Sunday, April 14, 2024

Cri de coeur about Tinfish Press


Warning: cri de coeur. Tinfish editor, Jaimie Nagle, sent me the inventory from pssc warehouse this morning. They are in possession of hundreds of Tinfish books, two of which were published by Jaimie and Donovan Kūhiō Colleps, the rest by me from 1995-2018 or so. I'd be happy to share the list with anyone who wants to see it.
I founded Tinfish to argue that there are, in the Pacific, writing practices that are similar to those found in experimental poetry on the North American coasts, but that these practices are used to very different effect. I founded Tinfish to publish the kinds of books I wanted to teach to a student body that was mostly not white. If a Language poet deliberately plays with language to show how to undermine it, then a Tinfish poet often wrote out of language that had already been broken (by colonialism, for example). Eric Chock teased me once that he thought I was trying to change the literary culture of Hawai`i. Out of my profoundest naivete, perhaps that was true. If it was, it failed in the larger sense, but added an alternative to the mix in this very mixed place. 
With the volunteer, or near volunteer, participation over the years of Gaye Chan and her stable of design colleagues and students, Allison Hanabusa, and Jeff Sanner, Tinfish created an archive that opened the field considerably. There were a few significant superstar texts: Lisa Linn Kanae's _Sistah Tongue_; Barbara Jane Reyes's _Poeta en San Francisco_; a book by an author who later threatened to sue us and moved his work to another publisher (an ugly chapter in the narrative); Kaia Sand's _Remember to Wave_. All these books sold enough to keep us afloat so that we could publish books we believed in just as much, but had a smaller audience. Between the 20 issue journal, chapbooks and books, Tinfish published hundreds of authors, many of whom hadn't heard of each other. Two of them, Pam Brown and Maged Nabil, even wrote a chapbook together.
In my experience, most books, if they sell, sell early, and then languish unless their authors keep pushing them, or unless they fill a hole that may not have been recognized before. The SPD warehouse was flush with our books and those of many other presses. Even the aforementioned superstar books remained in the dozens of copies at the warehouse. 
Jaimie Nagle and the current Tinfish folks opted to go exclusively with spd. I had sold through our website; Bryant had become a world expert in the USPS by doing our shipping for us (more free labor). Jaimie doesn't have the room for these old books, nor do I. I grieve for the amazing poems, designs, hopes and fears that each of these books brought forth into the material world. I grieve for the trees that were sacrificed for art. I grieve, in no small sense, for my own career, which made sense to me in large part because of these books and what they represented. My office also contained boxes and boxes of old inventory (especially from the days before POD options). 
There are so many more important, life and death, events in this world now. There's world history to witness and worry about. But this takes a chunk out of me. Buy books. I'd like to think they matter. (They are matter, after all.)
My profound thanks to every Tinfish author, reader, and worker. 

No comments: