Somewhere in between Lolcats, snuff porn, neo-Nazi dating profiles, and Perez Hilton, there is a gentler, more beautiful region of the internet inhabited by the likes of YesYes Bøøks. Slick, tech-savvy, and furiously hip, this press/journal/chapbook series is shaking up the literary zine scene with poetry and art for a new breed of culture consumers.
But what type of yesyes is this YesYes? Is it a dismissive yes, yes? Is it an impatient yes, yes (get to the point?). Is it an urgent, lustful Yes! Yes! on the verge of climax? Is it the divine affirmative, an emphatic fanfare ushering in the newest and the grooviest? Is it all of these at once?
We recently got to delve into YesYes’ special je ne sais quoi with Publisher K.M.A. Sullivan about the rapidly evolving world of lit publishing – and why YesYes is doing better than just keeping up:
BC: First, tell us what Poetry Shots is all about. This seems short, snappy, digestible, and profound – in thirty seconds or less. Is this poetry for the modern world?
K: Poetry Shots is about using the online landscape to push out poetry and visual art in a way that is uniquely suited to this new landscape. Thomas Patrick Levy (in charge of web design and development for YesYes) and I were very unhappy with eBooks. Most eReaders and formats strip formatting from eBook files, so all that is left is something barely acceptable for prose, not tolerable for poetry (which is, after all, also a visual art), and totally out of reach for painting and other arts. From this frustration was born YesYes webBooks which allows for a full and powerful integration of some of the hottest visual artists we have found alongside text from the writers who make us giddy.
What Tom has created as a technical vehicle for this project simply blows my mind. I hope it will blow yours.
BC: There’s something glamorous (or dare we say rock and roll?) about your featured poets and artists. Seems like quite a departure from the artist/poet stereotype. Why this marked difference in approach?
K: I go for what excites me. It is as simple as that. I keep my eyes open for visual work that makes me want to sit down and catch my breath and for words that make me uncomfortable or gutted or like I want to find my partner and get busy. And then I look for a good pairing between artists from each side.
And we’ve been incredibly lucky that poets like Dorothea Lasky, Ben Mirov, and Metta Sama have offered up new work for this untried format. We have been equally lucky in our visual artists who range from Ghangbin Kim, a brilliant young illustrator currently a Sophomore at Parson’s School of Design, to an Ethiopian painter and sculptor, Mihret Dawit, who has been creating powerful works of art for more than 20 years.
BC: Give us a quick philosophy of art statement, or tell us: Why are you doing what you’re doing?
K: For love, man. For love. I’ve spent the last twenty years raising five children, caring for various folks, dealing with the shit life hands out. It’s been a wild and fabulous adventure. And now I’m ready to give to the world in another way, in a way that includes indulging myself all day long in the poetry and prose and visual art that makes me happy to be alive and then pushing that same work out in a way that is as respectful as possible to the art I am handling and garners as wide an audience as possible for the art that I love.
BC: Nate Slawson seems like a truly interesting character. What’s he like?
Panic Attack, USA is a tour de force. I am so grateful and blessed to have been able to publish this book. I hope you’ll pick up a copy either in print or webBook format. For now though, here’s a piece of Mr. Slawson:
AN ESSAY ABOUT BLACK KEYS
at the movies I play
the same character
every time so you will
always recognize me
I would like you to believe
I am not acting
I would like you
to believe my hands
do not shake
my arms do not go numb
my body is the house
you grew up in
& the way my face gets
when I look at you
sometimes is difficult
practice not unlike
drawing maps of your
circulatory system or
making you the perfect
grilled cheese sandwich
which is one more thing
I’d rather be doing
than talking to you
on the telephone or
writing you this letter
on my old Casiotone.
BC: Thoughts on technology and literature? Is the traditional notion of lit changing? What’s the new paradigm? What is YesYes’s role in this shift?
K: Literature is rapidly changing. At the same time, it’s not changing at all. YesYes Books is totally committed to the print books we produce. If you get one of our books in your hands you’ll see the evidence. We use McNaughton & Gunn for printing, known for their high-end product, and chose book size, cover design, and paper types very carefully for each book we put out. I will never fall out of love with the print book and neither will many others.
On the other hand, there is this amazing new world which offers us an opportunity to push out work to audiences that may not be familiar with poetry or may not have the funds to buy print poetry and art books. We can get to them with startling and creative web-based products, if only we respect the new medium we find ourselves in the middle of. That, I believe is what distinguishes YesYes from a lot of other small presses. We are going to dive into the largest wave we can find and swim as long and hard as we can. Tom and I don’t know where we are going to end up in this new tech/lit world. But I guarantee you, we are going to have a kick-ass time getting there.
Volume One of YesYes Bøøks’ Poetry Shots is online now.
And you’re in luck – the free EP is available for download here.