97. Poetry goes mainstream with the indies

The tour also featured some of Germany’s more prominent poetry presses, including poetenladen, Luxbooks and Verlagshaus J. Frank, along with Seel’s own press, kookbooks. Andreas Heidtmann, publisher of poetenladen, explained how his press has taken “the opposite approach” to that of most presses — namely from publishing digitally to publishing in print. The two complement each other well, since many readers who discover poets online want to buy “the real thing” in book form. Heidtmann also spoke about the renaissance of German contemporary poetry over the last few years. He attributes it to the growing number of independent presses and online magazines for poetry, which are, in his opinion, the true experts and champions of the form.

Daniela Seel from kookbooks confirmed that poetry is experiencing a comeback, and she pointed out that presses like kookbooks are active participants on the literary scene; they know their readers and cater to them, both in selecting the books they publish and creating unique events (for instance, kookbooks organized a series of literary walks last summer).

We were also introduced several presses which published a mix of poetry, essays, nonfiction and conceptual art. ]Luxbooks earned a name for itself by publishing poetry, mostly from renowned American poets, but often with an original twist. For example, their John Ashberry collection features translations by 27 up and coming German poets. In 2013 they also started publishing prose (e.g. by Tao Lin, Paul la Farge, Amy Hempel and Alan Sepinwall). As Luxbooks puts it: “we want to prove that a glutton can also be a gourmet” when it comes to books.

(…) Meanwhile, the new voices from presses like Voland & Quist or Mairisch are finding their way to younger audiences via audio books, DVDs and even apps. But as poetenladen’s publisher reminds us, in Germany readers of all ages are still interested in reading “the real thing,” it’s those beautiful books which are made to last which draw the readers to Leipzig in droves. In Germany, maybe we’ll see how digital and print can complement each other and thrive. The efforts of these presses in 2014 point to a bright, interactive future for reading, whichever form it may take. / Joy Hawley, publishingperspectives.com

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