June 2, 2010
Dear Reader, Collaborator and Tribe Member,
The late Raymond Carver, renowned for his incisive short stories, dedicated the good part of his last decade on earth to the wondrous craft of poetry. In a poem titled, “Looking for Work,” he writes, “Suddenly, I find a new path to the waterfall.”
A New Path to the Waterfall, the title of Carver’s posthumous collection of poetry, has become my figurative compass for obtaining new, more meaningful work for my publishing house, Atticus Books. What I’m looking for is something more stimulating, more fulfilling … “a new path to the waterfall.” What I’m looking for is to acquire fresh new manuscripts from authors with distinct voices.
Like Carver, I regard poetry as a “spiritual necessity.” The poet Tess Gallagher said that Carver, her late husband, used poetry to “flush the tiger from hiding.” Kurt Vonnegut said that a successful poet “domesticates my terror, examines it and describes it, teaches it some tricks which will amuse me, then lets it gallop wild in my forest once more.”
Poetry, to me, provides a catharsis to those who have the patience to pursue it, the intelligence to hear it, and the grace to embrace it.
David Whyte, author of The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, speaks eloquently to the plight of those “who live out their lives as managers and employees of post-modern America, and who struggle to keep their humanity in the process.” His insights are an inspiration to those of us who are looking for more meaningful work.
In his jarring Atlantic Monthly article on whether poetry indeed matters, Dana Gioia implored contemporary poets to rise out of their self-referential world and bring their talents back into the mainstream of American society. He asked, gravely:
“Given the decline of literacy, the proliferation of other media, the crisis in humanities education, the collapse of critical standards, and the sheer weight of past failures, how can poets possibly succeed in being heard?”
This question holds as much relevance today as it did when first published 17 years ago. Surely, one goal at Atticus Books is to help poets and good — no, let’s be ambitious — great writers of prose find their calling, engage their audience, and lead their tribe. I would like nothing more than to assist authors in their quest to be heard. I am filled with an impassioned respect and humble appreciation of words, particularly the words that fly over the transom, the words that require no human orchestration to find their rightful place on the pages of a book, the words that we publish.
A person’s word and a person’s actions should supersede any list of professional credentials. A person’s word is genuinely all that matters in everyday life as long as it is followed by suitable actions. A reputable person’s word is an unspoken agreement to listen, to care, to act in kind. This word, this gentleman’s bond, is the most valuable thing I can offer daily to our readers, writers and every person who associates with this house — every new and loyal member of our tribe — in every personal and professional interaction.
In closing, I ask each of you who treasure the English language as much as I do: join us, write on our Facebook wall, comment on an Atticus website post, submit a poem, corner me with a story, do whatever works to elevate our modes of communication; I offer you this chance to let loose your inner writer, step outside your comfort zone, take an active part in this retrofit publishing scene, and help us fulfill our mission to selflessly advance the state of literature one distinct voice at a time.
Founder and Publisher
Atticus Books LLC
P.S. You may think I’ve come unglued and our tagline (“Where distinct voices become legend”) is an over-the-top marketing ploy. I wouldn’t blame you to doubt our grasp of reality. How can a small press with a straight face claim to hold these objectives as achievable? It’s laughable, you bark. I submit that in every discipline, even in a profession as cherished and awe-inspiring as publishing, there’s always room for a little indie-energized engine that could (not be denied). And here at Atticus Books, we actually have the gall to think we can incrementally change the course of literary history. (My fellow Italian-Americans might say, it takes a large set of “culiones” to think you can pull that off.)
P.S.S. Guess what: We plan to pull it off. And we plan to do it — commit this landscape-altering, genre-busting caper of enduring publishing ingenuity — without breaking any copyright laws; mind you, we may break other things like the piggy bank, some (ahem) chops and perhaps a few rules of grammar, and it certainly may require, in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s words, “that willing suspension of disbelief,” but otherwise we’re doing it the old-fashioned, hard-earned, seat-of-our-pants way: with timing, talent, lady luck, and that fickle mistress known as poetic faith. In other words, we’re doing it on a muse’s wing and a sinner’s prayer. It would be a shame if you missed it.