Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kevin Killian interviews Susie Bright!

Susie Bright new book Big Sex, Little Death is just out. Here she is interviewed by Kevin Killian. Kevin and Susie will both be among the literati competing for the title of Mr or Miss Spell at SPD's Bee-In on May 16th, 2011.  Get your Bee-In Tickets!

Kevin Killian

Susie Bright:  Thanks Kevin, truly. Coming from you... one of my early mentors! 

Killian:  There are so many dramatic moments, some heartbreaking, some sexy, some white-hot with anger.  What was your most decisive encounter?

Bright:  Hmm, I can’t pick. Writing the Detroit assassin chapter?  The “too bad!” mother-daughter drive to death’s door in the Saskatchewan River?  Or how about the complete mayhem at the end of On Our Backs (“Art shot Jim? No, Jim shot Art.” and—  “Someday your friend will have a bigger problem than you, and then she won't be able to get rid of you fast enough.”)

Truly, the most decisive moment was deciding to write this memoir in the first place. 

I’m glad you mentioned the white-hot part; no one else has said that. But sometimes I think that's the only reason I get up in the morning.

Killian:  It isn’t always easy to connect the various struggles fought in this book—enduring a difficult, alcoholic mother—

Bright:  My mother didn't drink, that wasn’t her bag. I always wondered about that; because drinking killed many of her immediate family. But my mom's mental health issues were not drug-induced.

Killian:  Sorry, enduring a difficult, depressed mother—Turning to socialist activism—then on to the fight against sexual repression.  I suppose everything pivots on danger, perhaps danger as an antidote to bourgeois living?

Bright:  Yeah, if it wasn't for the PTSD, it’d be just a wonderful growing experience. ;-)

Killian:  The experience of publishing On Our Backs, the sex-positive lesbian magazine, must have been a thrill, and yet you walked away from it to bring up your daughter Aretha.  That must have a been a difficult decision.

Bright:  Hmmm... well, I didn’t make some careful decision. By 1990, two of our distributors had gone bankrupt (kinda like Borders now) writing off their debt to us. It was crippling.  The magazine was falling apart financially and we were living on fumes. The lie of sustaining it was destroying us. And working on it 70 hours a week, as if IT were my baby, then picking up Aretha  from daycare and feeling like  stone brick, I was whipped. I was so tired, I had no patience, it was ugly. 

One of my publisher-partners at the time was in very strange, destructive denial and I couldn’t get thru to her, it was like... (plot spoiler!) dealing with my mom in one of her death spirals.  

My “plan,” if you could call it that,  was to begin interviewing for a new EOC and taking a part-time role, making a year-long agenda of scaling back my hours. But when my partner learned unexpectedly of my private musings, she sued me, drove me out, and there was no “plan” at all. I couldn't believe I wasn’t running OOB. I couldn’t look at another issue of the mag for a few years. 

If things had been different, I would’ve much preferred to be a reasonable mommy with a reasonable 40 hour workweek. That’s what I ended up doing, anyway, just as a freelancer. But it crushed me to leave OOB. It was my beloved other “baby.”

Killian:  Berkeley vs. Santa Cruz: in a naked mud wrestling contest, which of your home towns would emerge victorious?

Bright:  Berkeley is prominent in my memoir because my parents met there, at school, and their lives were transformed by the WWII-and-After period there. Beat poetry, civil rights, linguistics, India, gay life. 

But I only lived on McGee Street when I was 2, and then many other spots in the Bay Area in my earliest grade school years. My mom moved us nearly every 12 months. We lived in Los Angeles area for many years, where the Red Tide portion of my memoir is set. I feel like a gen-u-ine fourth-generation Californian, North and South. I have stories about every nook and cranny. But as far as contests go, I hope I live in Santa Cruz forever.

Killian:  Your introduction echoes the famous saying of poet Muriel Rukeyser, to the effect that if one woman told the truth about her life, the world would split open.  Did you find yourself holding back, concealing, shading?  What were the hardest parts of your book to write?  (And which the easiest?)

