I edited and typeset two series of /ubu editions in 2003/04, after which Danny Snelson and Kenneth Goldsmith took over. Goldsmith designed the amazing covers based on the image bank of ubu.com. After the jump are the two brief introductions I wrote for the series.
Editor’s Note: First Series
My hope, with the /ubu (“slash ubu”) series, is to complement and augment relatively “traditional” methods of publication by usurping one of the most common functions of independent presses — bringing vital new literature to the attention of a wider public — while moving into an area that most small press publishers are not able to approach: reprinting important works from the past decades that are too commercially unviable to do as print books.
What made this idea seem interesting now, as opposed to eight or so years ago when internet publishing began its colorful but checkered history (prematurely vaunted by poets as the sequel to the “mimeo revolution”) is the realization that people are willing to read long, complex works of literature from the internet provided they can print them out.
By formatting these books with professional typesetting tools and publishing them as Adobe Acrobat files, not only is the amount of paper needed to print out a book lessened because web page items like menu bars and graphics are absent, but the letter-size (8.5 x 11) page is transformed into a visually pleasing “book” page, its seductive gutters, leading and tracking making Cinderellas out of the plain-Jane ream of photocopy paper.
Publishers of innovative poetries on the web have always had trouble formatting works in html (which, among other limitations, does not have tag for a tab), but the ubiquitous Adobe Acrobat format is perfect for giving the designer all the features of advanced typesetting and graphic techniques that are stable and consistent across several computer platforms. A color printer lets you fully enjoy the cover pages of these files, most of them original designs by Goldsmith and including one of the artworks from the ubu archive.
And over the course of the many years these books will be online, they will no doubt be downloaded, printed out, and most importantly read by hundreds of readers who might not otherwise have access to poorly distributed, limited edition small press books. New works will enter circulation relatively quickly, and older works, after some hassling with a scanner and proofreading, will make their bids for being unjustifiably ignored classics.
All of the reprints in the /ubu series from books that were not already digitized (any title published before 1992 will be one of those) have been painstakingly reset, either after having been scanned and OCR’d, or being retyped into the computer. More recent titles are based on the files used to produce the original book, either from Word files or, in that rarest of instances, Quark files.
The original mandate for the series was to publish single-author titles of creative literature but as with any venture such as this there are stirrings that suggest new approaches in the future. For now, we encourage you to please steal our books — you don’t have to be bored Hollywood starlet to walk out with bags full of priceless items here. Please check back regularly for new titles as they arrive, and thanks for stopping by.
Brian Kim Stefans, 2003
Editor’s Note: Second Series
This year’s titles range from the visually sophisticated Concrete poetry of Gustave Morin, a native of Windsor who spent 10 years on his “novel” A Penny Dreadful, to an obscure volume of satirical translations of Baudelaire by the English poet Nicholas Moore, from the experiments in frame and format that Caroline Bergvall and designer Marit Muenzberg explore in their daring resetting of the poet’s Eclat, to the equally daring, if entirely unscrupulous, logorrhea that is the 130 pages of another “novel,” Name, by Toadex Hobogrammathon.
The big news this year might be the introduction of color into the pantheon of effects being used in our e-books: both Bergvall’s Eclat and my own Alpha Betty’s Chronicles rely heavily on it, in ways that would have been unsuitable to html and impossibly expensive to print in a book. Likewise, the volumes by Morin and Lytle Shaw – two of his uniquely low-tech Shark chapbooks – are primarily graphic works, while the titles by Craig Dworkin, Robert Fitterman and Larry Price attempt to re-conceptualize the page of an Adobe Acrobat file as a middle-space that ironizes the permanence of type (Dworkin’s use of Courier fonts) or digital flow (Fitterman’s box-like containers) as well as the “writing on the wall” soixante-huitard-style (Price’s poster-style typography).
Of the republications, we are happy to present the final section of Ron Silliman’s The Age of Huts, The Chinese Notebook, probably the most influential of his early books outside of Kejtak, two small works by the increasingly-prized Jean Day, whose 1998 Atelos volume, The Literal World, woke so many up to her understated talents. Robert Kelly’s quasi-fiction – yes, yet another “novel” – called The Cruise of the Pnyx has long been one of my favorites of his, but has never appeared in another book, nor has the original Station Hill edition of 1979 been republished.
New writers include the playwright Madelyn Kent, whose Shufu plays – part Butoh, part Richard Maxwell-like deadpan, with a touch of Clark Coolidge — are bound to become recognized as innovative theater, and Aaron Kunin, who is becoming known in New York and elsewhere as a writer of uncommon intelligence and tremendous technical precision. The English poet Ira Lightman drops in on the series like a lightning bolt, spreading his art in a sort of spirit of personal renaissance, while Barbara Cole’s Foxy Moron – a text I see as existing somewhere between poetry and drama if only because she reads it so well in public – strikes a little lower, not so much toward “renaissance” as sexual catharsis, over and over again.
Lastly, we are especially happy to have Deanna Ferguson’s long-awaited follow-up collection to her 1993 book The Relative Minor (which appears as a reprint in last year’s series). Several of the poems in Rough Bush have already played parts in some of the signal poetics statements of the nineties; it’s good to finally have such a stash of Ferguson’s recent writings in one place.
Brian Kim Stefans, 2004