Bank-Heavy Press is one of the most exciting new presses to come out of Long Beach. Each new publication has a completely different title and theme. The three editors, Zack Nelson-Lopiccolo, Karie McNeley and Cory DeSilva prove that just as writing is an art, so is editing. Today I talked with Bank-Heavy Press about their philosophy and guiding principles.
SGVLF: What inspired you to start Bank-Heavy Press?
Karie: Unbeknownst to most, Bank-Heavy Press is what could be described as a “happy accident”. It started out as an unnamed weekly poetry workshop held at Zack’s parent’s house and then expanded into several conversations about starting a small-press. The workshop had dwindled down into just the three of us and with the power of three we formed Bank-Heavy Press. I have always been interested in pursuing many entrepreneurial ideas but before Bank-Heavy Press I had failed to actually try one out. Bank-Heavy was not my brainchild per se. Zack was the one with the dream of publishing local writers and the ambition to suggest actually trying it out, and here we are! A year later and publishing great collections of local and non-local poetry. Cory loves reading and studying poetry and really breaking it all down and dissecting it, which is something that I think makes him a good candidate for being an editor, he also came up with the word “bank-heavy” in a poem of his which obviously makes him genius. And, I had a lot of interest in being more involved in poetry in general and in publishing as well. So really all of us have really helped shape Bank-Heavy into what it is today and hopefully what it will be for years to come.
Cory: Basically Zack said he was starting a press and I wanted to be in on it. He and some friends from school created a workshop in his parents’ living room and it was there that the idea grew. Karie was in that original group. When everyone else stopped coming, the three of us kept at it and decided to go into publishing. The idea was to publish writers who we thought deserved more attention. Fortunately, the community has been very supportive.
Zack: First off, I had the idea baking for some time. A friend of mine from my CSULB days had brought it up to me about us starting one, which never transpired into action. Lucky for the three of us. The idea stuck with me. My basic inspiration was well why can’t the younger generation make calls on what is good writing? I had heard the stories of how Joan Jobe Smith had started Pearl, the stories behind Black Sparrow Press, and lots of other small mags/presses and was really inspired, which kept the idea embedded. Then to add even more motivation a friend of mine, Mae Ramirez, had started up her own mag, ¡VAYA! Zine, which made me realize it was possible if I had the right dedication, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone, well yeah I know I could, but I truly believe that having Karie and Cory makes it such a better publication and am glad that we have it the way we do.
Zack:The three of us were part of a larger workshop I had gotten together. I say got together not organized because we kind of just acted like the Avengers all dysfunctional until we got a feel for one another, then as the weeks progressed it dwindled down to us three. One day we were there and I brought it up to them, which after getting to know how our minds fed on each other, yes on! I thought it would be great to bring it up to these two. Next thing you know bam, bam, smack a press is born! We all said hells yes and began work, which started at no knowledge of what to do other than let’s get some submissions, and thank baby Zeus that Jeff Epley taught Karie and I how to format books via a chapbook project he had us assemble in his creative writing classes at LBCC. And another lucky for us score tactic was Cory had an ingenious strange line in one of his poems that we all thought was perfect for a catchy and memorable name.
What are you looking for in submissions to Bank-Heavy Press?
Cory: I’m looking for fast, fresh, and energetic writing. No wasted syllables. It must make my brain cells quiver and my insides coagulate. I like any style of writing so long as it’s gusty, new, and invigorating in some way. And yes, there are always new projects coming from Bank-Heavy. The press never sleeps.
Zack: I know we all vary on what we look for, which I think makes it great. We’ve three different aesthetics clashing together in a hip hop hit song of greatness. We all crave the subjective “good”, but to be more specific we like well written work first. I’m usually just looking for something that can keep my attention and holds an entertainment value of sorts. From there, does the poem really offer some deeper interpretation or is it just straight face value? I’m all over with this, I like some of both, harder to understand and more direct colloquial types. Either way I think that even the ones that seem simple offer a much deeper meaning without being avant-garde and just hoity-toity. It comes down to this, give me something new, fresh, alive, bloody-raw with a bite taken out of it, spit in my face, I want guts, no glory, just guts. I do like the occasional pretty poem too, but I like the ugly poems better. I want the cliff-diving without a bungee excitement! Also I love to laugh and even the smallest bits of humor in the most serious poems can really add something.
Then there’s the editor side, and this poet side of me which argue for a time. Poet Zack likes to let small things goes as far as lines that I don’t particularly care for, but Editor Zack rips them apart saying “Have someone take a gander!” Usually there’s a compromise between the two Zack’s, but then they have to confront the Cory’s and Karie’s for further decision on what makes the cut for the project. So if you do make it past one of us, you better hope you can sway another one to make the 2/3 vote! We run like a mini-democratic oligarchy, which I’m not sure makes sense even.
I always tell everyone send us greatness, just not rhyme! DEAR GOD NO RHYME! Unless of course it is just phenomenal and breaks all the rules and makes us really laugh, I believe those are the only rhymed ones we’ve ever taken. We tend not to have a “set” aesthetic as an overall group, but I always recommend buying one or more of our issues to get a feel for what we accept, I’ll bet there is an overall one there that we just don’t see. Oh and please, please, please! People need to read our guidelines! I don’t know how many rejections we’ve given just off of that. I usually just instantly reject, because it’s an internet slap to the jaw, if someone can’t read our guidelines then I feel as though I shouldn’t be taking my time to read their submission regardless of its content. People forget, we don’t get paid for this, other than in love, and lots of hugs lots and lots of hugs.
Project wise, oh man we’ve got so much going on! We’re currently formatting and gathering the finishing touches on our next issue, Robo-Book which is set for June release and is featuring Marianne Stewart, she’s freakin’ awesome, and we’ve got an interview with everyone’s favorite LB bookstore Gatsby’s! On top of that we are putting another double chapbook manuscript together for our second of the series, and as a sneak peek this one features Olivia Somes, who is brilliantly talented, and was just accepted into the CSULB MFA program for Creative Writing and the other genius is our own Karie McNeley who also just got into CSULB! YAYA! It’s pretty funny we had set ourselves up to slow down this year by making the issues quarterly, but then we decided to start doing chapbooks. Go figure. We’re also very close to having our third split chapbook set, as far as the poets go. Then June also means submissions open again for our third issue of this year, we should have the dates up on our site and on duotrope.com very soon. We like to stay busy, what can I say.
Karie: As far as submissions go…well really anything goes. For poetry, anything other than basic rhyme schemes. Rhyming doesn’t make it very far in Bank-Heavy Press considering we have only accepted one poem with an end-line rhyme scheme. Internal rhyming or slant rhyming is much more acceptable for our books. For fiction, truly anything goes as you can see firsthand in our newest publication, Robo-Book. We’ve got a very interestingly strange fiction piece by Andrew Hilbert called “Winky” and I think that after reading that fiction piece anyone will be able to see that the bizarre can be very refreshing and powerful. We also accept art submissions of any type, as long as they are black and white or can be converted into b/w. High contrast images are always better for printing since we don’t use any color in our books. For info on our upcoming projects, read Zack’s answer. And as Cory said, the press never sleeps.
SGVLF: Bank-Heavy is starting to play an important role in the Long Beach poetry scene. How important is a sense of place to you?
Cory: I still see us as the devoted poetry groupies. There are so many great writers in the area it is impossible not to be excited, involved, and supporting of them. I love promoting the scene as I think it deserves way more academic attention and I am honored to be a part of it. I am glad Bank-Heavy Press is starting to play an important role in community. Any way that we can help the already established scene is a real treat.
Karie: An important role! That’s a very nice compliment. I’m not sure what to say other than I hope that we are impacting Long Beach in a positive and proactive way. Also, read what Zack said. He answered the question far better than I ever could.
Zack: Well garsh, that’s sure flattering! If someone had told me that when we started I would have laughed and walked away, while still laughing because I’d thought of it as the most ridiculous thing ever, but I guess it has that effect now. I hear what people say about us and it’s just insane to think we are even doing something people are enjoying. Which is what we set out to do, but the fact we are doing this is completely different and makes me feel like we are really reaching our goal of making great books.
For me I think it’s extremely important to have a sense of place. Mostly in the fact that there’s a necessity to know what is going on in the scene around you. There is such an abundance of local writer’s within Long Beach, and even LA county in general. So you add that with the proximity of Orange, Riverside, Ventura and San Bernardino counties and we’ve got this huge area full of a lot of talent (Though most of us Long Beachians don’t tend to make it outside the city, I think it’s fear of the Queen Mary sinking and us not being close enough to see it.) Then there are the ones who transplant that mix up with us that are here or were here, and thus help create a unique fabric full of holes and tears that are being sewn every day by every one of us.
Supporting your local scene and even getting to know neighboring ones is awesome and becoming more acquainted with everyone can really build a larger audience for yourself, or for us readership, and holds the possibility of getting new people into the poetry that is happening right now, not just what they read in school anthologies. It’s a chance to actually participate in it, add too it in some way and meet some amazing people, who happen to sometimes be amazing writers on top of it. I mean hell, who knows we could run into the next Whitman or Silvia Plath at a reading which would be cool. That too, readings that is, knowing when they are, and not just going to your friend’s readings but going to them in general adds to that sense of place. Just in Long Beach there are so many going on it’s really hard to go to them all, unless you’re the infamous John Buckley who manages to make us all look like peons and makes it to countless readings across southern California, but he writes some amazing reviews about all of them…it’s like being there in the seat at the reading! (Still you should go to as many as you can, just don’t burn yourself out).
To name just a few in LB there’s G. Murray Thomas’ monthly reading the second Tuesday of every month at Barnes & Noble at Marina Pacifica, then the third Wednesday of every month there’s Kevin Lee’s Hump Reading at Gatsby, this one is awesome I’ve been going to this one since I was still at LBCC doing my AA, the 2nd and 4th Friday of every month there’s The Definitive Soapbox at Royal Cup Café and then last Thursday of every month there’s our Bank-Heavy Variety Show also at Gatsby’s, and there’s ahh jease I could go forever. My best advice to keep up on them is check out the Poetix calender (poetix.net) which covers the whole of So-Cal.
SGVLF: What advice do you have for writers?
Karie: My advice for writers and artists of any other kind is simple. Do not to listen to anyone other than your SELF. Key word: SELF. Don’t change your writing so that it is more acceptable for other people. I’ve already mentioned my SELF’s personal disinterest in end-rhyming poetry but honestly, if you absolutely love end-rhyming then by all means go forth and end-rhyme your big poetic heart out. It doesn’t matter if my SELF or anyone else’s SELF doesn’t like it as much as you do. The SELF is what matters and there are countless other SELF’s with similar tastes. No SELF is alone in its art. Enjoy your art. Own it. Embrace it. All opinions of your writing, or of any other art, are subjective. Don’t trap your SELF in trying to conform. If you are content with the outcome of your writing, or art, happiness and fulfillment should ensue. Optimism and confidence create peace, if not peace in the whole world, well then at least peace in the SELF. Opinion is the SELF. Art is the SELF. Poetry is the SELF. Love is the SELF. The SELF is what got us all here. The SELF is what will continue to drive us all further through life.
Zack: Advice, eat aardvark tacos and drink tequila… ok, no really my biggest advice is to read good poetry, that means what you find good, what others find good etc. Read contemporaries along with the classics, it can really teach you something. Anthologies are one great place to get some of these, if you can’t afford them there are public libraries, school libraries, used book stores a plenty! Then there are as many small presses and mags as there are needles on a cactus both in print and online to pick and read through, some of my favorites are PEARL, Ambit, Re)Verb, Crack the Spine (their online, but recently did a hard anthology as well), Short, Fast, and Deadly (also online), ¡VAYA!Zine (made from recyclables!), Tebot Bach, Red Hen. Then there’s the whole writing part… do it, consistently. If you’re feeling like you can’t write anything of worth take some advice from a famous poet, whose name is locked somewhere in my memory, but I misplaced the key, “Lower your standards” is basically what he said, I try to do that when I feel like I just can’t write one good line or poem or anything, it helps to let go of standards and just write. Sometimes greatness happens in those moments when you’re letting your mind just go, and not putting restrictions on it. The more you write the better you’ll become the more you will find your distinct voice while growing as an artist and as a person. Have someone read your work and give you advice, really it will benefit. Even if you don’t take their initial suggestions they’ll make you look at certain things within the work differently. And lastly experiment, play with the words, put them how you feel they should represent you as a whole, not just poet you, not just social you but all of you and have fun doing it for earth’s sake!
Cory: Write. Read. Eat if you must. Get to know the writers you admire. Buy all their books and support them.
Catch the Bank-Heavy Variety Show Featuring Courtney Klink and JC Villafan + Open Mic at 7pm on Thursday, May 31 at Gatsby Books in Long Beach.
— Interview by Ann Brantingham