Jenna Butler On Rubicon Press

Rubicon is celebrating its 21st publication and so I asked poet, editor and
small press publisher Jenna Butler to write an article for Eyewear on her
experiences with the press.
In the early spring of 2005, I began Rubicon Press with poet Yvonne Blomer in order to publish a collection of poetry from the MA in Creative Writing: Poetry at the University of East Anglia in England. When Yvonne and I moved back home to Canada after completing our degrees and decided to take the press along with us, I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that it would flourish in the way it has. At just four years young, Rubicon Press has just released its 21st chapbook.

We decided to produce chapbooks (as they are called in the UK, pamphlets) because they’re akin to tasters of poets’ work. Chapbooks can be designed to create an immensely strong reader response in a very small space. Again, because of its short length, the chapbook format allows us to work closely with poets on both the editing and design processes in a way that larger trade presses cannot. We’re able to dialogue with our poets not just about their work, but about their vision of how they would like to have it presented on the page.

The growth and change of the press has paralleled the shifts in our own lives since returning to Canada. Among the many changes, Yvonne became the mother of a beautiful little boy. I stepped back from a career in educational administration to write and edit full-time. In much the same way, we took on a lot through the press. There were many years when we said in September that we’d like to publish four books over the course of the year, to balance the time available in our busy lives. But there’s so much intriguing poetry out there, we’d often find ourselves releasing twice that number of books in a year.

Although our mandate has remained the same since the start – to work alongside our poets to edit and create the books they had in mind during the writing process – our book design has undergone a great shift over the past year. We want the books we create to visually reflect and honour the poetry they contain, and so we’ve sought to raise the quality of our books with imported papers, silk-paper flyleaves, improved layout and cover design, etc. At the same time, we’ve managed to keep our retail book costs at a very reasonable level, which allows us to stay true to our guiding principle: to share great poetry and beautiful books with people from all walks of life, all around the world.

We’ve been fortunate to have been able to achieve our goal of publishing internationally: we have published new and celebrated poets from six countries, and many of our chapbooks have gone on to sell several hundred copies around the world. Our little press has been featured in national and provincial magazines, and has been mentioned several times on national radio.

We’ve been fortunate to publish work by luminaries such as Sheila E. Murphy (USA); Dipika Mukherjee (The Netherlands); George Szirtes (England); George Bowering (Canada); Alan Loney (Australia); and Eyewear’s own Todd Swift (England), plus a host of amazingly talented newcomers. And we’ve been able to do it all through the kind support of readers who adore poetry. As we’re a chapbook press, we do not qualify for any government arts funding. It’s definitely a labour of love (we both volunteer our time), but one we cannot imagine living without.

It’s an incredible feeling, being privileged enough to have rafts of poetry manuscripts arriving at my door every week. I’m grateful to all those who have supported Rubicon Press in the past, and who continue to allow us to do what we love best: publishing phenomenal poetry, in beautiful books, for people around the globe.

Jenna Butler
Editor, Rubicon Press
Edmonton, Canada
March 2009
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