Thursday, June 25, 2020

the ottawa small press book fair : home edition #5 : Puddles of Sky Press,

Michael e. Casteels wrestles with robots in existential-crisis, dinosaurs that refuse extinction, alphabets in various stages of explosion/implosion, and many other serious topics, like century-long bus rides, and the way the clouds look right now. His first collection of poetry, The Last White House at the End of the Row of White Houses, was published in autumn of 2016 by Invisible Publishing, and a chapbook collaboration with Nick Papaxanthos is new with above/ground press. He lives in Kingston, where he runs Puddles of Sky Press.

Q: Tell me about your press. How long have you been publishing, and what got you started?

Puddles of Sky Press produces handmade chapbooks of poetry, with a focus on surrealist, minimalist, and concrete/visual poetry.

My friend Andrew Nurse and I started the press over 15 years ago when we were both living in Peterborough. We started it as an avenue to help one another publish poetry zines, which we distributed to friends and family. We shared production materials like staplers and paper cutters and printers, and when we could, we’d help with some printing costs for others. Through the press we also hosted a number of poetry readings in Peterborough.

When I moved to Kingston 10 years ago I continued publishing my work under the Puddles of Sky imprint. Through Stuart Ross, the 2010 Queen’s Writer in Residence, I became aware of the broader community of chapbook presses. With some encouragement from Stuart I began publishing work from other writers. I also became more focused on the quality of my publications—moving away from zine publishing, towards finer crafted chapbooks.

Q: How many times have you exhibited at the ottawa small press fair? How do you find the experience?

Over a dozen times now—I easily lose track of time, so I’m not sure of the exact number.

Sometimes, sale-wise, the fair can be hit-or-miss. Some fairs I’ll sell a whack of chapbooks, and some fairs I’ll hardly make my gas money back. But really, if I were in chapbook publishing to make money then I’d have been out of the game 15 years ago.

The best part about the Ottawa Small Press Fair is the community. Most of the folks I see there I only see there, twice a year. It’s my time to connect with other writers, peers, and friends. I’ve made some incredible relationships through the Ottawa Small Press Fair. They’re a welcoming bunch.

Q: Would you have made something specific for this spring’s fair? Are you still doing that? How does the lack of spring fair this year effect how or what you might be producing?

I usually base my production schedules around the Small Press Fairs. I’m a professional procrastinator. Usually the week leading up the fair has me awake until 2:30 a.m., proofing, printing, cutting, stamping, sewing, trimming, etc. I love that rush that leads up to the fair.

I had a few projects lined up for this June’s. One was rubber-stamped chapbook by MA|DE (a collaboration between Mark Laliberte and Jade Wallace).  Another was a self-published chapbook of new minimalist poems. These two projects are on the back burner for now. I’m waiting for the impulse to start working on them. Without that impulse I’d really feel like I was forcing the production, and that would take a lot of the fun out of the project. I’m certain that drive will arise at some point in the near future.

Q: How are you, as a small publisher, approaching the myriad shut-downs? Is everything on hold, or are you pushing against the silences, whether in similar or alternate ways than you might have prior to the pandemic? How are you getting your publications out into the world?

One project I have continued is the Puddles of Sky Postcard Series. I’ve published 4 postcards since March. I haven’t been selling any of them, but I’ve been sending them out to friends and family and other writers. It’s how I’ve managed to keep in touch. Rather than sending an email or a facebook message I just jot down a quick note and pop it in the mail. Having over 800 postcards on hand makes that pretty easy.

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?

To be honest, I’ve sort of retreated from the world for the past few months. I haven’t been on social media since mid-March, and I’ve been trying to curb my internet activities as much as possible. I’ve never liked video calls, so I’ve really cut myself off from the larger community for now.

On the flip side of this I’ve been incredibly productive with my own writing and visual art work. I feel like it’s been a good, and healthy retreat—sort of a social hibernation. I’m back to work now, so I imagine I’ll start reconnecting with the larger literary community before long.

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?

All of my supplies are pretty easily accessed. Since most of my recent publications have been rubber-stamped, I have a surplus of materials to work from. I’ve probably got enough paper and ink to last me two or three pandemics.

Q: What are your most recent publications? How might people still be able to order copies?

The most recent publications are the new Puddles of Sky Postcards. Two from myself. One from collage artist Sean F’n Gammon. And most recently, an installment of jwcurry’s Welcome to Concrete Series. They’re not up on the website yet, but this interview is the push I need to update that, so expect to see them there soon.

Q: What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on the 9th draft of a novel. Working on a series of comic book collages. Plus writing postcards, typing letters, and slowly crawling out from my cave and re-entering the world at large. 

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