releases at the book launch (a triple book launch with John Grochalski, whose latest collection is forthcoming from Pittsburgh’s Six Gallery Press)! For those who can’t make it, after the event you may be able to find copies at Caliban Book Shop, which Collins manages…
Can you tell us a little bit about the press?
So Low Ghost was founded, if that’s the word for it, in 2008. I was invited to do a reading and I had a large group of newer poems that hadn’t been published as of yet. So I decided that rather than work with Six Gallery Press, who had done a lovely job on my previous two collections, that I would go old school and quickly print up a small batch of fold and staple chapbooks of the new work. I limited the run to 50 copies and then as a last minute idea I threw the Low Ghost Press #1 label on the back cover. So the press really started as a little joke on my part, giving that chapbook a tongue-in-cheek kind of legitimacy. Really it was just something I found funny. I had no plans of doing anything else with Low Ghost. It was only meant to be a one-off thing.
However, people seemed to like that little book and were especially interested in this whole Low Ghost Press thing. Was I accepting manuscripts for consideration? That’s when I started to think about LG as possibly being something bigger. I know a lot of very talented poets. Pittsburgh is teeming with the critters. And at the time I felt these great writers that I knew were really under-served by the publishing community. So I thought maybe I should start publishing them. Maybe Low Ghost could be a real publishing house. Enter the poet John Grochalski. I’ve known Grochalski since high school and I know his poetry inside and out. I felt comfortable enough with my abilities and my knowledge of his work to suggest to him that we should do a book together. By that time I had come up with the design (a black & gold homage to the City Lights Pocket Poets series), the limited edition idea (only 100 numbered copies), and the editorial ethos (I don’t want to read manuscripts. I want to sit down with a giant stack of poems and then work with the poet to create a book, not just a collection of poems but a book with a strong narrative thrust). To my eternal thankfulness John agreed to all of those terms. The result was Glass City, Low Ghost #2, which to my mind is really where Low Ghost starts. My chapbook, The Book of Names was a hastily made group of poems, but Glass City was a fully realized statement with an incredibly strong narrative thrust that carries the reader from start to finish. That took roughly one year of work.
Since then Low Ghost has published books by Bob Pajich, Scott Silsbe, Chuck Kinder, and Adam Matcho. And Scott Silsbe has come aboard as co-editor, and Nathan Kukulski as our lay-out and grammar guru.
How’d you come by the name Low Ghost?
The name Low Ghost actually comes from the San Francisco Renaissance poet Jack Spicer. He’s a poet that was very concerned about language, word origins, etc. And he also really liked puns. Low Ghost is his take on the Greek word logos meaning ‘word’. It also has an interesting spiritual component with Low Ghost paralleling the Christian Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. I liked the extra dimensions that bubbled up the more I thought about the term. Also, it sounds pretty damn cool.
Ally and Jason have been on our radar for a long time. I’ve known Ally Malinenko since the mid-1990’s (she’s John Grochalski’s wife, btw) and have always admired her poetry. It was really just a matter of having the right project. When Ally was in town to launch her How to Be an American poetry collection with Six Gallery Press last year she told me about what she was working on. I knew about the cancer diagnosis and we’d been talking a lot while she was going through it (and, really, she’s still going through it). She told me about the cancer poems she’d been writing but not really showing to anyone. I told her that when she was ready I wanted to read them. And one day around the beginning of this year she sent me a huge file of poems. i knew right away I wanted to make this book with her.
I’ve known Jason Irwin for a few years now. I started seeing him at readings around town and when he read his work I was just dumbstruck. It was like waking up one morning to find Philip Levine camping in your backyard. Jason’s writing explores themes of illness, poverty, religion, and family. All of which in lesser hands could come across as maudlin. But not with Irwin’s work. The sheer emotional depth of his poems is incredible. And the dignity with which he allows people to tell their stories through his work is personally very inspiring. Jason’s work might be my Platonic ideal of a Low Ghost book. Scott Silsbe and I, every time we saw him read, would nudge each other as if to say, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could publish him.” And then, incredibly, Jason took us up on the offer. We’d been plying him with drinks all night, so there’s that, too…
For more information on Low Ghost Press, visit www.lowghostpress.blogspot.com.