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UC Press suspends New California Poetry series

By Harriet Staff

In the real sad news category: due to cutbacks, as the Los Angeles TimesJacket Copy reports, University of California Press has decided to suspend the publication of its poetry book series New California Poetry. It seems the press will lose about 10% of direct funding from the University of California. The new director, Alison Mudditt, also blames structural changes in the book industry, and the difficulty inherent in publishing academic books. UC Press had one surprise hit last year, the 738-page Autobiography of Mark Twain, “[b]ut one bestseller — and its sequels, with any luck — cannot forge an entire press.” As for the poetry series:

The books in the “New California Poetry” series, Mudditt explains, frequently find a limited audience. “Most titles sell around 1,000 copies,” she wrote, emphasizing that the series “requires substantial support.”

“They have been wonderfully committed to poetry,” Forrest Gander of Brown University told the Chronicle of [Higher] Education’s PageView blog. “They haven’t been making money on the series, anyway. And they have allowed the editors to choose work based on the quality of the work and not on the potential for sales, which is a big deal.” Gander has served as one of four editors on the series, which launched in 2000; it has published 33 titles by 25 poets.

The series has received plenty of acclaim, and sometimes critical attention has created momentum for a title. “Sleeping with the Dictionary” by Harryette Mullen won the National Book Award and sold about 15 times more than the average “New California Poetry” collection.

UC Press will publish three titles in the series in 2012 and, though it is not currently reviewing manuscripts for 2013, it is working to secure the kind of funding it would take to relaunch the series in the future.

Many of the books in the UC Press New California Poetry series have created lasting impressions. Right off, those by Brian Blanchfield, Laura Mullen, Lisa Robertson, Geoffrey G. O’Brien, Fanny Howe, Brian Teare, Ron Silliman, Juliana Spahr, Keith Waldrop, and Leslie Scalapino come to mind. And along the lines of what Gander noted, it’s certain that university press support of this kind for young, experimental writers is almost unmatched. Here’s hoping for a relaunch!

Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.