Pushed to Press
By DELANEY MARSCO
Three friends shared a love of poetry and a desire to publish and inspire new material, but lacked the avenues to do so. These were the ingredients that led to the formation of local small press, PressBoardPress.
The operation began when Patrick Riedy, a senior English major; Michael Koh, a UB alumnus; and Peter Letson Williams, a first year graduate student in mental health, formed a bond in Professor Karen Mac Cormack’s poetry workshop class. Finding a lack of innovation in the Buffalo literary scene and wanting to fix it, these three poets decided to create a small press to publish the types of books they wanted.
Local small presses left a void for PressBoardPress to fill: they failed to give new, upcoming writers a local outlet for their talent.
“One thing I believe sets PressBoardPress apart is the exploration of new writers, especially through the [submissions via] website,” Riedy said. “I think the press is, at the very least, attempting to provide an outlet for new voices to speak up in the Buffalo community.”
Anyone is able to submit anything from experimental fiction to works of criticism through their website. Then, the four editors – Riedy, Koh, Williams, and Annie Highley-Smith, a junior English major– choose which to publish.
This autonomy is something Riedy says is one of the major satisfactions of running their own small press.
“One of the benefits…is running with whatever idea you think may work,” Riedy said. “We [want] to make books and publish writers we admire.”
The PressBoardPress has helped the members evolve on a personal and creative level.Williams is adamant about stressing the level of poetic evolution that came from the combination of creating the small press and bonding with the other editors.
“We were all impressed by each other’s work, [and] decided to pool our ideas and resources to publish some,” Williams said. “The level of writing by both Koh and Riedy pushed me to write more and better.”
Other than simply being the brainchild of UB students, PressBoardPress also connects to UB through poetry readings by constantly organizing events in venues like the Center for the Arts, the UB Libraries’ Poetry Collection, and off-campus sites. This not only gets the word out about the press, but it also helps spread the work of these talented local poets.
One such reading graced the CFA Lightwell Gallery this past Thursday. The Language to Cover a Wall exhibit came to life when poets Claire and Lauren Gay joined Williams, Riedy, and Koh to read aloud their personal works. The performance was accompanied by an ethereal-sounding live electric guitar, which helped the themes of the poetry inject themselves into the audience.
The Lightwell Gallery reading, which was sponsored by the Mildred Lockwood Lacey Fund for Poetry and the Poetry Collection, showed just how powerful of a force PressBoardPress can be in the Buffalo literary scene. While the press is not UB-affiliated, the editors are constantly looking to engage aspiring UB poets.
“[We] would absolutely love submissions from UB students,” Koh said. “We remember the wonderful history of the UB English department and would love to feature works by students who are under the tutelage of those talented professors who work hard to leave a literary impression on the students.”
The press is hoping to expand its presence beyond the boundaries of UB and Buffalo, and is engaging poets and authors outside the community in order to help PressBoardPress diversify the type of material it publishes.
The four books published last year and the constantly updated website painstakingly run by Koh are not all the small press has planned; the press’ future plans include an inter-university workshop event and a podcast called PressBoard Radio. Despite the diversity of these plans, they all serve one purpose, according to Williams.
“UB has such a rich history with poetry in particular that it should be celebrated along with all of the scientific/research landmarks that we hear about all the time,” Williams said. “We are creating new, vibrant writings for our classmates [and everyone else] to enjoy in hopes that it continues the University’s legacy of producing great writers.”