with Editors of The Lumberyard:
Woods and Eric Woods
Woods joyfully serves as Associate Editor for Sarabande
Books, an independent literary press in Louisville,
KY, where she resides with her two magic dobermans, Henri
and Taylor. Additionally she is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief
Woods is the founder of The
Firecracker Press, a design studio and letterpress
shop located in the heart of historic St. Louis. The Firecracker
Press combines the use of centuries old printing methods
with the latest modern design techniques to create unique
objects that people enjoy and love. His website is: www.firecrackerpress.com.
Park: First off, I want to mention how excited we were
at Luna Park—we being our managing editor and myself—when
we received the first issue of Lumberyard
in the mail this past January. It arrived the day before
we were to depart for the AWP conference in New York,
so I grabbed it, along with ten or so other literary magazines,
for the plane ride. I never got to the other magazines.
During the flight, I reread Lumberyard at least
twice, even reading some poems aloud every so often. Already
impressed by the letterpress production quality of Lumberyard
when I first saw it, I was additionally pleased with the
energetic, playful, and moving selection of poems inside—and
more, how well they seemed to coincide with the overall
design. What led you, along with your brother, to bring
about Lumberyard? Why did you think (thankfully,
I might add) that another literary magazine needed to
be added to the mix?
Woods: Wow, thanks for such a complimentary first question
Naturally, we couldn’t be happier to hear people
have such a reaction. This may sound a little corny, but
I feel like Lumberyard was inevitable. Or maybe
I should say that a long series of events led up to the
moment when the concept came to mind and I instantly knew
we had to do it. Now that Lumberyard exists,
it feels like an old friend. My brother and I are very
close in age, only 15 months apart, and we’ve been
collaborating in some way our whole lives. His visual
artistry has always caused me to gasp, as if someone crawled
in my head and drew a picture of what it is that goes
on up there, so I was fascinated by how our two art forms
might work together. We didn’t really consider how
many other magazines might be already doing similar things—we
just went with it. It was the only time in my life I let
my intuition completely guide the process, and the night
I got the email containing the proofs of the first issue,
I nearly passed out. It hit the bull’s eye and I
knew it didn’t matter if anyone else liked the thing—I
was more content than I had ever been.
It feels that the design of the magazine complements,
or somehow matches, the poetry you publish in it. For
example, the rhythms and emotions of Matthew Lippman’s
opening poem “Moses”—which begins “Mike
Goldstein is a bitch,” devolving then into a both
tragic and touching description of, of all things, a bagel
shop—seems to grow out of the surrounding page,
where things seem perfectly haphazard, everything in a
constant state of revision: organized chaos. Do you see
a similar merging of the poetry and design of Lumberyard?
Is this part of your larger project for the magazine?
One of our main goals was to make the text and the design
seamless, which we found out, is no simple task. We wanted
both art forms to complement one another in the highest
way. It was important that one didn’t overshadow
the other but instead created a perfect union, making
both all the better for having been paired. In other words,
everything they tell you about the ideal marriage would
also apply to our project.
Could you describe briefly what Lumberyard is
looking for in writing. What is the general aesthetic,
if there is one? It seems you are looking to publish poetry
that feels alive, unafraid to take risks.
This is a tough question. Although I personally have a
very distinct aesthetic, I try not to let my own taste
rule the roost. I imagine different types of people I
know and then think, “What would it take to get
X interested in reading a poem?” Then we start looking
through the submissions to see if there are any strong
pieces matching said criteria. Next, I rope a few friends
in to reading the initial picks, and these are all people
who don’t read poetry on a normal basis, so their
opinions are very meaningful to our mission. Overall,
I would say we’re looking for work that is trapped
in the world of “things.” We like honest,
we like poems rich with smell and sound and touch, dirty,
stinky poems, poems that sing, and poems that make you
laugh out loud are always welcome! And, of course, we
have to consider how a poem will work when combined with
design. Longer poems are usually not feasible, but then
again, we are always open to a new challenge or a new
way of putting things together, so if we really like a
piece, we’ll find a way. In the first issue, I fell
in love with the “letter never sent” written
by K. Curtis Lyle. It was too long, but we had to have
it, so we just decided to honor it for what it was, and
the result was the letter inserted in the middle, printed
on regular paper, like a guerilla attempt to get a correspondence
to President Lincoln. It was one of my favorite moments.
In a letter you enclosed with your first issue you wrote
that “we hope to bring some of the ridiculously
good poets working today to the attention of the general
public.” Why do you think that such poets are out
there not getting their work published? It seems there
are almost more literary magazines than writers today
(or that every writer has their own literary magazine).
Is it just the nature of publishing for there to always
be good writing not getting a voice?
What I meant by that statement was not to say good poets
aren’t getting published—many are, and I have
to give props to my day job at Sarabande, where I work
with a wonderful gang of folks dedicated to just that.
