Portland, OR. Airlie Press provides a creative refuge for poetry lovers and writers throughout Oregon and Washington. Public readings, like the pre-covid event with Jessica Mehta pictured above, feel like a distant memory this fall, but literary works are still being produced by the nonprofit publishing house. Founded in 2007, Airlie Press is run by writers who are determined to amplify the voices of our community and use local resources to give writers a positive publishing experience. The organization also offers an annual national prize. As Covid-19 spikes in a second wave, Airlie is hard at work to publish two new poetry collections by PNW writers in 2021 while keeping up with virtual poetry readings and other online literary events.
Like the music industry, poetry benefits from live events. Readings create hype around the work by gathering like-minded creative spirits who share food and laughter and engage with the readers by providing a vocal presentation of their work. The press has been hit hard by the pandemic. Organizers held their 2020 book launch via an online event hosted by Annie Bloom’s Books– a Portland-based independent bookstore. While it was successful, something felt off for some of the artists. Brittney Corrigan, first-year editor of the press, explained, “Not only can you not see the audience, but you can’t hear them. I appreciate that auditory feedback, especially the little sighs or the little finger snaps. It’s really a part of that poetry experience.” It may not feel exactly the same, the publisher is moving ahead with frequent readings and other online gatherings in November, and hope to continue. Airlie Press also has a growing Youtube channel, featuring the authors, as well as poets from around the world.
Before Covid, Airlie Press editors met once a month, in a Salem, Oregon cafe, to touch base and work together on publications and events in progress. The press is highly collaborative, and local winners make a three-year commitment to the press. They are involved firsthand with the publication of their own book, while also reading submitted manuscripts and contributing to other tasks along the way. Now, these monthly meetings take place over Zoom, but members admit to talking daily. Editor and author of Learning to Love the Western Sky, Amelia Diaz Ettinger, misses the in-person gatherings in Salem. “Getting to know each other and being in the same room is missed,” Amelia says as she speaks of the screen-fatigue that comes with online meetings. Not only do the editors miss that human connection, but the poetry community does as well. “Then you have a lot of people that love to go to poetry readings, that are not technologically capable. There is a published poet here in town that has wanted to be a part of Zoom, even to discuss his own poetry, but he is almost 80.”
Despite the challenges, Airlie Press is staying on track for the new year. Brittney Corrigan is heading into her second year with the press, which means her poetry book, Daughters, is heading into production. If there’s one thing these diverse poetry books have in common, it’s that they are all thoughtfully produced. Every aspect of the books is locally sourced. Publishers used local designers for the covers and a small print shop in Portland for printing.
Leaders are excited for 2021’s book production, even if Covid continues to negatively impact our artistic communities. With local bookstore giants struggling and libraries functioning under strict regulation, the road ahead may be bumpy. But may make the 2021 releases even more special. Corrigan recognizes the silver lining in the possibility of another book launch during a pandemic. “There’s a small advantage in that you can potentially get audience members from across the country, or the world, in zoom meetings that wouldn’t be there in person. I did a reading recently and my parents were able to come, and they would never get to hear me read! I am thankful for the technology; this would be a lot worse without it.”
From Airlie Press:
Airlie Press is a nonprofit publisher run by writers, dedicated to cultivating and sustaining fine contemporary poetry and to promoting poets from the Pacific Northwest.
Our process involves the submission of a full-length manuscript of poetry during an annual open submission period and an interview for our finalists with current press members. Of the submissions we receive, we evaluate manuscripts thoroughly and select the promising work by authors willing to collaborate with our consensus-based group. As a press, we commit to participate in the ongoing conversation and practice regarding inclusion and equity. To this end, we encourage submissions from underrepresented voices and poets from marginalized communities.
Airlie Press produces one or two full-length volumes a year. All funds earned through book sales, subscription orders, and contributions are returned to Airlie Press for the creation of new books of poetry.