Saturday, April 18, 2009
STEVE GLINES: Poet, Publisher and bon vivant.
Interview by Doug Holder
Steve Glines is a jovial looking man with a perpetual twinkle in his blue eyes, and a zealous appreciation for anything that has to do with the writing, publishing, and the printing of books. Glines has published six books of his own, has been published in literary journals and newspapers, has designed books for a number of presses over the years, has worked as a researcher at MIT, and founded the online literary journal: “The Wilderness House Literary Review.” to name just a few accomplishments. I spoke with him on my Somerville Community Access TV Show: “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”
Doug Holder: You often say you are from a family of failed literati. Can you explain, and do you define yourself as “failed” as well?
Steve Glines: I don’t know. I am not dead yet. When I was about twelve years old I announced to my mother that I was going to be a writer. She said: “That should come naturally, you are from a long line of failed literati.” I have been writing ever since.
DH: Who were the failed writers in your family?
SG: There were six generations of Scotch Presbyterian ministers that ran a magazine that was a hellfire and brimstone broadside published once a month. It was published from 1650 to 1830. My great grandfather was a geologist, and my grandfather was a lawyer. My grandfather was ultra right wing and wrote about 20 or 25 books. My favorite was “States Rights and National Prohibition.”
DH: What are your criteria for a failed writer?
SG: If you swing for the fences and miss, you failed. If you never get out of the infield you are petty. So I am a petty failure (laugh)
DH: You were involved in an ambitious project the “Wilderness House Literary Retreat” in Littleton, Mass. that I helped you with. We managed to attract the late Robert Creeley, C. Michael Curtis (Atlantic Fiction Editor), Afaa Michael Weaver, Louisa Solano, John Hanson Mitchell, Lois Ames, and other notables. Can you talk about this venture?
SG: It came about by accident. I’ve been a p/t journalist. When we moved out to Littleton, Mass I discovered that the editor of the Littleton Independent was a cub reporter for the Belmont Citizen, the very paper I wrote a political column for when we lived in Belmont. I called her and asked her if she needed anything and she said” I need an obituary today!” It seems that town moderator had died. The widow took me up to this huge estate atop a hill. She showed me a 6,000 square foot cabin. It was quite rundown. She said it would make a good retreat. Later the New England Forestry Foundation bought the property. I met the director and she said, “There is this old house atop the hill and the town is charging me residential taxes. What should I do with it?” I said: “ Turn it into a retreat.” So she challenged me to do it. Basically the Rotary Club, (which I am a member of) rehabbed the building. It is gorgeous. It has six bedrooms; you can see Mt. Monadonk and the nature reserve blow.
After rebuilding it we never got an occupancy permit so we were sort of illegal. We couldn’t raise enough money to finish it so they kicked us out. I don’t know what the status of the building is now. We did have a very big audience for Creeley, but the students and teachers we invited to the events didn’t come. They said Saturdays were a problem for them.
DH: You design Print-On-Demand books. It has been met with resistance by the gatekeepers of the literary community. Can you comment on this?
SG: I am not sure why. Instead of a printing press we use a laser printer. It still goes into the conventional binding equipment. The difference is you do one book at a time. The thing about poetry books is that it is well-known 400 books sold are a bestseller. Before POD it was very expensive for typesetting and you couldn’t print les than 500 or 600 copies. With POD you can publish 1 book or however many you want. A lot of stuff that couldn’t be published can now be published by small press publications. The production quality between POD and conventional publishing is virtually identical. The books never go out of print. The publisher will always have the electronic file.
DH: You did some work for Alice James Books when they were located in Cambridge in the 70’s.
SG: It started out as a collective in Cambridge. I had a little shop in Harvard Square. We did typesetting and Photostats. We would do anything you needed. I worked with the poet Ron Schreiber, a member of the collective. We did typesetting for a number of small magazines he was putting out.
DH: What was the atmosphere in Harvard Square in the 70’s?
SG: The 70’s was an interesting period. There was a magazine on every corner, book publishers all over. We did work for a lot of them. There was a remarkable amount of ad agencies in the Boston area as well. It was an extraordinary time.
DH: You have come back to designing books over the past couple of years.
SG: I’ve done about 30 books over the past two years. For presses like Ibbetson Street, Cervena Barva, and my own ISCS PRESS. I have been involved in every aspect of the publishing process. Back in the 70’s I was an art/director of Sail magazine. I have edited books, and I have work for any number of publishers.
DH: You found the online literary journal the “Wilderness House Literary Review.” How has it been received?
SG: We get a 1,000 readers every issue. I publish stuff that I would like to read. We have put it out for four years now. We have had remarkable fiction and poetry. We are not academic, nor are we in the spirit of the academy. We also publish a print “Best of…” every year.
DH: You also publish a yearly anthology for the Bagel Bards, a literary group that meets in Somerville, Mass.
SG: That is a labor of love. We have 50 or 60 writers in it. We will release our 4th annual anthology soon.
DH: So how do you define yourself: Publisher, Printer, Poet, Journalist, or Designer?
SG: I have been most successful with nonfiction and tech books. I wrote about the operating system UNIX. I got five books out of that. I made pretty good money. Eventually I got burnt out writing about it.
For the last 20 years I made half my living as a tech writer and half as a computer geek.
My first love is publishing. The idea of books. They represent knowledge. They represent civilization. You read a book 2,000 years old and it is as fresh today as it was then. It will have the same meaning and same value, a thousand years from now. I look at myself as a writer, and publishing is what I do in order to get my work out there. Writing for me is fun but hard work. Graphic design is fun—not work at all.
* For more information about Steve Glines go to HTTP://WWW.ISCSPRESS.COM firstname.lastname@example.org