Get To Know: Compound Press
Tell us about your publishing platform.
Compound Press was founded in 2012 by two losers who never studied poetry at university. One of us slaved away in the print room of a major Auckland law firm, so we'd sneak in on Sundays and appropriate materials to make tiny runs of poetry chapbooks. This is our superhero origin story vat of nuclear waste that starts us on the road to publishing handmade books of New Zealand poetry with all-recycled materials. Our current gig is making all our book covers out of the varyingly green/grey/blue card from filing cabinet folders - I've got boxes and boxes of the leftover metal rails if someone wants to melt them down for the tin.
We try to look for poetry that is a bit more out there than what the university presses do. Sometimes this means experimental, but mostly it just means work that is done with a real intensity, no matter the style. We also broadcast the poetry journal Minarets both in print and online, and the 11th issue will be out in August, guest edited by major Australian poet Pam Brown.
What are you reading?
Maurice Blanchot's The Writing of the Disaster, but not because of COVID or anything...! It's been working its way up my bedside table stack for months and of course I just happened to get to it now. For a poet who almost exclusively writes apocalypse poems it's criminal I've never read it.
What are you watching?
Finally watching my way through all the inspirational kung-fu films sampled in Wu-Tang Clan tracks. Yeah I'm spending quarantine well.
What are you listening to?
When lockdown started, Southbound Records up the road hosted an online sale to keep the $$ coming in, and I bought Push The Sky Away by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds just on a whim to support a local business I like. Got hold of it once we went down to level 3 and I've had the LP on repeat. Everyone was going on about that Dylan Kennedy assassination track, but 'Higgs Boson Blues' is surely the epic ballad of the 21st Century thus far. The Large Hadron Collider, Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil, the assassination of MLK, epidemics ancient and modern (HIV, colonial smallpox), the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus duality...
Favourite book of all time?
Almost everything I do as a poet and publisher in some way feels spiritually connected to The Bridge by Hart Crane. Composed by a doomed High Romantic trapped in the age of High Modernism, it uses Brooklyn Bridge with its grand towers and shimmering wires as an icon for everything, and the original 1930 version featured amazing photos of the bridge by Walker Evans. It'll change your world.
Who are some of your favourite local artists/writers/publishers?
Artwise, Chris Corson-Scott's photographs are always a wellspring of inspiration in a collapsed mineshaft. He's been acquiring a meaty arsenal of filmmaking gear, so I'm excited to see what comes of that.
The most captivating NZ poet for me at the moment is Alison Glenny, whose poetry projects are like fascinating historical research projects expressed through the textures of gothic novels. Dracula David Attenborough, Lonely Planet for Frankenstein - the scope is magnificent.
Back in 2017 Owen Connors and Anna Rankin put out 3 of the dopest poetry chapbooks you've ever seen under Hard Press, and there were murmurings of more titles through 2019 that never emerged. I dearly hope they resurface sometime.
Favourite thing in the Strange Goods store?
I had the privilege of reading poems at LitCrawl 2019 alongside Sam Duckor-Jones, and then recently bought his book People From The Pit Stand Up from Strange Goods, so idk if you still have it there... But it's a lot of fun, so inventive about ways to be a little bit sad, and I'd say probably an unexpectedly cathartic isolation read. It's also one of the most lavish poetry productions I've ever seen from VUP, so it feels really good in your hands.