Sunday, March 16, 2014

Poetry Monday: Rob Riel and Picaro Press

I've got something of a soft spot for Rob Riel's Picaro Press.  Not only have Picaro objectively done wonderful things for poetry publishing in general, publishing some 300 titles of Australian poetry (plus a few essays and plays) from both established poets (including some of Australia's biggest names like Judith Beveridge and Bruce Dawe) and emerging ones, but they also published my own first poetry book Quark Soup.  Rob was an amazing editor - encouraging, light of touch, but full of insight - also helping to design the Kandinsky inspired cover and coaching me through my first public readings.

That was rather a long time ago, but Picaro is still going strong, with a philosophy of keeping their prices (including postage) extremely low and their quality high. By all accounts, their Wagtail series has a strong ongoing subscription base (and no wonder, with Rob's partner Judy Johnson as editor).  I doubt that Rob and Judy have become millionaires from the press, but they've managed to survive for many years with very little (if anything) in the way of grants, and have curated and fostered a thriving and regular connection between readers and writers that has been very powerful.

Rob is, of course, one of my panelists at the upcoming Newcastle Writer's Festival, and like all of the panelists, is not only editor, but also a fine poet himself, having had two of his own collections published: For as long as you burn (Five Islands Press) and Rogue Perspectives (Island Press). The last time I chatted with Rob (not long ago - we are often at the same events) he told me he was working on a sci fi novel which is very exciting for those of us, like me, who find the conjunction of poetry with science fiction to be one of the best reading experiences.  I'm waiting impatiently.  In the meantime, there's always Wagtail.   

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