The Gigantic Heart of BIRDS LLC
When you get a small press that does such gorgeous and professional work, and at the same time doesn’t sacrifice a moment of heart in the process, you get a something like Birds LLC. They’re like the pinnacle of enthusiasm for contemporary young poet's full-length books. And of reinventing self-publishing. What has given me pause lately is that much of the mainstream poetry world seems somewhat unaware of what’s going on (downstream? in another stream nearby?). It’s not their fault, really, it’s a deeper issue. However, I’m always feeling gloomy after leaving a bookstore and only seeing the usual greats, and not the unusual greats; the ones I get see at a bar down the street, whose work seems so incredibly relevant and important to me. I can’t help but harken back to the fabulous poet, Amy Lawless’s point in one of her reviews of press WONDER’s Mall Witch (a vastly different press, but similar in its dedication) on BOMBLOG:
In making art and poetry we humans need one another. We inspire each other; we lift each other up. Sure, outliers do indeed exist, rage, and delight in privacy, but the existence of Mall Witch recalls this play with joy de vivre, one-ups-manship, and heat. It reminds us of what is possible and how poetry can have no rules (or tells us that any rules we think matter are shit). Johns, Rauschenberg, et al. have shown that having artists to play off of in one’s work has contributed unilaterally to America’s canon.
While essentially Birds LLC is about the singular poet's collection, they always emphasize “a collaboration of editors and authors.” They are a small army of editors, actually: Dan Boehl, Justin Marks, Matt Rasmussen, Sampson Starkweather, and Chris Tonelli. Their most recent book is a honking, outlandishly refreshingly-sized book by editor Sampson Starkweather, majestically called The First 4 Books of Sampson Starkweather. It’s just what it sounds like. Each section is given it’s own title page and cover—another testament to the process of collaboration, in that Birds always works closely with visual artists on their books.
In fact, I have yet to admit that I have a ink-stained finger in this pie…When Birds approached me to illustrate Ana Božičević’s newly released RISE IN THE FALL, they gushed that to have me on board would mean I would be “part of the family” and the collaboration would not be ending with one book. I was introduced to Božičević’s poetry thus, and fell madly in love with its wild, strange tones, and triumphant, spinning language. Since, I’ve never quite felt so warm and fuzzy about a press. Their gigantic spirit and love of poetry and poets is infectious. They have given us such gems as Emily Pettit’s Goat in the Snow, (a truly stunning collection), Sommer Browning’s Either Way I’m Celebrating, and Dan Mager’s Party Knife, a book that continues to blow me away ever time I hear him read from it. Carrie Lorig recently reviewed Ana Bozicevic’s, RISE IN THE FALL, and said that it “pulls at how a woman might be when she has difficult and exhausting and hard things to write about. It pulls out at how she is a speaking, loving thing who must demand from us and rub against us, despite the fact that she knows we still might miss it, that we might not hear her.”
While I’ve always been glad for the intimate audience in poetry, and happily aware of the continuous struggle for recognition in the mainstream, I can’t help but fume when I hear hints that poetry is irrelevant, especially while such enterprises are being ignored by pessimists. What might be "dead" is something distant from what is being reared right now, like a litter of multicolored, wildly different cats in our midst. Genius work, tinged with imperfect singing and celebrating and difficult issue. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Bianca Stone is a poet and visual artist. She is the author of the poetry collections Someone Else’s Wedding Vows (Tin House/Octopus Books, 2014), Poetry Comics from the Book of Hours (Pleiades Books, 2016), and multiple chapbooks. She is also a contributing artist for a special edition of Anne Carson's Antigonick. With her husband, the poet Ben...