Few exceptions aside, the most compelling, challenging, absorbing literary art is being produced by small presses and their respective writers. I asked a number of writers, editors, and publishers to send me a list of small press books to look out for in 2016. Below you’ll find my own list, which is informed by Kate Angus, John Cayley, Lauren Cerand, Samuel R. Delany, Rikki Ducornet, Andrew Ervin, Lily Hoang, Sean Lovelace, Scott McClanahan, Hubert O’Hearn, Jane Unrue, and Curtis White.
Below you’ll also find lists from Jeff Bursey, Tobias Carroll, Gabino Iglesias, Janice Lee, Dawn Raffel, Nick Francis Potter, John Reed, Adam Robinson, Michael Seidlinger, Terese Svoboda, Jason Teal, Angela Woodward, and Jacob Wren. All the abovementioned people are small press heroes and great writers in their own right. My thanks to all of them.
Winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition, Pilgrims: A Love Story is a book I’ve had on my stack for far too long. I bought it because of the cover. I wanted to know what this car had to do with anything. I bought it because Black Lawrence Press is an imprint of Dzanc. I bought it because I like a lot of the writers that come out of Alabama’s MFA program and so I thought I’d take a chance on T. J. Beitelman. And I’m glad I did. This book is about one of my favorite writers, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and one of my favorite dreamboats, Jude Law. Someone should make this book into a short film. Man, I’d love to see this on screen.
Here is one of the early poems in the book, “The Inciting Incident,” which introduces the two to one another:
Scene: Arc d’ Triumph. Jude Law meets Gabriel
Garcia Marquez, calls him Gabo.
Marquez slaps the boy and calls him puta,
Bitch, and they are instantly transported
To a deserted island where they must listen
To evangelists until they repent and kiss
On the lips. A stand-off for months. Then the rainy season.
The droplets, open mouths. The two men kiss like dust.