The Colorado Poet, #25, Winter 2013-2014

Colorado Presses: Turkey Buzzard

We continue our series on Colorado Presses. Liquid Light was interviewed in Issue #23 and Heart/Link in Issue #22. This month we feature Turkey Buzzard Press. Padma Thornlyre got the job of answering questions for what is a collective of poets.

CPC: When and how did this press start?

Padma Thornlyre: The idea of Turkey Buzzard Press (TBP) spent a long time percolating. With the quiet demise of James Taylor III's "Stick" magazine and Long Hand Press, there existed a core group of dedicated poets (otherwise known as the Fire Gigglers) who were simply not going to be represented in any of the mainstream poetry presses, whether university-affiliated or independent (like Ghost Road). That core group included Taylor, Michael Adams, Phil Woods, Art Goodtimes, John Kain and myself (though Goodtimes and Kain subsequently left the co-op before publishing with it). Quite frankly, we weren't writing what the Academy expected. We were reading Lew Welch and Stuart Z. Perkoff, and by extension other New American Poets (via Donald Allen), having retired our Norton Anthology textbooks some good long time before. Occasional discussions over two or three years finally resulted in the formation of TBP (named to honor Lew Welch's "Song of the Turkey Buzzard"). I was, at the time, also involved with the Evergreen Poets, who mostly met because of the efforts of surrealist Murray Moulding, and through that group tapped both Moulding and an exciting younger poet, Donna Wise. Because of the Sparrows Poetry Festivals in Salida, I had long enjoyed the friendship of Rosemerry Trommer, from SW Colorado, and was pleased to welcome her aboard. My old ties to Denver's Faces Café poetry readings of the mid-1980s allowed me to tap some poets I had long admired: John Macker, Janet Glovinsky, David Patton and Jerry Smaldone. Together, we crafted a set of by-laws and published our first book in 2007. Membership in the co-op is by invitation, and through Donna and Rosemerry we added Kathryn T. S. Bass and Maria Berardi; Eric Paul Shaffer came to us through the Fire Gigglers; and John Nizalowski was recommended by John Macker. Most of these poets were also poets I had published in my overly-ambitious literary/arts mag called "Mad Blood," which saw only five issues published, before dying, like "Stick," a quiet death, so forming TBP was personal to me in that it represented a continuum of something I simply couldn't afford to keep afloat on my own.

CPC: What do you see as its mission?

PT: Implicit in what I answered above are two primary purposes: to fairly represent an underrepresented group of poets of generally exceptional talent, whose work simply does not lie in the literary mainstream, but flows rather out of the precepts of Donald Allen's anthology; and to continue fostering a real and caring community of poets who support each other's real work.

CPC: Is there something you think of as unique for this press?

PT: A few things. One, we are stylistically very diverse, as any examination of our respective poetries will amply show. Two, as a co-op we are geographically diverse, with members not only in Colorado, but also in Hawai'i, Missouri, Oregon and Mexico. Three, we frequently act on each other's behalf in terms of book design, setting up readings/performance venues, and offering critical insights. Four, with no hierarchy, the relationships we form within the press tend to be organic rather than structural. That is, we truly care for one another.

CPC: How many titles are available and what are your plans/hopes for the future?

PT: Currently, TBP has a catalog of 20 titles, three of which were published in 2012. Any given year might see three to six titles published, depending on the readiness of individual books, although the formal schedule allows for the publication of five member books per year.

CPC: What's your submission policy? (Open, certain times, invitation only, query, etc.)

PT: As a co-op, we are committed to publishing each dues-paying member once every three years. Members may also pursue out-of-cycle publications at will, but such projects are privately funded and do not use membership dues. We do have by-laws in place for non-member publications, and two of our titles to-date fit that category (Hildegard Guttendorfer via Janet Glovinsky, and Eric Walter via the Fire Gigglers). Serious inquiries about membership or non-member publications come to us through our membership. We have discussed the ideas of a literary magazine, The Turkey Buzzard Review, and also of a contest that awards with publication, but so far no one has really taken on those tasks (though, if I could do this on a living salary I'd be all over it!).

CPC: What have we missed that you want people to know?

PT: As under-the-radar as we Turkey Buzzards tend to fly, our catalog continues to grow. Expect an anthology in the near or distant future. Turkey Buzzard Press is not a formal nonprofit, but the press itself does not take profits from book sales. The expectation is that poetry has a very limited audience, and that the poets themselves should benefit in whatever meager way possible by the sale of their books, the creation of which represents a commitment of incredible time, concentration and craft. Most important to know, a group of turkey buzzards circling is called a "kettle," like something stirred by the hags in MacBeth.