Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Why Did You Start a Publishing House? Eileen R. Tabios of Meritage Press Answers

To celebrate the newly formed Philippine American Publishers Consortium (PAPC), I'm featuring member-publishers' replies to the simple question - Why did you start your Press?

Our first answer comes from Eileen R. Tabios, who founded Meritage Press.

By Eileen R. Tabios: I started my press Meritage Press to publish the historic and necessary tome PINOY POETICS: A Collection of Autobiographical and Critical Essays on Filipino and Filipino American Poetics, a long-time dream that came to be edited by Nick Carbo.  I had anticipated that it would be difficult for PINOY POETICS to find a publisher in a timely manner because of its subject matter and (Filipino) authors. At the time the book was created, most of its poets were not well-known, though many of these poets since have come to receive numerous international and national-U.S. poetry prizes.  Moreover, reflecting a long tradition of Filipino grassroots activism that overlaps with what’s become the DIY (Do It Yourself) small press movement, I thought that creating a press to present this project was an apt reflection of its underlying poetics.  Having said all that, I did not want to start what looks to be a Filipino-only press because I wanted to reflect the (oft-ignored) reality that, as Filipino poet-novelist Eric Gamalinda once succinctly stated, “The history of the Philippines is the history of the world.”

Thus, while releasing titles focused on or by Filipino authors & artists, Meritage Press’ larger vision is simply to expand fresh, multidisciplinary ways of featuring a wide range of interests and artists from around the world. Multiple aesthetic concerns allow Meritage to address a variety of disciplines — politics, culture, identity, science, humor, religion, history, technology, philosophy and wine (I do also concede that without wine, I wouldn’t have pressed on with a small press effort). Reflecting how poets  make instead of inherit language, the press is named after “meritage,” a word created to describe the Bordeaux-style of wine-making that uses California-grown grapes. Meritage style combines the grapes of cabernet, cabernet franc and merlot to create a wine characterized by robustness in flavor, bouquet, color and body — symbolizing the passion underlying the vision of Meritage’s artists.

Proof to date?

Well, Meritage Press began by presenting an etchings-based collaboration between artist Archie Rand and poet John Yau, encompasses first poetry books by Tom Beckett, Jean Vengua, Barry Schwabsky, and Bruna Mori, presents a poetry-kali martial arts book by Michelle Bautista, enables the first children’s poetry collection by Geoffrey Gatza, offers the unique and popular STAGE PRESENCE: Conversations with Filipino American Performing Artists edited by jazz musician-scholar Theodore S. Gonzalves, and presents three unique anthologies of the 21st century Filipino diasporic poetic form called the “hay(na)ku” (Vol IVol II and the forthcoming THE CHAINED HAY(NA)KU are all co-published with the radiant Finnish avant garde publisher xPress(ed), further attesting to Meritage Press’ international scope).

[First published in The Poetry Foundation, “Indie Publishing: Two Questions and Several Answers” by Barbara Jane Reyes]
Cover Photos courtesy of Eileen R. Tabios, photo of Eileen, courtesy of Kimberly Alidio Sison

Read also
           I Started a Small Press (and Then Things Got Weird) by David Osborne 
           Publishing: PAPC Formed

This is all for now,

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