How did you decide to create your own press?
I'll try to make a long story short I was the managing editor for a press and had made a deal with an author to publish a book. The press received a manuscript, we were starting to set some dates and commit resources when the press gained an additional "silent" partner. Upon review of projects currently under way or getting started, the "silent" partner started making noise about this particular book project, threatening to withdraw finances if we did not kill the project. I felt I was put into an awkward position since I had made promises to the author. So I contacted the author separately about what had happened and offered to start my own press and print his book if he'd be willing. The author later told me that he had only been interested in working with me and was happy to do so regardless. It was a good vote of confidence.
What sorts of manuscripts does Dream Horse Press look for?
I look for a unique voice and freshness. I am fond of imagistic, lyrical, metaphorical poems that use tools like alliteration and rhythm. It's important to me not only that a poem be strong alone, but also that it adds something positive and important to the collection. I look to publish collections that care enough about readers to communicate with them. Further, when I look at the books DHP has published I see authors who are working to fill the void of mythos in the modern world. The writings tend to read like parables; they have a meaning and logic.
What does the ideal manuscript look like?
I think the ideal manuscript shows an author's maturity of thought and sense. I've always been big on "economy" when it comes to words, and I think "economy" is doubly import when it comes to poems in a manuscript. You know, trying to get the most out of each word, each poem. A book or a chapbook should have a sense of being a larger poem, a megapoem. This means putting together a complete yet sleek manuscript that cares about the reader. It should be apparent that the poet gave a lot of thought as to the appearance as well as the order of poems. The manuscript and its individual poems should have a central logic. A poem should have a point. There's nothing worse than reading a poetry book where you feel driven to start skipping pages while wondering "so what?"
Do you accept unsolicited manuscripts?
Every year I run the Annual Dream Horse Press National Chapbook Contest with a deadline of August 31. For the time being, all other submissions are solicited.
How do you decide what will be published?
As far as the chapbook contest goes, I have asked C. J. Sage to be the judge that selects the winning manuscript for the past three years. I'll take a moment out to say that since I began working with her on the DMQ Review (she is now the editor of The National Poetry Review), I have been constantly impressed at how sharp and developed her ears and eyes are when it comes to poetry. I read a lot of current poetry. If I happen to see something I really like, I might ask the author to submit a manuscript.
What's the process?
For the contest, I strip the manuscripts of any author identification, number the manuscripts and pass them over to the judge. She reads every manuscript and narrows the field to a handful of finalists. Then she decides the winner from that group. With regards to a full-length collection, I'll start by saying that a book is a long-term project. It requires the commitment of time and energy on both the parts of the editor and the author. It starts with a manuscript being submitted. Then I will read it and make suggestions as to the order and sometimes question whether a poem needs to be included. I might have suggestions on lines or word choices. Then the author is given the opportunity to rebut if they disagree. It's sort of a haggling process. I don't believe in an iron glove approach to publishing, on either side. A book is a living animal that requires nurturing, commitment and patience. If an agreement can be reached, DHP and the author contract to publish the book. A schedule is set. Then the book goes into layout and design. There's more editing. Proofing. Proofing again. Details. I have to find artwork for the cover. Proofing. Eventually a new book release. Then begins the work of getting the book reviewed. The author needs to set up readings and support the book. It never really ends.
What sets Dream Horse Press apart from other independent, small presses?
There are a lot of independent, small presses out there. I could answer you the way almost all of them probably would -- "committed to excellence and quality and the future voices of poetry" -- and mean it. DHP has published collections by authors who haven't become a "household name" or a "major poet" yet, but I believe they will. My criteria never waver from craft and quality. DHP's authors are all actively moving forward in their careers: I see Ryan Van Cleave's work has been featured in a lot of respected journals; Rob Carney just released a full length collection that won the Pinyon Press Book Award; and C. J. Sage's work shows up in many respected journals, and she is receiving positive attention for her work on And We The Creatures and The National Poetry Review. Other things that make Dream Horse Press different: it doesn't snub form. And another: its chapbooks as well as its books have handsomely designed, full color covers instead of those black ink on colored construction paper types. People do judge books by their covers, at least initially!