Jeff Blackman is a poet and publisher. He has authored 15 chapbooks of poetry and prose including the Coral Castle Trilogy with Jusitn Million, BLIZZARD: Ottawa City Stories with Peter Gibbon, and most recently, You Just Proved Poems Work, available from Horsebroke Press. Check out his May 2020 virtual reading here complete with green screen and lip synching (15 minute mark). Register for Meet the Presses' virtual conference to see him on a magazines and journal panel Sunday, November 29, at noon EST.
Q: Tell me about your press. How long have you been publishing, and what got you started?
Horsebroke Press began around 2010, mainly as a means to self-publish broadsides and chapbooks. In 2020 I’ve focussed on monthly zine production.
Q: How many times have you exhibited at the ottawa small press fair?
I can’t say how many times. The first time I exhibited would have been with In/Words Magazine & Press back in 2007 when the event was at Library & Archives Canada; may have been a special Ottawa Writers Fest edition. I’ve since been there on behalf of The Moose & Pussy, Apt. 9 Press a couple times sitting in for Cameron Anstee, and Horsebroke.
Q: How do you find the experience?
Once you make back the cost of the table, it’s great.
Q: Would you have made something specific for either of this year’s fairs? Are you still doing that? How does the lack of spring or fall fair this year effect how or what you might be producing?
Those are good questions and I have no answers for them.
Q: How are you, as a small publisher, approaching the myriad shut-downs?
I launched a zine in March 2020, the week Ontario shut down, titled These Days. The first one was intentionally intimate. I reached out to a few of my neighbours plus my immediate family, who all happen to be photographers, artists, and poets. Plus Justin Million in Peterborough, my life-long collaborator.
I sent copies to additional family and close friends, and personally invited them to contribute. I continued this, expanding outward month by month, with issue one reaching about fifteen households, then twenty, then thirty, and on it’s gone to now around 50. It’s exclusively a print thing, sent out by regular mail.
I’ve missed a deadline or two, but as of November 2020 I’d received contributions from about 30 friends and family members, and published a half-dozen issues.
After a friend insisted on paying for issue #2, I started accepted donations via https://www.patreon.com/thesedays. The magazine continues to remain free for everyone I’ve ever asked to contribute, and all the money I raise goes back to the contributors. Starting with issue #4 I retroactively paid all contributors an honorarium of $10. As of now I’m now paying $15 honorariums.
Q: Have you done anything in terms of online or virtual launches since the pandemic began? Have you attended or participated in others? How are you attempting to connect to the larger literary community?
The online workshops the Tree Reading Series run are very good. The whole team at Tree has just done an incredible job this year. As has the team behind VERSeFest, and the Riverbed Reading Series, which also launched during the pandemic.
As part of an ongoing series, I’ve interviewed some of the folks behind all three of these events. I was driven part by genuine curiosity, and part by a desire to drum up interest. It’s hard getting anything online going in the endless sea of free content.
And that was one of the driving forces behind launching a mail-only print zine in 2020. To maintain my connections with family and friends, and nurture the connections between them. With the exception of promotion and sales, I’m keeping content offline and have no plans to digitize.
Q: Has the pandemic forced you to rethink anything in terms of production? Are there supplies or printers you haven’t access to during these times that have forced a shift in what and how you produce?
For the first couple issues I was really worried about droplets and would intentionally let the zines sit for a day before mailing them. I’m not so paranoid now and trust Canada Post to keep us safe.
This whole endeavour has all brought me back to my roots, photocopying and stapling black and white art together and just getting it out there. It feels great.
Q: What are your most recent publications? How might folk be able to order copies?
These Days #6 featured photography by my partner, Kate Maxfield, prose by a friend from my salad days, Vanessa Davies, and an interview with Avonlea Fotheringham, VERSeFest administrator, about getting that festival online. Kate’s photography of Lowertown and Centretown is some of her best, and Vanessa’s true story of life in the face of death will move even the most cynical.
I’d also plug issue #5, also still available. I don’t go out looking for themes, but they happen sometimes. I wound up with an entire issue about motherhood, with heartwarming and -breaking poems by Ksenija Spasic, LN Woodward, Gail Blackman (my mom!), and Peter Gibbon. And just an awesome poem by my son as well.
Both of these issues are available via my Etsy store (https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/HorsebrokePress), as are a few other back issues and old chapbooks by Justin and I.
Q: What are you working on now?
Issue #7 will be out in December. I’m hoping for a big holiday issue, but you can’t predict these things.
I’ll be accepting contributions up to Nov 27. You can reach me at email@example.com. That won’t change in 2021.