Accents Publishing releases anthology of poetry
By Michael Dean Benton
One of Lexington’s independent presses, Accents Publishing, is premiering its newest anthology of poems this month – Bigger Than They Appear: Anthology of Very Short Poems. The world premiere will officially kick off with a public reading downtown at the Carnegie Center on December 8 at 6:00 P.M. Over forty of the featured poets will be at the reading.
The notion of a world premiere is not publicity hype, for this anthology is truly international in scope. There are authors from Singapore, Philippines, Germany and Canada, as well as closer here to home, including 60 poems from Kentucky. Over a thousand poets submitted a grand total of 7,000 poems to the project. The finished anthology is a representation of the work of 192 poets and 250 poems from those original submissions.
Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, the editor of the volume and the founder of Accents Publishing, states that this wide range is intentional as the press is very consciously local in its origin while remaining global in its reach. In this particular anthology, and in Accents Press as a whole, they incorporate the spirit of a local independent press with the broader perspective that engages the world’s cultures.
Accents Publishing is supported entirely by book sales and contests. To this day they have not applied for grants and they are not affiliated with any university or institution. Katerina states that this makes it harder on them financially, but they find the advantage of independence and speed of decision making well worth it. She believes that cutting edge poetry will continue to be published by small, independent presses that are not afraid to publish what they love. In this, the democratization of publishing is a wonderful thing.
I asked Katerina why the focus on shorter poems for this new anthology: “I have always loved writing very short poems. I’ve been teaching workshops on how to write them. That was the topic from my graduation lecture; and my mentor, Molly Peacock, said that it would be really cool if I put together an anthology of very short poems. That was in 2009. I remembered the idea, and eventually made it reality.”
The anthology demonstrates not only a diversity of authors, but also represents a wide range of subjects. Place, community, language, representation, environment, bodies, identity, questions, pleasure, anxiety, need, things and rituals, are but some of the inspirations. It is a book that one can live with a long time, dipping in and out, pulling out momentary pleasures to be enjoyed over time. It also encompasses a wide range of emotions; you can feel the distillation of the poets’ lives condensed into these compact, powerful poems.
Do not be fooled, though. These poems may be short, but they carry a richness and depth that informs all poetry worth reading. Like all good poetry, I find myself wanting to read these poems over and over, and to read them out loud. Just as importantly, I find myself transported on a wave of thought at the implications of the poets’ words – connecting to the realities of other people and other places, while reflecting on my own place and culture:
“Independence” by Nancy Fierstein
This land is mine,
this land mine’s mine—
I found it in the street
How lucky for me!
I continue to be.
I hobble, wobble,
on my own new feet.
The impact of this poem hit me multiple times throughout the first reading. I stopped and started, revised and reconceived, reread and revised. Amazed at what I first felt and then somber when I revised my notion. In a few words it engages us in a multitude of images and feelings.
As with all good anthologies, this book will serve as a guide for good poets who can engage in a dialogue about the world. Accents Publishing as a whole operates in this way. They provide quality chapbooks of single author poem collections. Recent collections include Bianca Spriggs’ How Swallowtails Become Dragons (2011) and Matthew Haughton’s Bee-Coursing Box (2011):
“After Loving a Pretty Man” by Bianca Spriggs
Give me a man who wears his scars on the outside.
I can work with imperfect. I know what to do
with contradiction. A man who will stare
his faults down in the mirror
and not blanch, knows
when I hold him,
I am not so easily exchanged for another.
Katerina has also published her own dual language – English/Bulgarian on facing pages – collection of poems entitled The Air Around the Butterfly (Fakel Express, 2009). Svetlozar Igov aptly describes it as “lapidary poetry.” Like the previously mentioned Accent Press books, the poetry stops me in my tracks. I am trained to consume large amounts of information at a glance; reading it, my brain pauses, allows me to grasp the beautiful stillness of life’s wonders unfolding on the page. Like in her poem “My Personality” they are “Unfolding before you/like a Swiss Army knife.”
Reflecting on all of these poems, I asked Katerina why she believes poetry is important: “Poetry is representation of the emotional world of our times. It is more important than reading news or watching TV. Also, poetry changes you. The words connect with you and after hearing a really good poem, you feel larger, your world gets bigger in a way that cannot be accomplished by anything else.”
Speaking with the poet Don Boes earlier this week, he mentioned that Katerina often seems to be doing the work of three people. In addition to founding Accents Publishing in 2010 and acting as its Editor-in-Chief, she also runs a weekly radio show on WRFL. The role of the Accents radio show is to promote the arts – local, national and international alike. Katerina sees it as serving multiple purposes. “I want the show to have guests with amazing accomplishments and at the same time, I want every writer in the audience to feel he or she could be a part of the show. I want the show to be inclusive, that’s why we have the ‘writing prompt of the week’ segment – it is a treat for me to read creative work by the listeners, or even invite them to read it themselves. The show has strong local roots, but reaches far, and we have featured more than a few internationally known authors.”
Katerina also is a member of the Poezia writing group which has been meeting weekly for almost 5 years. The group is free and open to anyone. The poets meet every Thursday at 7:00 P.M. at Common Grounds, and every Tuesday at 7:00 P.M. – the prose writers.
Accents Publishing also has an annual writing contest. The next one will be for chapbook-length manuscripts of 20 to 30 poems. They published seven books out of their last chapbook contest in 2010. The contest will open in February and run until the end of June. In general, readers can check on the website for news/contests/books/etc. at www.accents-publishing.com.
Katerina is also a regular at the monthly Holler poetry readings at Al’s Bar. I would like to encourage you to show up for the next gathering on December 21(corner of Sixth and Limestone). This is a fantastic forum for listening to some of the region’s premiere poets as well as to observe the development of new voices.
If you have the opportunity this holiday season, support local presses like Accents by stopping by The Morris Book Shop on Tates Creek Road and picking up a few chapbooks as gifts. Even better, provide the most important gift to yourself and others: develop your own creativity and share it.