However, the everyday people I know, or the people in
my life who aren’t “in the biz” aren’t
buying these books, aren’t reading this work. Poetry
is a genre the general public has lost affection for,
in my humble opinion, because they don’t think poetry
is for them. There’s a prevailing attitude that
it’s not accessible to most people, which I think
is totally untrue. We hope the format for Lumberyard
will help warm people up to the idea of poetry again,
the way it once was the song of the masses. For example,
maybe you pick Lumberyard up because your eye
is drawn to the imagery and discover a poem inside does
speak to you, does make sense, and most certainly has
something to offer. And maybe it’s the first time
you’ve read a poem since your high school English
class. Our dream is to have every mom and pop hardware
store in America carrying our magazine. If we achieved
anything close to this, I think I would feel our real
mission was realized.
On a more pragmatic note, what did it take to put the
first issue together? The issue is gorgeous, but also
seems simple in its construction—is this just the
deception of good design? Also, as you and Eric live in
different cities, how do you work together in deciding
how the issue is going to end up? Plus, you two each seem
to have full-time careers—Eric as owner of The Firecracker
Press and you as an Associate Editor at Sarabande Books.
In other words: When do you two sleep?
Ha! My current line when asked the last question about
when I sleep is that I’m saving up for retirement.
In all seriousness, putting the mag together takes a good
deal of elbow grease. Both my brother and I are drawn
to getting our hands dirty, and his design and letterpress
business is the epitome of this. Every technique used
in construction is as old school as we could get, every
page has a very human touch. I hope that comes across
when you pick up the magazine. There is a good deal of
back and forth travel between our two cities, but it helps
to work with a sibling. We often don’t need to communicate
as much as you might with, say, coworkers, because we’ve
been sharing creative thoughts for three decades now.
There is an innate trust and respect that makes creating
the magazine more like pure joy and less like work.
Are you or Eric big readers of literary magazines? Which
are your favorites at the moment?
Me more so than my brother, but one of the cool things
that has come about from his bookmaking jobs at Firecracker
is that he’s discovering poetry for the first time,
and, I think, we are slowly winning him over. I have to
throw some attention at the fine folks at Forklift,
Ohio, and Diagram.
Oh—and I can’t forget Born
Magazine. I recently discovered Agriculture
Reader much to my delight. And thanks to a former
professor of mine, I’m enjoying reading vintage
issues of kayak,
which are a total kick.
Do either of you feel you are working off of any publishing
influences in creating Lumberyard? Lumberyard
has the feel of some of the modernist literary magazines,
combined with the DIY style design elements of a zine.
Or, are you working off of other publishing/design influences
outside the literary magazine world, such as rock show
posters or graffiti?
If I had to say, it would be more the latter. As I mentioned
earlier, when we started we actually did the opposite
of research, cutting ourselves off for the most part as
to what was going on in the lit mag world, so as to not
be unduly influenced. What does influence us—and
this is a relatively new realization for me—is our
childhood. The Firecracker Press does a lot of rock show
posters inspired by everyday images from the 50s, 60s,
and 70s, before design became the chi-chi practice we
know now. Those are the images from our 1970s childhood.
And for me, I’m always looking to recreate the magic
I felt as a kid when I would open a book at the local
library. The fascination came equally from the text and
the images, and I have memories from as early as four
years old, in the library, seeking out books with Caldecott
Medals on them. Of course, I had no idea it was an
award for an illustrator. Back then I just knew the medal
equaled good and that books were a portal into a much
larger world I couldn’t see from rural Missouri.
There’s no reason why adults can’t enjoy the
same kind of experience when they read. Why should kids
have all the fun?
Are there any writers you would—say—give up
a kidney for to get some work from them for an issue of
Man, I don’t know; I’m pretty partial to my
kidney! Honestly, we’ve been lucky so far with the
poets who have agreed to work with us—it’s
hard to imagine wanting for more. I’m sure I could
give you a list of people, but they would all be pretty
a-typical, and maybe some of them don’t even write
poetry in their spare time the way I imagine they do.
My aunt, for one, who I’m pretty certain has a secret
collection of poems she’s written and never shown
anyone. Next would have to be David Bowie (if you’re
reading this, Mr. Bowie, we’ll do it under a pen
name and no one will ever have to know but me). And this
young woman, Rachel, who was in my creative writing class
in college and one day just disappeared. She used to write
the most beautiful, gut-wrenching poems I ever remember
reading. All the time I wonder what happened to her and
Finally, what can you tell us about your upcoming summer
issue? And, more, do you have any long-term plans? Such
as, in its first issue, Tin
House published a satiric ten-year plan or something,
mapping out the future of the magazine. What do you see
down the road for Lumberyard?
Of course, I’m biased, but I’m pretty sure
the next issue is going to be one heck of a great time.
We got tons of submissions about love and sex (I think
it was because it was February when they came in), so
I predict a sprinkle or two of scandalous behavior. A
few more laughs can be expected, I suppose. If you’re
looking for names, I won’t tell. Some you’ll
recognize, some you won’t. Since we’re in
the process of creation at this very moment, all I can
say for certain is that I’m very excited about this
next evolution of Lumberyard. As for the future,
that’s up to the public. We’ll keep working
to get the word out about our project, and, as long as
there is a demand, we’re dedicated to continuing,
hopefully getting better each time. We have lots of wish-list
ideas up our sleeve, but I don’t want to jinx any
of them by shooting off about it prematurely. Right now
we’re just staying in this wonderful moment, enjoying
the fact that we get to do something we love.