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'Our books aren't disposable' -- Peter Conners on BOA

Want to know what publishers like BOA are looking for in a manuscript? Dying to know more about your favorite independent press? In a fascinating (and humorous) interview, BOA's publisher Peter Conners discusses with Aspen Matis of the Brooklyn Rail about just what makes BOA, BOA. In addition to questions of funding, public support of the arts and humanities, and surviving in a less-than-thriving economy, the two discuss BOA's further promotion of little-known, necessary manuscripts through the release of e-books, and what "progress" in the digital landscape means for the fate of poetry and text. The balance between accessibility and authenticity, Conners says, is a tender one that has so far been effectively maintained by BOA's commitment to quality of content and form. While he gives credit to widening reader accessibility and keeping up with the times, he also notes the value of each BOA book in physical form: "...We put so much thought and emphasis into making our books really beautiful creations... We take a lot of pride in creating an object that book-lovers are going to have close to their hearts and really want to have around." One of the ways that BOA facilitates this creative process is through the careful selection of innovative, provocative works. When asked what unifies the diverse range of aesthetics represented by BOA, (what makes writers, BOA writers), Conners says: "I want to see an author doing something that I can't imagine anybody else doing. Because that's what it really comes down to. Is there an animating intelligence and spirit and intention behind those poems that is unique to this human being? ...I want something that's going to make me see the world a little bit differently and get into the poet and the poet's perspective and come out a little bit changed." One of BOA's most recent poets, Ryan Teitman, was mentioned in the interview as an example of the indispensability of BOA writers. "Ryan [Teitman] is someone who’s right in that sweet spot of being a lyrical poet who’s not afraid to get innovative with his line-breaks, but he’s also a really clear communicator. So there’s technical mastery, but there’s also a real animating spirit. Interesting motion, interesting poet. A fresh perspective. And, again, when I read it I thought: only one person could do this," says Conners. Conners affirms that one goal is always to reach more readers, whether that be through the upcoming 800-page The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton, or through the 75-page manuscripts that are often overlooked by large-scale publishers. However, BOA's mission is rooted in a personal philosophy of freshness and creativity. "Maybe a book didn't do as well as we'd hoped right out of the gate," Conners admits, "but we published it because we believe in what the author is doing and we believe in that book. And maybe people aren't quite ready for whatever that artist is doing. But that's part of the mission, too. To push the envelope, artistically. That's why we don't work on the corporate publishing model. We have to believe artistically in the work first. And after that we'll worry about everything else. Our books aren't disposable." Click here to read the complete interview!
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