Interview About Tupelo Press

Tupelo Press IconAuthor: Deborah McAlister

We are a literary not-for-profit press, publishing the best writing we uncover, amongst the thousands of manuscripts we have the grueling privilege to read each year. With a quick glance at our 100+ book backlist, you will see a great variety of styles – we have no one aesthetic, other than that ringing feeling when a poet lures you in, makes you want more. Our founder and Editor-in-Chief, Jeffrey Levine, has an outstanding track record discovering new talent, as well as great loyalty to poets he has published over the years.

We notice, but are not overly swayed by a poets’ journal publication credits – as they say, it’s all in the details. Furthermore, we print books, not single poems, collections that somehow make sense as a whole. We agree this is a mysterious process. But believe me, weaker poems have nowhere to hide.

While we are happily overwhelmed by the amount of talent out there, and remain open, eager for new voices, the competition is intense and our resources are stretched in this challenging environment. A large number of manuscripts come in from faculty of colleges across the nation; there are not enough outlets for the beautiful (if not profitable) poetry collections out there. Our poets teach all around the country – at Davidson , Smith, Oberlin, UNC…the list goes on and on.

Who are your readers?

I don’t know a practicing poet who wouldn’t love to be a Tupelo poet…so, we are known and read, in the narrow poetry world, but less so amongst the broader world of readers who rely on mainstream book reviews, such as The New York Times Book Review, which gives more coverage to the output of large, well-known, for profit publishers. Just last week, I was glad to see the Los Angeles Review of Books review of Stacey Waite’s, the lake has no saint, under the headline “Who is Who: Pronouns, Gender and Merging Selves.”

What’s New at Tupelo?

Our expansion into fiction and non-fiction.

Floyd Skloot’s heartbreaking story collection, Cream of Kohlrabi, (we also published Floyd’s Selected Poems in 2007) won the Bronze Medal in ForeWord Magazine’s 2011 Adult Fiction Book of the Year Awards; David Huddle’s latest novel, Nothing Can Make Me Do This; and we are thrilled by the response to our collection of interview/essays, A Poet in the House: Poets Talk About Faith edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler.

Lee Upton’s new book, Swallowing the Sea: On Writing… is generating a lot of excitement, with an excerpt featured on Poetry Daily.

Contemporary poetry is wildly variable, but rarely as difficult to decipher as the ‘ancients’ we read in school. In my case, poetry began with Paradise Lost – I can barely wade through it now without feeling ignorant. But even in that case, I have a suggestion for the beleaguered student – listen for sound, pattern, as you would in music.

In our chaotic world, people need poetry and the arts more than ever.

When you dive into our books, you’ll find myriad lives to identify with.

Poets sharing their access to universal truths, emotions, experiences – our common humanity.

Poetry can’t be owned, like a painting; beautiful words are accessible to all.

The pleasure of poetry is not just for the few, if you read the right poets!