Friday, November 30, 2018

The Pirated Sylvia

All the Twists of the Tongue

Like many creative writing undergrads, I got a fair amount of poetic inspiration from Sylvia Plath. Arguably, too much.  And when I left college, her work was one of only a couple things I continued studying (the other being the American Civil War, but that’s another story).  Anyone with a passing knowledge of Plath knows what a shit her husband (Ted Hughes) was and that, besides her suicide, the biggest tragedy was that control over her work went to Hughes and his sister.  He edited her final collection of poems, Ariel, and her journals.  In publishing the latter, Hughes removed some passages he didn’t think were fit for public consumption; many painted him in a bad light.

Cathleen Conway has crafted a collection of found poems using these removed fragments as source material. All the Twists of the Tongue is a masterful work that shapes the voice of Plath into something else . . . familiar but different.  Being Plath-based, the poems include a healthy dose of darkness, but there’s a winking lightness when the poems brush against the mythology.  Like in “Bildungsroman” . . . “I know about / the pirated Sylvia.  Ego and Narcissus.  I resent pirated Sylvia.”  Lovely.

From “Falcon Yard”:

“It is a narrow-minded way of looking at things:
ugly raised wrist-scars, no false notes.

So nasty and cruel and calculated—
how he praised this in me.

I was guilty of an indiscretion…
what a fool one is to sincerely love.”

You can order a copy (or copies) on the Titles page.  Cat ordered extra copies to distribute in the U.K., but there are international-shipping options (with separate prices) in you need to order here.  In either case, do yourself a favor.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

November 2018 Update

As we sink deeper / sail further into the Holiday season, we’re making our way through the manuscripts received during the open reading period that closed earlier this month.  Had I not left my laptop charging cable at home when we were out of town for Thanksgiving, I’d be a lot further along.  Early indications are we have a really good mix of interesting work. 

While we wade through manuscripts, we’re preparing to release Cathleen Conway’s All the Twists of the Tongue, which is a collection of found poems sourced from material Ted Hughes edited out of Sylvia Plath’s journals prior to publication.  It’s awesome.  And this chapbook marks the first time we’ve used a professional printer (in testing some cover options), so if you order a copy, maybe you’ll receive one of those.  The release will be Friday (night, if we’re being honest).

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The 2018/2019 chapbook season open reading starts just after Halloween. . . officially midnight (00:00 November 1).  Here are the guidelines.
—One entry per person.  No reading fee.
—Manuscripts will be read as “blindly” as possible, so please take your name off the title page.
—Manuscripts should have between 16 and 24 pages of poems.
—Email submissions to greybookpress (at) gmail (dot) com.  Subject line: “SUBMISSION - [LAST NAME] - [TITLE]”
—If you’ve had a chapbook published by GBP, you’re not excluded this time.  But if there are multiple GBP veterans among the “finalists,” only one will be considered for publication.
—Send submissions until 11:59 p.m. on November 14, 2018.
—Notifications before the New Year.
—There will be at least one “winner” and one “runner up.”  The “winner” will receive an open-ended publication with 25 author copies.  The other accepted manuscript(s) could be limited editions of 50 (in which case, 15 author copies).

In selecting chapbooks for publication, we usually aim for “range” in making multiple acceptances.  For instance, the favorite/best/most resonant chapbook will be the “winner,” and other selected manuscripts will be . . . different (from the “winning” chapbook and one another). 

If you have any questions not answered/addressed above, let us know at the email listed above.

Good luck!


I trust everyone is getting ready for Halloween / Samhain / All Saints’ Day / Day of the Dead.  Besides stockpiling booze and costume supplies, consider where you’re going to send that poetry chapbook manuscript.  Because just after we wrap up Halloween, the two-week window will open for chapbook manuscripts.  Details will be posted here in a couple days. 

We’ve been hard at work on prepping a chapbook from Cathleen Allyn Conway that will be coming out next month (around the time the open reading period closes).  In addition, we’ve secured a chapbook from Nava Fader and we’re looking at one or two others.  The publication schedule will start taking shape soon, and will include anything accepted from the open reading. 

See you soon!  Stay tuned!



The final chapbook from the 2017/2018 Open Reading Season comes from trusty Grey Book Press stalwart Mike Sikkema.  It’s entitled [crawdads skitter on river dildoes].  It’s a fun ride . . . or fun-adjacent.  Each of his GBP chapbooks is a little strange and (strangely) hard to describe, so I asked him to describe it.  Mike wrote that it “was written at a four way stop where closed captions, stage directions, fluxus events, and the lyric poem had a terrible accident.”  The closed captions and stage directions definitely play a part as you can see here:

“[people argue about god in several languages]

[body fluids boil]

[termites fill the IV]

[floorboards creak mixed with flatulence]

[shark teeth rattle in unknown person’s bladder]

[nurses and gentle rain create an alphabet]”

You can pick up a copy at the Titles page.  They come in a rainbow of colors, so mix and match!  And while you’re there, pick up some of his other work, including his collaborative chapbook (with Elisabeth Workman).



In just a few days, we’ll be wrapping up the 2017/2018 Open Reading Season with a chapbook from Mike Sikkema.  This one is titled [crawdads skitter on river dildoes], and I think it’s his best one yet.  (For the record, this will be his third Grey Book Press chapbook, not counting the collaboration with Elisabeth Workman [Terrorism is What Whale] in 2014.)  I think with one more chapbook, we have to change the name of the press to Grey Book Press: Home of Mike Sikkema’s poetry. 

After that, we head into “off cycle” work from Cat Conway . . . and others . . ?  Speaking of, I’m rethinking the Open Readings.  Yes, our next one is still planned for the two weeks that kick off midnight of Halloween, but I think we’ll be limiting selections to two chapbooks to give us more flexibility in choosing other manuscripts through the year.  (Typically, we select four or five and just one or two “off-cycle” manuscripts.  I want to flip that around somewhat.)  I have a couple manuscripts in my email, along with a poet or two I’d like to solicit for future projects.  By October/November, we should have our schedule set through Spring 2019, and by January 2019, we should have a schedule set for most of that year.  The goal, as I see it, is to have a manageable backlog of manuscripts (but, generally, not longer than six to nine months) with lots of flexibility built in. 

Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah . . . see you in a few days!