Bright:  My longtime Bay Area writing sister/friend, Louise Rafkin, gave me that Rukeyser line when she read one of my early drafts... so many writers inspired this memoir, both living and haunted! 

I had writers’ mechanical issues to deal with: “How to Move This Fucker To The End,” fake names for non-public-figures, composite characters when there wasn't room to turn this into War and Peace, etc. 

I didn't write about things that happened “yesterday,” in the recent past, because I don’t feel like enough time has passed to understand them the way I’d want to in a poetic memoir.  

But the “getting real” aspect of what I did write is no shade or cover... getting real is my religion, when it comes to writing. The hardest part is not kidding yourself, and the best part is that all-over body flooding you feel when you know you got it down right.

Killian:  Thank you, Susie Bright!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Maribor Wins Northern California Book Award!

Maribor Demosthenes Agrafiotis John Sakkis and Angelos Sakkis The Post-Apollo PressCongratulations to Angelos Sakkis and our own John Sakkis, winners of the 2011 Northern California Book Award for Poetry in Translation. They were honored for their translation of Greek poet Demosthenes Agrafiotis's Maribor, published by the Post-Apollo Press.

To learn more about the title and to buy it, click here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Peter Howard (1939-2011)

We at SPD are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Peter Howard last week.  Peter accomplished a huge amount in the rare and used book world, and among other things was a great champion of small press literature.  One of his accomplishments that we are especially grateful for was the co-founding of the entity that eventually became SPD, which he and Jack Shoemaker first formed circa 1969.

Above: one of the earlier extant SPD catalogs
in our archive, from Summer 1977,
when SPD was still Serendipity Books Distribution,
as named by Peter Howard in 1969


Friday, April 1, 2011


  1. Home/Birth: A Poemic by Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker (1913 Press)
  2. Poems by Grace Zabriskie (NYQ Books)
  3. Fairy Tales in Electri-City by Francesca Lia Block (A Midsummer Night's Press)
  4. The Source by Noah Eli Gordon (Futurepoem Books)
  5. The Firestorm by Zach Savich (Cleveland State University Poetry Center)
  6. Clamor by Elyse Fenton (Cleveland State University Poetry Center)
  7. Retrievals: Uncollected & New Poems, 1955-2010 by Jerome Rothenberg (Junction Press)
  8. Campeche by Joshua Edwards and Van Edwards (Noemi Press)
  9. The Grief Performance by Emily Kendal Frey (Cleveland State University Poetry Center)
  10. Immersion by Michele Wolf (The Word Works)
  11. One Island by Gretchen Steele Pratt (Anhinga Press)
  12. Late in the Antenna Fields by Alan Gilbert (Futurepoem Books)
  13. Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls by Erika Meitner (Anhinga Press)
  14. Charlotte Brontë, You Ruined My Life by Barbara Louise Ungar (The Word Works)
  15. Either Way I'm Celebrating by Sommer Browning (Birds, LLC)
  16. The Wide Road by Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian (Belladonna*)
  17. The Lessons by Joanne Diaz (Silverfish Review Press)
  18. Helsinki by Peter Richards (Action Books)
  19. Utopia Minus by Susan Briante (Ahsahta Press)
  20. Lessness by Brian Henry (Ahsahta Press)
  21. Ventrakl by Christian Hawkey (Ugly Duckling Presse)
  22. Testify by Joseph Lease (Coffee House Press)
  23. By All Lights by B. H. Boston (Tebot Bach)
  24. There Are People Who Say That Painters Shouldn't Talk: A GUSTONBOOK by Patrick James Dunagan (The Post-Apollo Press)
  25. Lend Me Your Voice by Kjell Espmark (Marick Press)
  26. gowanus atropolis by Julian T. Brolaski (Ugly Duckling Presse)
  27. Determination by Kit Robinson (Cuneiform Press)
  28. Beauport by Kate Colby (Litmus Press)
  29. Imaginary Syllabi edited by Jane Sprague (Palm Press)
  30. Love-Noise by Elizabeth Twiddy (Standing Stone Books)