Looking for older poets

 

This is the first of a series of articles on New England presses. Our goal is to help serious writers determine the best match for their work by looking at the editorial and publishing criteria of each press.

Looking for older poets

Off the Grid Press has been around for six years and has published five books, two of which have won exemplary awards. Over those years Tam Lin Neville and Bert Stern, co-founders of the press, have grown the undertaking from a co-op model to a non-profit, but they have kept their original goal – to publish older, previously published poets who are sometimes overlooked by the current marketplace. Now they finance publications through contests and grants. See the rules for their upcoming contest.

Off the Grid’s first book

Off the Grid Press began by publishing a volume by Henry Braun. Braun participated in the famous Robert Lowell workshops at Boston University and went on to organize poetry read-ins against the Vietnam War. His early work, a volume titled The Virgil Woods, was published by Athenaeum Press in 1968. Individual poems were published in Poetry, The Nation, The Massachusetts Review, American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Colorado Review, and in several anthologies. But the second volume was difficult to place. That’s where Neville and Stern came in. Published by Off the Grid, the book, Loyalty, New and Selected Poems, went on to be the 2008 Maine Literary Awards Winner for Poetry.

Lee Sharkey, the second of the five poets published by Off the Grid, won the Individual Artists Fellowship in Literary Arts awarded by the 2010 Maine Arts Commission.

Off the Grid mission

Neville and Stern feel strongly about their mission. Neville says, “Older poets are not getting the same attention as younger poets. For older poets, there’s less time and, therefore, a sense of urgency.”

When asked what they look for in poetry, both chime in. “We like poetry that has music and rhythm. And we like poems that arrive at discovery rather than those start with it.” Stern adds, “We look for poets with a unique voice, one that selects the right word, the right line break.” Three of the books they have published deal specifically with issues of war, but they aren’t specially looking for political poetry.

Stern and Neville have a shared sense of what they like. They have worked as book doctors for poets in the past and have a long history of working as a team. They wanted to start the press simply for “the fun of it,” says Stern. “It’s exciting seeing a book from first draft to the finished product.”

Over the years they have had help from people like Carl Richardson, who helped them with all the paper work involved in setting up the organization for a non-profit status. Michael Albert, who is the University of Maine Press book designer, has helped with design, as has Joan Braun, the wife of Henry Braun,  Neville and Stern’s daughter, Anna Stern, has established their web design.

Contest

Currently the press is conducting a manuscript contest. The contest is open to poets 6o years or older and will be judged by Carl Dennis. For all the rules of the contest, see the Off the Grid submissions page.

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