DD: How did Shelterbelt Press come into being?
AC: Meagan and I were both teaching at the same university and we decided to form a press to be affiliated with the university so our students would have a hands-on experience. We also wanted to focus on a press that would have social justice at its core, so in publishing books, we also want to think about how the work we publish can do something important and valuable in the world. We plan to incorporate ideas of activism into publicity.
DD: What have been some of the challenges and rewards of starting a new press?
AC: One of the largest challenges is always funding—finding a range of support created some challenges, but the rewards are well worth it. And of course there are many. Primarily, having the chance to read so many different writers is a huge award. Receiving support and guidance from other presses, too, has been especially rewarding.
AC: Eloisa’s book is an amazing debut that explores life and loss, family and identity. As we talked about the collection, it seems the image of reflection comes to the surface. The poems are very direct in their assertions and explore a wide range of ideas, including sorrow alongside joy. We particularly love how the book manages to have a wonderful sense of humor at times.
DD: Meagan, your new short story collection, ActivAmerica, is on my reading list for the winter break. As your website notes, this collection explores how we confront (and exert) power and re-imagine ourselves through sports and athletic activities. What draws you to this subject matter? What connections do you see between the writing life and the world of athletics? What did you learn about yourself and American athletic culture through the writing of this book?
MC: Thanks for these wonderful questions, Dante, and for putting my book on your list! Sports were a big part of the community in the town where I grew up. I played (and still play) soccer, ran track, figure skated. It was a decade after Title IX was passed, so there was all this rhetoric surrounding “girl power” and athletics: like, through sports girls/women will defeat the patriarchy! Of course, it’s way messier than that. The book helped me understand the ways in which certain unequal power dynamics manifest on fields, rinks, and courts, power dynamics which impacted me and my teammates growing up, often in the form of patriarchal coaches and struggles with body image and eating disorders. I also learned more about how American sports/fitness ideology often masks different forms of injustice. Writing and sports are deeply related for me. They both involve daily practice, humility, and the need to develop both individually and within a broader community. No one writes or story, or kicks a soccer ball, in a vacuum.
DD: Adam, I recently read your newest poetry collection, Stranger. For me, the central poem of the collection was “Our Eternal Sounds,” which begins with the line: “What might all songs lean into?” Another poem I admire in Stranger, “Everyone Trying to Start / Something New,” ends: “…every record / flipped to its B side is only grace / garnered with more grace.” Could you talk about your poetry in terms of these two quotes? Could you riff on the different kinds of music that converge in your poems?
AC: Thank you for reading the book so closely! Both of those poems are thinking about poetry in terms of music, though I think “Our Eternal Sounds” is thinking specifically about poetry as the place from which language was born, while the other poem is thinking of music as a form of mourning. The book is trying to explore, more often than not, abstract ideas in concrete form. I also tend to speak my poems out as I write them (and have music on during the process of writing them), which might explain how the theme comes up throughout the book.
DD: What’s on the horizon for Shelterbelt Press in 2018 and beyond?
MC: At this point we’re thinking a lot about publicity—as mentioned above, financial well-being can be a challenge related to running an independent press. We’re going to AWP to engage with the literary community and are looking forward to how readers will respond to Eloisa’s book.
DD: Could you end the interview by giving us a poem from Eloisa Amezcua’s collection?
I walk between whitebrush and blackfoot
daisies alone at the desert botanical garden
and know not to touch the devil’s
tongue or saguaro spines but still
I move my hand closer to the teddy bear
cholla until I touch it or it touches me
the needles clinging hollow
curve under the skin and I like it
I used to be a nice girl
but when the only thing
you have left of yourself
the filter with which
you move through
the world becomes impossibly
tender like fingers swollen
papules of foreign material
lodged in the body
to be unroofed or
left there to dissolve
Meagan Cass is the author of Range of Motion (Magic Helicopter Press, 2014). Her fiction has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, DIAGRAM, PANK, and Puerto del Sol, among other places. She is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois Springfield. Over the last fifteen years, she has done editorial work for a range of national literary journals and presses, including Stirring, Harpur Palate, Rougarou, and Sundress Publications.
Adam Clay is the author of Stranger (Milkweed Editions, 2016), A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World (Milkweed Editions, 2012), and The Wash (Parlor Press, 2006). His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Crab Orchard Review, Boston Review, Iowa Review, The Pinch, and elsewhere. A co-editor of TYPO Magazine, he serves as a Book Review Editor for Kenyon Review and teaches at the University of Illinois Springfield.
Dante Di Stefano is the author of two poetry collections: Love Is a Stone Endlessly in Flight (Brighthorse Books, 2016) and Ill Angels (Etruscan Press, forthcoming 2019). His poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared in The Los Angeles Review, The Sewanee Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. He is a poetry editor for the DIALOGIST. Along with María Isabel Alvarez, he is the co-editor of Misrepresented People: Poetic Responses to Trump's America (NYQ Books, 2018).